Holt: It's not a day for faint-hearted

Michael BaileyGary Holt believes Norwich City will go 'hell for leather' to lay their opening day ghost to rest in Essex on Saturday. The Canaries' Division One championship medal winner in 2004 was an unused substitute in the Colchester United dugout as Paul Lambert's team smashed City's pre-kick-off optimism with a 7-1 demolition in front of a stunned Carrow Road back in August.Michael Bailey

Gary Holt believes Norwich City will go 'hell for leather' to lay their opening day ghost to rest in Essex on Saturday.

The Canaries' Division One championship medal winner in 2004 was an unused substitute in the Colchester United dugout as Paul Lambert's team smashed City's pre-kick-off optimism with a 7-1 demolition in front of a stunned Carrow Road back in August.

Ten days later Lambert, assistant Ian Culverhouse and football operations manager Gary Karsa left United to rebuild City's shattered season - and the exit of Holt soon followed as he joined Lowestoft Town's assault on the non-league pyramid.

A bitter compensation row over the departure of Lambert and his management team - set to end with a Football League tribunal later this season - as well as United chairman Robbie Cowling's vocal angst against his Norfolk rivals and refusal to increase the Canaries' ticket allocation means the weekend's League One encounter promises to be a classic.

But despite enough subplots to support a daytime television soap opera, Holt believes just one thing will be on City's mind - making amends.

'It was just surreal really, to sit there and not clap every goal when you're winning, it's strange,' said Holt of Norwich's record home defeat. 'It was our job to go there and get a result and I don't think anyone in their right mind would've expected us to win 7-1 - and it's been a blessing in disguise for Norwich.

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'Certainly I think it worked in Norwich's favour. It helped them realise the things they were doing wrong and how to replace it, how to steady the ship and start steering in the right direction.

'And Colchester were left with aspirations that they're a decent side who can go places - so it's worked out well for both clubs.'

But Holt expects Colchester to be more worried about being on the wrong end of any revenge mission than proving a point to their previous manager - especially after suffering a 7-0 humiliation in their last outing; an FA Cup third round tie at Preston on January 2.

'The motivation is not to be turned over like they turned Norwich over the first game of the season; there's always that worry of a backlash,' said Holt.

'Don't get me wrong, it's never nice to get beat, but by such a heavy score - if you've got a chance to settle that score, then you can bet your bottom dollar Norwich are going to go out hell for leather for 95 minutes and try to put it right.

'It is who is big enough and ugly enough to stand up to that test on the day. If there are shrinking violets in Colchester's team, then they're not going to stand up to it.

'I knew Aidy when he was at Norwich in charge of the youth team. He's very astute, very clever, a very thorough manager and he doesn't leave any stone unturned and he's done well, he's carried on the job Paul had started and added to it.

'He will make sure they know what's riding on it, very much so, but he'll also play it in a calm way. He won't hype it up. He'll approach it properly and be focussed on the game and the outcome rather than everything before it.'

The fact Paul Lambert has switched sides is likely to keep the fans busy on the day - but Holt thinks it will have no bearing on how City approach the game.

'It doesn't matter who you put in charge of Norwich, getting beat 7-1 first game of the season and then going there now on a decent run of form, you still want to put it right,' said Holt.

'Yes there's an added spice with the manager and the coaching staff and everything else behind the scenes, but as a professional you don't like getting beat, and getting beat 7-1 hurts that little bit more. So I can bet the Norwich players going on that pitch on Saturday will want to make amends for that.

'Although it'll be built up and there will be a lot of pressure, a lot of things said, it'll be very much a case of calm heads. Sometimes you can get too wound up, a rash tackle or a silly mistake can cost you and Norwich can't afford that.

'Yes, be prepared to work hard and be 100 per cent committed, but you have to go about it in the right way and that's what Paul will try and do. He'll get them to channel it in the right way to get the best out of the players.

'It'll be a cracking game. Colchester will be up for it, but I just think it'll be Norwich, with the way they're playing and the little bit of buzz they've got about them. They've got up to second now and they've got someone to chase.

'It was Charlton, now they've got their sights on Leeds. That hunger of chasing someone always helps - and they know the more games they win the more chance they've got of catching them.'

As for Holt's allegiance, he only wants to see one winner: 'That's a silly question. I think everyone knows who I'll want to win and they play in yellow.'