Holt’s incredible journey continues
A message written in pen on the back of Grant Holt's promotion-celebrating T-shirt said it all: 'Unibond Prem to the real Prem'.
The rise from Carlisle tyre fitter to back-to-back promotion-winning Norwich City captain is incredible – maybe matched only by the achievement from some of his current team-mates.
Only two years ago Canaries midfielder Andrew Crofts was finishing his season at non-league Wrexham in a bid to save his career, while a plethora of City's current stars have had to earn their stripes in the lower reaches of English football before hitting the big time this year at Carrow Road under Paul Lambert.
'They have earned it, everyone has,' said Holt. 'They've worked hard, Andrew Crofts came in and earned it, most of the lads have been in League Two or League One, and I think when you get that belief and that team spirit that you want to do it, it's better than any big characters.
'I don't think you ever sit there changing a tyre thinking 'I'm going to play in the Premier League'. You've said it before, I've done it the hard way and there's no one who has worked harder than me to try and get where I am.
'I'm pleased and I have been fortunate. I came to a club two years ago with a fantastic bunch of lads and a fantastic manager came in.
'I don't think you can put it into words what has happened really in the last two years. It's been a phenomenal turnaround.
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'Obviously the manager has brought in good players, used what he had and we've got a fantastic squad in there. Not just the 11 that played or the few of the lads that aren't in the squad – it's a great bunch of lads and a massive achievement as a manager bringing the right payers in.'
As well as lifting the Championship runners-up trophy – after scoring his 23rd goal of the season – Holt also took player of the season honours for a second successive campaign.
He joins a select band of players to do so: Iwan Roberts (1999-2000), Kevin Drinkell (1986-87), Martin Peters (1976-77) and Kevin Keelan (1973-74).
'I think it could have been 11 comfortably that could have won that award; everyone deserved a good share of that and if we could have done it as a team award we would have,' said Holt. 'But it's a fantastic achievement – there's only a few that have done it back-to-back, so if I get my third next year I might break another record!'
Holt plans to take advantage of City making sure of promotion without the play-offs by getting in the sleep before the birth of his and wife Fay's third child, due within days of the final at Wembley – although he is not only expecting sleepless nights from his new born.
'I tell you now I can go and relax and wait for the sleepless nights… although I'll probably have a few of them when I see what we're playing against,' joked Holt. 'We've got the summer now, we can go and relax, get things right and the manager will get in whoever he thinks he needs to help us along.
'I think if you said no one is going to come in we'd be naive. We expect him to add. We know we're not the finished article, but we are a bunch of lads who are good on the ball and work hard for each other, and if we bring in that little bit of extra quality then we want to still play. We don't just want to make the numbers up but give it our best shot.
'You look at even Blackpool this year the way they went about it. No one would have ever expected them to be up there and it's still in their hands if they stay up or not.
'So you look at them and we are in the same vein of form. We've got a bunch of lads who want to work hard for each other and want to win for each other, and I'm sure that stands us in good stead next year.'
While Holt has no particular fixtures he will look out for when they are released in June, he expects a different story from his family.
'I won't really look at that many, but I think my family will look at them more – I think Newcastle I'll probably need about 150 tickets for that one,' Holt added.