Iwan Roberts backs Grant Holt’s staying power at Norwich City
Norwich City's former number nine hero has hailed his successor's goal at Anfield – and believes Grant Holt will have a major say in a season to remember.
Iwan Roberts scored plenty of his own bullet headers during his own 96-goal, seven-season career at Carrow Road. And Holt is rapidly following in the Welshman's footsteps, with goal number 55 coming on his 100th appearance for City – earning a superb 1-1 draw at Liverpool.
'I have to say, it's probably one of the best headers I've ever seen,' said Roberts of Holt's 60th minute equaliser, which involved the City substitute out-jumping goalkeeper Pepe Reina and defensive pair Jamie Carragher and Glen Johnson.
'You talk about the desire to score a goal and the hunger, and sticking your head in where it hurts to get your team back into it, and he beat three players to it. That's how determined he was.
'There was probably a bit of frustration released from the big fella because he has been in and out over the past few weeks for one reason or another, but I have to say it looks as if he's got the bit between his teeth again when he came on and he was so unlucky not to give Norwich the lead with another tremendous header – a great save by Reina.
'He's club captain, the manager thinks the world of him and the club wouldn't be where they are now without his goals. He signed a new contract last season and I think he's a big part of Paul Lambert's plans.'
Those plans have always been to avoid relegation – the default ambition of any realistic club on its arrival at English football's ruthless top table. But with just one defeat in five matches – and that coming in unfortunate circumstances at the home of Premier League champions Manchester United – Roberts admitted things could change.
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Either way, the ex-Wolves and Leicester striker believes the buzz around Carrow Road is exactly why players like Holt, Andrew Surman and Simeon Jackson are happy to bide their time for a chance to show what they can do on one of the sport's biggest stages – that, and the fact it would be for Lambert.
'He has got a squad of players down there now where they are all working hard for each other, all pulling together in the same direction and everyone knows there will come a time this season where they will find themselves out of the side and somebody else will take their place for the better of the side,' said Roberts.
'And that's key. As long as they react in the right way – and I can't for the life of me see that changing, because he is a special manager.
'He knows how to get the best out of his players and they know he's got a great chance of achieving something this year – not just staying in the Premier League but top half, top eight. You just don't know the way they are playing a the moment.
'Obviously players want to play in every game, but they know this league can be ruthless. I think the manager sat them down and said he would pick a team to win an individual game, he will tell them his reasons and they will accept it – because they know they are at a very good club that is going places.'
As is Holt, whose equaliser on Saturday had Robert's purring.
'I was very surprised I have to say, when I saw the team sheet at Bolton and Holt and (Andrew) Crofts had been left out,' added Roberts. 'I thought he did well in the West Brom game, worked his socks off as he always does, held the ball up and was a massive factor for their back four.
'It's not as if he's had a handful of chances and been putting them left, right and anywhere but centre.
'His goal at Chelsea I thought was a tremendous finish. OK, there might not be anyone in the goal, but the way he had to adjust his body into an awkward angle was a difficult skill.
'And on Saturday the height in his jump, and the power. It was a brave header because he goes into it, obviously his eyes are purely fixed on the ball. It's a great cross from Anthony Pilkington but he has still got a lot to do and it's one of those where he could get knocked out. But he's got no thought of that – only that he wants to score.
'He is a big, thick set man and I just saw him on the TV when he scored and thought he looks a bit leaner than he did a few weeks ago. Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe it's me looking for something that's not there. But if he has, all credit to him and I think he'll benefit from it massively.'
Holt's own success stepping up from the Championship may have left some City fans wondering back to Roberts' own career – when he missed his own shot at the top flight with City after Nigel Worthington handed the striker a free transfer following promotion in 2004.
'People keep asking me how do I feel about when I left, however long ago it was, and I'm over it now,' said Roberts. 'It took a while. I had a good chat with Nigel coming back from Dublin at the beginning of June. We were on the same flight together back to Stansted and we sat together, I interviewed him and we had a good chat on the plane.
'Life's too short really, bearing grudges. Nigel has moved on, I've moved on, the club has moved on.'