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Norwich City A-Z: Canaries fans love a player with the X Factor

X Factor audition? No need, Grant Holt always had it Picture: Nick Butcher

X Factor audition? No need, Grant Holt always had it Picture: Nick Butcher

Archant © 2011

Grant Holt, Wes Hoolahan, Darren Huckerby, Martin Peters - Canaries fans have got used to their players having something different in their armoury, says Chris Lakey in the latest in our Norwich City A-Z series

Darren Huckerby in action for Norwich City Legends against Inter Forever 
Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images LtdDarren Huckerby in action for Norwich City Legends against Inter Forever Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Every team needs a player with the X Factor.

Because of a certain TV show the phrase has been bastardised and manipulated out of all recognition, but what the X Factor used to be was something indefinable.

It was impossible to put your finger on exactly why someone had it ... but they did.

It’s not just skill levels: Harry Kane is a brilliant footballer, but it is up for debate whether or not he has an X Factor. That’s not taking away from his ability: it is wondering whether he has a mystique that we struggle to identify but which definitely exists.

Martin Peters, right, and Ken Brown at a Norwich City Hall of Fame dinner. Picture: ArchantMartin Peters, right, and Ken Brown at a Norwich City Hall of Fame dinner. Picture: Archant

Norwich City have had their X Factor players over the years, men who played football, but added that intangible extra.

Grant Holt springs immediately to mind: talented footballer - certainly more talented than Paul Lambert occasionally used to give him credit for, in public at least. He wasn’t a lump, he wasn’t just an old school centre-forward. He had lots of ability. And the X Factor. When he walked on to the pitch the crowd lifted. When he wasn’t in a game there was a lowering of anticipation levels. You knew with Holt out there, something would happen, you knew excitement levels jumped like the mercury on a hot day. Holt was special. Was it his demeanour, with other players, with opponents, with fans?

It’s probably the skills and the character rolled into one, but he had the X Factor. Holt was on a different level.

How good would it have been to see him and Darren Huckerby in the same team... or was there no room? Hucks is similar: excitement, majesty, anticipation all rolled into one blonde bomber creating havoc on the run. He lit up the crowd, perhaps even more than Holt, with the ball at his feet.

And Huckerby still pulls a crowd, because City fans will never forgot how he came, he saw, he returned and he fell in love with their club.

It’s before my time, but colleagues talk of Martin Peters in similarly reverential tones. The World Cup winner came to Norwich, with some assuming he was simply seeing his days out: they couldn’t have been more wrong. The man glided around. They tell me he had the X Factor: call in all the silky skills and then add a dash of world class. In there somewhere is the X Factor.

Wes Hoolahan and Graham Paddon: for me, Paddon had the X Factor, although I believe Wes was a better player. Why? Because, like the X Factor, it’s hard to explain.

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