Norwich City first-team coach Gary Holt exorcises play-off demons
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One of the widest smiles amongst the Norwich City celebrations at Wembley was that of first-team coach Gary Holt – who savoured exorcising some demons from his playing career.
The Scot was part of the 2002 Canaries team which suffered the pain of losing to Birmingham in a penalty shoot-out in the Division One play-off final at the Millennium Stadium.
Although Holt went on to play a key role in the title winning team of 2004, Monday’s play-off final win was still extremely satisfying for the 42-year-old, given his previous play-off disappointment.
“It’s put something to bed, let’s say,” Holt said, with a satisfied grin. “I’ll always remember that, it was a phenomenal day as well. Obviously winning was the icing on the cake, but it exorcised some demons.”
The former midfielder – known as ‘Three Lungs’ to many supporters for his stamina – played one season in the top flight with City before two seasons with Nottingham Forest and Wycombe Wanderers and finishing in non-league with Lowestoft Town.
"I’d played against him (Alex Neil), played against his teams so I knew how his teams functioned, I like it, I buy into it and the proof is in the pudding."
He then went into management, leading Falkirk to the Scottish Championship play-offs last season, where they were beaten by Alex Neil’s Hamilton team – who went on to secure promotion.
So when Neil was brought in to replace Neil Adams as manager, Holt was happy to remain with the club.
“We got on really well, we used to meet up when we saw games,” he explained. “The funny thing in Scotland is you’re an hour from each game, so it’s good that way.
“But we met, we talked football the same way, we like football to be played the right way and like players to be accountable for their actions and that showed throughout the second half of the season.
“I’d played against him, played against his teams so I knew how his teams functioned, I like it, I buy into it and the proof is in the pudding.”
Holt, who made 182 appearances for the Canaries as a player, also reserved praise for the role Adams played in promotion being achieved as well though.
“People forget that Neil Adams did a phenomenal job, to take a relegated team and the stigma that goes with that, to then do the honourable thing and step aside as he felt he had taken it as far as he can,” Holt continued.
“He left the club in a great position, seventh in the league, three points off the play-offs and the gaffer came in and he built on that.
“I’m sure the gaffer has mentioned it before, the job that Neil had done. So Neil Adams was excellent, you can’t fault him. It takes guts to sometimes realise that enough is enough and move aside, so I take my hat off to Neil because I don’t think I could have done it.”
The former British Army cook was also full of praise for the City players, who dominated Middlesbrough amid the pressure and fanfare of the Wembley clash.
The 2-0 victory followed Boro doing the double over the Canaries during the regular season and Holt felt the entire squad had learned lessons from those defeats.
“They showed they are men, showed they can take instruction on board and can execute it and that’s what you want,” the former Scotland international continued.
“We prepped the other day, got that into them and then our job was done, it was up to them from there and that showed. When men are out playing football, they can do it, and you get the results.
“We spent a good week building up to it, we analysed it, as coaching staff we picked the bits out of Middlesbrough, the two games we played against them, and we executed the game plan to a tee.”