As thoughts start to turn to that Player of the Season gong, could Holt for once have a little competition on his hands this spring?Tue 12 Mar 13 by Rick Waghorn
There was a moment, sometime around 4.50pm on Saturday afternoon, when the ‘Big Man’ could have taken one, big step closer to securing yet another place in Canary folklore.
For had skipper Grant Holt converted that last gasp penalty and prised another two points on the road to Premier League survival in the self-same way he had against Everton a fortnight before, then a fourth successive Barry Butler Memorial Trophy might have been his for the taking.
In the end, of course, Norwich had to settle for just the point; Holt – unusually for him – was left empty-handed; the script not quite writing itself this spring.
It also left that Player of the Season award firmly up for grabs; for once it might not be a foregone conclusion as to who is the belle of the ball at the final home game of the season.
For what it is worth, I would still put Holt minimum top three. It hasn’t been a vintage season goals-wise for the 31-year-old. But then he has been handed an all-too often thankless task up top on his lonesome – a task that he neither asked for, nor ever shirked.
His character remains a huge part of Chris Hughton’s jigsaw. Norwich invariably look so much the poorer in his absence; it is rare indeed for Holt not to put the proverbal big shift in; to lead his troops by unstinting example.
It’s just that – for once in his time at Norwich – he might not have the Player of the Season poll all his own way.
Because given the defensive nature of much of City’s season – ‘defensive’ in the sense that they have become that much harder to beat than in previous years – I suspect Sebastien Bassong could give Holt a real run for his money.
Russell Martin – having seen off the challenge of a luckless Steven Whittaker at right-back likewise is unlikely to be far away; after such a rocky start to his Canary career, Michael Turner proved rock-like amid the snowy squalls of the weekend.
And if consistency was one of the keys to unlocking this particular door, Bradley Johnson might not be a bad shout. He has worked tirelessly in the cause and, unlike his midfield partner Alexander Tettey, has avoided the kind of niggly bumps and bruises that can undermine any candidates chances of walking off with the season’s individual prize.
Wes Hoolahan – finally – got his due rewards earlier this year with that full Republic of Ireland call-up; but done enough to de-throne his strike pal Holt? Not sure.
There’s one point that has cropped up a few times of late when people start to judge the success or (still) ‘failure’ of Hughton this term – and that’s the amount of money he has actually spent to keep Norwich out of the danger zone going into the final quarter of the campaign.
He has, by Premier League standards, spent peanuts to grab a bottom third finish. Certainly in comparison, say, to the money a Stoke will have thrown Peter Crouch’s way.
And with precise transfer fees ever more the mystery these days, so the points-earned versus pounds-spent equation to, say, Bassong would be a telling statistic.
According to the Evening Standard: “It is believed the Carrow Road club will have to pay around £5.5m for the Cameroon international, who has two years left on his contract.”
Which, to my mind, has been money well spent; if, indeed, that was the money that Norwich spent.
The point being that the 26-year-old looks a player capable of holding his own in a top half Premier League team; maybe even top eight.
And that, for me, is probably the benchmark that Hughton and Co need to set themselves for next year; to ‘up’ the number of players within that dressing room that could play for a top eight club.
Find yourself three or four of that ilk – and John Ruddy might well be one – and slowly, but surely, that’s where you will drift. Upwards.
So, that’s where my money would go this season. On Bassong. Narrowly. From Holt. With a Johnson or a Martin somewhere in the mix.