Here is Grant Holt talking about securing a point at Anfield. It’s the first published extract from the book about our club that is being published next month. I’m not supposed to be disclosing extracts yet, but here it is because I’m angry.
From my two seasons with Norwich in the Premier League, I’d single out scoring at Anfield in the first season as the top personal moment – because I was really annoyed that I didn’t start!
Paul Lambert had told me, ‘Look, it’s a different level and it will have to be different players and different systems for different games.’ But I hadn’t had a minute at Old Trafford three weeks earlier, which really griped me, and now he hadn’t picked me at Liverpool. But then, when he sent me on at 1-0 to them, I had a feeling that we could get a goal.
We had talked about getting crosses in early in the Prem. So when Anthony Pilkington got a chance, I knew he would sling the ball in and I was already moving. Pilks’s centre was heading for the area between the penalty spot and the edge of the area but out of the corner of my eye I saw the goalkeeper, Pepe Reina, come off his line. I thought, ‘You won’t get that!’
Jamie Carragher was behind me and Martin Skrtel was in front of me. Skrtel was watching the ball. I nipped in front of him so now I was in front of both defenders and the goalkeeper was still trying to get there. I knew I just had to win the ball, and get anything on it. It went in like a rocket.
It makes you want to cheer, doesn’t it?! It makes you want to cheer about Holty, who led and epitomised City’s barnstorming charge up the divisions and whose irrepressible desire to succeed for and with Norwich was evident in everything he did.
And it makes me want to cheer about that moment — the single moment he picks as a highlight of two seasons in the Premier League — when Norwich impudently punctured the smugness of the Scousers.
My memories of Norwich playing Liverpool go back a frighteningly long way — back beyond Jerry Goss scoring the last goal in front of the Kop before they put seats in, 21 years ago (City’s last win against Liverpool).
They go back beyond Justin Fashanu scoring THAT goal at Carrow Road in 1980 (which Simon Thomas writes about in the new book). They go back to my very first season covering the Canaries for the Pink Un: November 1975 when Colin Suggett, Martin Peters and Ted MacDougall scored in a 3-1 win at Anfield.
The excitement that day, after a preposterously precocious performance, was so intense that when the team coach arrived back at Carrow Road in the early hours of the Sunday morning the players slapped each other’s backs again and again before trudging off to their cars.
That was eight years before it was first proposed that clubs should keep all the gate money from their home games instead of sharing receipts with the away team (the change which began the formation of a super elite). Yet, even in that more egalitarian era, it was a seismic shock when Norwich won at Liverpool.
It was not a crime to realise that. It was a cause for unbridled joy. Those of us who just couldn’t stop smiling were not ashamed that, compared to Liverpool, we were, absolutely, “little Norwich”. It was where we were in football’s immutable pecking order. It was who we were.
And now, decades later, it still isn’t defeatist or a sign of limited ambition to understand where Norwich are or who Norwich are. It should be a source of beaming pride.
Brendan Rogers has been able to spend £312.8 million in three years but even before that wantonness, the inequalities of resources had grown and grown, so that Liverpool have won nine of the last 11 meetings with Norwich.
The two interruptions in that procession of defeats were the two 1-1 draws at Anfield: the one grabbed gloriously by Holty in October 2011 and the one seized on Sunday, thanks to Russell Martin.
And so, finally, we reach the reason for my rage. I was utterly astonished and appalled to find the hackneyed ‘he can’t play at centre-back’ message board threads about our captain.
Now that I have, belatedly, watched Match of the Day 2, I can understand how the programme might have created a skewed perspective, because Martin’s two errors featured in the seven minutes of action shown.
But surely anyone who has ever seen a live match in a stadium understands that judging a team or an individual on the basis of edited highlights is like assessing a house by peering through the letter-box.
At Anfield we were singing about the Norfolk Cafu long before Russ scored, because he was outstanding — blocking, organising, holding the line and subduing £32.5m Christian Benteke so effectively that the frustrated Belgian admitted defeat long before Rodgers took him off.
Whether or not Benteke’s alleged “tight hamstring” was just an alibi, part of what happened to him was Russ Martin. Benteke gave up trying to dominate him physically because Martin wasn’t having it and because the speed of our man’s thinking was considerably quicker than the speed of Benteke’s feet.
So Benteke dropped deeper and deeper, hoping to get the ball in areas where Martin wouldn’t follow him and any sentient brain in the stadium clocked what Gordon Strachan and Alex Neil see in our captain as a centre-back.
And that was before anyone outside the camp learned about the skipper’s journey to Norwich and back for the birth of his son.
Welcome to Norwich, little fella. Your dad is one hell of a guy.
He’s playing in a decent team too. I think the comments by the managers of the teams we have played this season have been instructive about our manager.
Alan Pardew and Rodger both admitted that Neil’s tactics and formation had caught them by surprise. Eddie Howe said: “We’ve got to learn quickly about playing at this level” — that was us he was talking about. He thought we were at already at a different level, because Neil had proved too astute for him.
Of course everyone is entitled to an opinion. Of course criticisms are allowed. But why is the first instinct of some to carp and moan? Doesn’t this team and this manager deserve a different default position?
As for Holty, well, he’s starring at the book launch. I don’t imagine anyone will moan about that.
Tickets for the launch of said book can be ordered here.