City boss Bryan Gunn was a happy man this afternoon as he finally bolted “the big one” into his 2009-2010 plans – last season's leading scorer in League Two, Shrewsbury Town's Grant Holt.
The six-foot frontman this afternoon became Gunn's tenth signing of an increasingly frenetic summer – his fourth of the day after this morning's unveiling of Simon Whaley, Rhoys Wiggins and Ben Alnwick.
Holt, 28, has signed a three-year deal with an option after moving from the Shrews for “an undisclosed fee” and thereby ending six weeks of patient stalking by Gunn and the club's new chief executive, David McNally.
There was little hiding the City manager's delight after finally bagging a big No9 – one who arrives in Norfolk with 28 goals in his locker from last season's efforts in League Two. He will, without doubt, be a marked man in League One and is arguably Gunn's key signing of the summer.
How he fares will do much to determine the manager's own fate this term.
“This is the big one – I'm looking forward to getting him into the No9 jersey,” said the City chief, an event that could happen as early as tomorrow afternoon as the Canaries play host to a young Manchester United XI at Carrow Road.
Though an offer still remains on the table for Serbian triallist Goran Maric, Holt is the one that Gunn had long targetted; he was the one that has long been ear-marked to lead the line and add 25-plus goals to the party.
“He offers us something that we haven't got much of in the squad at the moment,” said Gunn. “Goals.
“And power. And we hope that he's going to give us that in abundance. And I know from our discussions with him that he's keen to get the ball rolling quickly.”
Those discussions – or at least the club-to-club contacts between Gunn and his opposite number Paul Simpson and McNally and Shrews chairman Roland Wycherley – have been on-going for most of the summer. It is only within the last 48-hours that player and manager have met.
“When David [McNally] came on board, my thoughts were on a striker – and someone who would make an impact not only for Norwich City fans, but someone that all the other clubs in this division will not enjoy playing against,” said Gunn, swift to acknowledge the contribution that both the season ticket holders and City director Michael Wynn Jones made to this afternoon's big signing.
Without a third of their number foregoing their right to a season ticket rebate and Foulger matching their gesture pound-for-pound with some ?300,000 of his own money, Holt would not be sat here said the Canary boss.
“With their help and commitment we've been able to pursue [Holt] over the last five weeks until we find ourselves here today having signed him.”
Without that help, Norwich would still be scrabbling around for that 25-goal hitman; or else keeping their fingers firmly crossed that Maric might be that man.
“That [rebate money] was an important factor in being able to push this deal through,” said the Canary boss.
“The support that we've had from the whole board in terms of making this signing – and the personal contribution from Michael Foulger and the fans; each and every one of them who left their rebate money in – meant that we've been able to pursue Grant through to today. The other signings have come within the playing budget that we'd already discussed.
“So this is a personal thanks to each and every one of them – to those fans and, certainly, to Michael Foulger.”
This evening and Shrews chairman Wycherley was insisting that the club had no option but to sell their star asset. Having proved his point in League Two with those 28 goals, he was not going to hang around for another season in the fourth tier of English football.
That his agent had made very clear, said Wycherley.
“We have made it clear all along that we are not a selling club – and had turned down significant bids,” said the Shrews chairman. “But the situation changes dramatically when the player's agent calls our manager and says the player doesn't want to spend another season in League Two.
It was, he said, an “extremely favourable deal” for the club; do the rebate sums and Foulger's contribution and you can't help but wonder whether the final transfer sum was in the region of that ?600,000 injection – no mean sum at League One level.
“If a player has an opportunity to progress to a higher level then we have to consider it,” Wycherley told the club's official website tonight. “But only if the deal suits Shrewsbury Town.
“I feel that I have done that and, while sad that Grant is leaving, I'm confident that this is an extremely favourable deal for the club; greatly above what was invested to bring him here – so we have made the very best of the situation.”
Holt arrived at Shrewsbury last summer for ?170,000. People can tonight make their own minds up as to what 'greatly above' that figure might mean, but it is clear that the Canaries have invested big in their new No9 – or as 'big' as their current financial circumstance will allow.
Now it is up to the heir of Iwan Roberts and Dean Ashton to deliver on the goodwill of both supporters and club director.