Captaincy can weigh heavily on some people’s shoulders; some shrink away from such limelight. Others thrive on the extra pressure and expectation.
And City skipper Grant Holt would appear to fall firmly into the latter camp, although he insists it made little or no difference to the way that he approaches each and every game.
“It wasn’t anything to do with being captain – I knew what I can do,” he said simply, speaking to the NCFC matchday programme at the end of 2009-10.
“There’s a little bit of added pressure because you want to do well for the team, but its not about having an armband. You look at the way that Gary Doherty performed and he was the captain at the start.
“He was consistent and one of the best players that we had this year. But I always play my way. I always work hard and, hopefully, that kicks them on to do well as well – and if they don’t I’ll surely let them know about it!” said the 29-year-old.
There is, of course, one other person to throw into this winning mix – The Gaffer.
“He’s got everything,” said Grant simply, quizzed as to what exactly Paul Lambert brought to the promotion party.
“There’s no doubting that he knows football. He had a fantastic career as a player and I’m sure that if he carries on in the manner that he is, he’ll have a fantastic management career.”
Not that Lambert is wholly a one-man band; ‘Team Lambert’ follows him on his travels in the shape of ex-City UEFA Cup hero Ian Culverhouse and football operations manager Gary Karsa.
“He’s got a great team – you’ve got people like Cully [Culverhouse] who puts great sessions on. So, yes, he’s got a great team behind him, but when it comes to match-days I haven’t seen anyone better.
“The way that he inspires; the way that he gets you in the mood to win games. He never says: ‘Oh, if you go here, you’ll do well to get a draw’.
“And even if you’re 1-0 down at half-time, it’s never about getting back in the game – it’s about winning the game. And when someone gives you that belief – and he believes in you that much – it does nothing but lift you.”
The fact that Grant was stuck on the sidelines for the final two games of the season took a tiny bit of the gloss off proceedings; in fairness, the sooner he had the operation, the sooner he will be back to full, fighting fitness – in this case, he can now return for the very start of pre-season fit and raring to go.
“It was a massive shame [to miss the final game],” he admitted. “Obviously I’ve worked hard all year to get us into a position where we can sit comfortable and can go and enjoy ourselves in the last two games,” said Grant, the fact that the final day opposition were Carlisle – his home team – merely adding to the sense of frustration.
Sometimes, however, the needs of team dictate rather more than any one individual’s wishes.
“Obviously with Carlisle being my home town team it was disappointing, but you’ve got to look at the bigger picture.
“Sometimes in these situations you can let your heart rule your head. I’ve now had the operation and it will get me back for the start of pre-season.
“If I’d left it two weeks, it might have been cutting into pre-season. And I want to be in The Championship; the team needs everyone firing on all cylinders for next season.
It has, it appears, been niggling away all year; a hangover from a similar operation last summer. Again it is testament to Grant’s strength of character that he carried on regardless.
“I had the operation last year and it didn’t go as well as we wanted. There was a bit of umming and ahhing last year when they [Norwich] came to sign us because of how flared up it was.
“But – thankfully for me – they made the decision to still sign us, but when all the swelling calmed down it was still niggling away, but the physios have been fantastic.
“They’ve managed it; given it rest when it needed it. And the manager’s stepped in and given us a couple of Mondays off when I’ve needed it.
“I owe a lot of credit to the football club for bringing me here – and to the fans for being here, week in, week out. But most of all to the rest of the lads. They’ve travelled a lot of miles; put in a lot of shifts and grafted hard and thankfully, everyone’s got their rewards now.”
Released at 15, Carlisle’s loss ‘was someone else’s gain’, said Grant, who would find a new home with non-league Workington.
It was, you suspect, the kind of school of hard knocks that served him in very good stead down the years. He knows all too well about the realities of life outside the pampered life of professional football.
“I’ve seen how hard life is when you’re not in it [professional football] – the going to work six till two, having a couple of hours off and driving three hours to a game.
“Getting in at 11 or 12 o’clock at night and being back in work at six o’clock. I’ve done it the hard way and it makes me appreciate how lucky I am.”
It is an experience that is probably worth its weight in gold when it comes to keeping the younger players on the straight and narrow.
“I think maybe the younger lads now have it a little too easy,” he said. “But the good thing is that the manager and the staff here now won’t let them rest on their laurels – if they’re out of line, they get told.
“And at the end of the day, you can only tell someone so much. If they don’t have the desire to do it then they won’t make it. And when you look at the lads that come through from non-league that’s what they’ve got – the determination to succeed.
“And that’s what they’ve got to keep.”