City boss Paul Lambert insists that star striker Grant Holt can get better and better as the Canaries prepare for the Boxing Day trip to Crystal Palace.
Speaking to the Press ahead of this weekend’s away trip to the Eagles, Lambert was asked whether or not Holt was playing as well as he had ever seen him.
Six goals from his last five Canary outings – the word ‘unplayable’ being thrown into post-match conversations – the questioner had a reasonable point.
There is little doubt that the 29-year-old City skipper is pretty much near the top of his game right now. The question, however, remained: where is the top of Grant Holt’s game? Was there more in his locker?
“I hope there’s more to come from him,” said the City chief. “He’s in a rich vein of form at the minute and, hopefully, he can keep sustaining that.”
Holt’s double at the Ricoh took him to 11 for the season so far – no mean feat as the level of opposition improves on last year’s efforts in League One; a point Lambert acknowledged.
“Obviously, the league’s harder – and that’s no disrespect to League One. But in this league you step up a level again, but in the last few weeks he’s been in a rich vein of form. His confidence is really high.”
He was, said Lambert, also on top of his fitness; that will be one of the keys to his on-going form and fortune. Look at someone like the luckless Dean Ashton and those of heavier bones can put all-too much stress and strains on their limbs. And, in Ashton’s case, the ankles gave way.
“He’s a heavyweight lad,” said Lambert, speaking of his skipper. “I think he’s always going to have to watch what he eats – so the way that his body is and the make-up of him, he’s always got to watch what he’s doing. “
But if he does that and he can keep fit, then it’s great for everybody at Norwich – and myself. For he’s getting the benefit of being fit. And that’s a big part of his game.
“And he knows that the body-fat has got to be what I think it should be,” added Lambert, clearly in top of Holt’s fitness regime as City prepare for the almost ritual festive trip deep into South-East London.
Traditionally, of course, away trips to the Selhurst don’t send Canary hearts leaping; it’s not the happiest of hunting grounds – the journey, the price, the welcome and the facilities, none make for a magical day out.
But these aren’t the most usual of times as the Canaries gun for back-to-back promotions under Lambert’s charge.
And fresh from away wins at fellow play-off rivals Derby County and Coventry City, Norwich’s travelling army of supporters may head into the capital this weekend with rather more by way of confidence than normal – safe in the knowledge that as far as Lambert is concerned, home or away the Canaries will look to get a result; look to get themselves into the driving seat early.
“Even at home – I look forward to every home game; we’re just playing really well at the moment – and that’s well-documented,” said Lambert.
“So whether we’re home or away, it doesn’t really make much difference to me.
“You’ve got to do it. And the best way to try and do it is to try and get onto the front foot – away as well as at home and the lads have been terrific for me.”
The fact that Palace stole away with all three points on their visit to Carrow Road earlier this season adds a little more edge to the proceedings. The manager knows it has to be a case of pedal to the metal come Boxing Day.
“If we’re not at it, then they’ll turn us over,” he warned, simply. “We have to be really on the game. But if we can keep playing the way that we have been and with a bit of luck, then hopefully we’ll win.
“But we’re not good enough to turn up and think we’re going to win.”
Team-wise and it looks as if Adam Drury – fresh from signing that new, one-year extension to his current City deal – won’t be deemed match fit enough to feature. He has been out since the middle of October, but is at least now back in full-time training.
Andrew Crofts could, however, return after missing the trip to the Ricoh with a virus.
Whether Lambert goes into battle with a three-strong strike force as he did at Coventry; or whether he will look to restore Crofts next to the blossoming David Fox in the heart of that City midfield is one to keep everyone guessing – Palace boss George Burley, very much included.