A full-back from Peterborough, pressed into emergency centre-back duties, carried the ball forward from the half-way line to the edge of the enemy box before sliding a pass forward.
A winger from Huddersfield chased the pass, but then saw that the full-back from Colchester had overlapped and was better placed. The ex-Colchester bloke centred, standing the ball up so that it was begging to be headed.
And a striker who was playing in the Conference for Stevenage three seasons ago accepted the invitation to thump in a goal.
What an elegant goal it was. What an eloquent rebuttal of Norwich City doubters it was. How magnificently it endorsed Paul Lambert’s transfer policy.
He recruits hungry wannabes with points to prove.
And those who warned that he would need men with Premier League experience in the top division should think about the Sunderland defence who were so bemused and confused as Norwich City constructed that Barcelona-esque second goal against them.
That defence comprised of John O’Shea (258 Premier League appearances), Wes Brown (238), Titus Shambles (217) and Kieran Richardson (134).
They’ve all been there and done it. Three of them are full internationals. Do you imagine that a September night in Norwich held any real significance for them? Were they “up for it?”
Brown didn’t get up to stop Morison reaching the ball and Shambles was on an amble at the time. So was Richardson.
You can do your own gags about Shambles being caught in possession, but let’s all recall how he made no move at all as Leon Barnett pounced to put City one-up, and how Brown did nothing to cut out Elliott Bennett’s low cross for that first goal.
No, you can keep your experienced hasbeens, thank you, even though it means some of our chaps have had to learn on the job in the first few matches: they’ve had to discover, for instance, that it is fatal to make contact with the back of a striker’s legs.
Still, never mind the danger. Now’s our chance. This talented team of tyros demonstrated, with two wins and a fabulous performance at Old Trafford, that they have the ability to prosper in this most unforgiving division.
And look how many of the summer signings are part of the success story so far.
Lambert’s qualities include the ability to say and do the right thing by players who have served him well – and then omit them when he thinks that is right.
So, the team who carried City to the League One title with such joyous élan was dismantled during the summer which followed the open-topped bus parade.
Lambert tried to get Fraser Forster back for another season, but the Doc and Rusty were moved on and others were reduced to walk-on parts as starring roles were given to new arrivals Elliott Ward, Andrew Crofts, David Fox and Andrew Surman. Eventually, Marc Tierney and Simeon Jackson took more berths from former favourites.
The side which lifted City out of the Championship looked very different from the side which had carried them into it.
This campaign Lambert is doing it again: leaving out men who dominated matches for us last season to make way for new acquisitions.
You know where this is going, don’t you? At the moment, there can be no starting place for Grant Holt.
It is inestimably sad to think that, after leading us to the Promised Land, Holty might not be among those who enjoy it.
But in the last three games, City have played 4-4-1-1, with Wes and Morison as the “ones”. If we ever go back to 4-4-2, or the diamond, then there would be room for our deposed skipper – but even then he might not get the vote.
To be honest, I was surprised he began the season for us, but even a pragmatist like Lambert was bound to extend that opportunity to him, I suppose.
Holty earned that right with his heroics over two seasons and etched his place in our list of all-time greats with his unstinted brilliance in the demolition derbies last campaign.
In the home game, he was done a favour by an early booking. It meant he had to tread carefully and concentrate on the ball. His reward was a hat-trick. Our reward was the humiliation of Roy Keane and Co.
But it was what he did during the match in the Suffolk town which wanted to be a city which brings me out in goose bumps now, as I type this.
The poor old boy was crocked, you remember. Jacko had to do the running of two men. But when Holty got the ball, he screened it and protected it as if it was the most precious possession in the world. No blue-shirt was allowed a glimpse of it as he nursed it until help arrived or an opportunity for a pass presented itself.
And, hobbling though he was, the team who were destined to finish 13th dared not leave him unattended because … well, because we are talking about Grant Holt, that’s why.
That is also why he will have tasks to do for City in the Premier League.
If we are chasing games, and pressing the opposition back into the final third of the pitch, Holty would be a perfect sub: the man to put away chances without having to run very far to reach them.
And if, as against Sunderland, we want to run down the clock, then Grant his wish by sending him on to draw a few fouls, commit a few and make a flaming nuisance of himself.
But start games, especially away from home when pace is so important? I don’t think so.
Lambert and Holt himself might prove me wrong. I’d love that to happen, frankly. After all, the doubts which I allowed to form about our team as we lost to West Brom were utterly ill-judged.
Yet, if this is to be another season for new heroes, let’s all just agree on one thing. Now and forever, we freaking love Grant Holt.
Derek Piercey says
Mick, I agree mostly with all you say. However, did not Lambert miss a trick on Saturday? We were, as you say, chasing a game, needing to hold up possession and yet Holty remained on the bench. Surely, after all his heroics during the last 2 seasons, did he not warrant at least 10 minutes on the biggest stage of all? Yes, it’s a bit sentimental but practical as well.
Chris W says
Nice article Mick, but here’s the thing. I’m not convinced that Morison & Holt are so different. In fact there are more similarities than differences in terms of pace, mobility, physique, strength, style, heading ability, heart etc. And if it’s a straight fight between the two, I’d have taken Holt to score “that” chance at Chelsea, to have scored “that” late header v WBA and to have made “that” pass to Wes at Man Utd. But the issue for me is not which of them starts, but that it seems to be only one of them, not both, nor anyone else. The lack of pace & clinical finishing up front will surely mean that a striker sits at the top of Sir Paul’s Xmas list!
Kurt Fricker says
I do wish people would stop writing Grant Holt off.
He was man of the match against Chelsea and whilst he is clearly not as mobile as Morison when playing one up front he would be the first name on my team sheet if we play 2 upfront (which I hope we will do at home). He is also the best finisher at the club.
People are talking as if he can barely walk, yes the premier league is quicker and more physical but Grant Holt is up to it and if we stay up he will have been an important part of that.
Lets also not forget his slow starts in the previous seasons and how things turned out.
I am happy to trust in Lambert and in turn I am sure he will trust in Holty when the time is right. and he wont let anyone down.
Steven Clarke says
I have just discovered that my great grandfather who died in 1940 at the age of 73 was a passionate Norwich City supporter. Even after he was too ill to go to the games he would walk out to Prince of Wales Road to catch the fans going home to get the result and a report of the match. I can’t be certain but I have no doubt he was a city fan from the beginning of our club, he would have been 35 in 1902. I remember listening to many stories by my grandfather who claimed to have played for a version of the team during the first world war. He spoke of the wall at the Nest and players such as Percy Varco, Jack Vinnal and Bernard Robinson. My father who is 86 speaks of the first game at Carrow Road and his hero’s, Roy Hollis, Bobby Brennan and the fifty niners. He also speaks of trips he and his dad had in an old austin seven to famous cup games at highbury and Roker park in the early fifties. I have been going to carrow road since 1967, my first game was Huddersfield and Terry Allcock scored in a 1-1 draw. My hero’s? well Kenny Foggo, Big Dunc, Martin Peters, Reeves and Fashanu, Martin O’neil, Kevin Drinkell, Chris Sutton, Darren Huckerby and many many more. Both my sons are season ticket holders with me and we still go to the games as a family. Norwich City FC matters to our family and we can see every saturday afternoon how it matters to thousands more like us, many of whom could tell similar stories. Of course we would all like to play, it would be our dream and if we could play we would wish to demonstrate exactly how much it means to us, and That is why we all love Grant Holt because he is exactly what we would wish to be, to him and us it matters!
Mick Dennis says
Steven,yours is a fabulous post. You are so right about Holty caring like a fan and you express the sense of belonging that supporting brings. If you recognise me at a game, home or away, I’d love you to say hello so that I can meet someone whose family support is a thread in the tapestry of the best football club in the world. OTBC