City skipper Grant Holt declared yesterday’s 3-2 away win at Swansea City as another ‘huge’ milestone en route to Premiership safety.
It is – if truth be known – another big chapter in his own, Canary story as two goals either side of Anthony Pilkington’s deflected strike took his tally to 11 for the season.
With a third of the season and an FA Cup fifth round tie still to come, the 30-year-old could yet nudge nearer the 20-mark before he rests this summer.
Little wonder that with his track record in front of goal – and the leadership qualities that surround such numbers – he was attracting the interest of Glasgow giants Rangers come the final day of the transfer window.
Little wonder that he is held in such esteem by the Norwich faithful after tying his colours to the Norfolk mast and leading by example yet again at The Liberty Stadium.
“It’s absolutely huge,” said the Canary hero, fired up by memories of last season’s painful 3-0 defeat by the Swans.
A year on and City now have a Premiership ‘double’ to their name after being only the second club this season to come away from South Wales with all three points – a result which lifted City into eighth place in the Premiership table.
“We talked a lot this week about when we came down here last year and the way that they were when they scored,” he explained to BBC Radio Norfolk afterwards.
“They won 3-0 and for a lot of us, it stuck in the back of our mind. We knew we’d come down here and it’d be a tough game, but we had a point to prove. A lot of us were disappointed with last year – and we put it to bed this year.”
City could have been out of sight before Danny Graham’s 87th minute penalty. Kyle Naughton and Wes Hoolahan were both only denied by world class saves from Swans keeper Michel Vorm.
The latter chance featured a decent tee-up from Holt himself; he remains remarkably selfless in front of goal – a genuine team player.
For whatever reason, G Holt is not Mr Popular among the Swansea faithful. All of which merely came back to haunt them, as the Canary striker buried two, big chances in the midst of another classic centre-forward’s performance.
“If people want to give me stick that’s fine, I’ve got broad shoulders,” said the two-time Canary Player of the Season – gunning for a third on current form and fortune.
“And I enjoy it – it spurs me on. And, listen, that’s football. I’m sure they’ll just be a little bit quieter this evening.”
Holt was, of course, far from the only hero on the day. Much mention was made of the returning Elliott Ward who ended six months of injury frustration with a huge shift at the heart of that Canary defence – now minus both Zak Whitbread and Daniel Ayala.
His last gasp tackle on Graham in the first-half was a big moment en route to this latest away success; he also delivered a memorable assist for Holt’s opening goal with that inch-perfect overhead cross – not something usually assumed to be in a centre-halves’ armoury.
“I think Wardy said that when he was a young kid he was told to play to the whistle – and that’s what you do,” said a grateful Holt, as the returning Canary defender refused to let the ball go out of play.
“It was a great ball and he was absolutely fantastic today for someone that has been out for so long to come in and play in a partnership with him and Russ [Russell Martin],” said Holt, as all concerned stood firm in those last, desperate minutes of added on times.
“Adam [Drury] was coming through a groin and Kyle [Naughton] could just about walk at the end – and Leon [Barnett] comes on and does a great job,” said Holt, with Drury’s afternoon lasting just under the hour before Barnett’s arrival.
“But – as everyone well knows – we’ve got a fantastic spirit and whoever plays in that team, the manager expects the best of them. And he gets it.”
Certainly after the break, when the Canaries really stepped on the gas. “We talked at half-time about being a little bit higher up the pitch and being a little bit more ruthless. And I thought once we got the first goal, we looked comfortable for a good spell.
“I don’t think they knew what had hit them – we came out of the blocks absolutely flying and it looked for about ten minutes that every way we turned we were going to get in. But we’re a good side – we know that.
“We’ve got players in this team that can cause anyone trouble and we showed that out there.”