City skipper Grant Holt tonight found himself fielding questions of an England international variety as the dust started to slowly settle on this afternoon’s 2-1 home defeat by champions Manchester United.
For winners of the ilk of Holt and City boss Paul Lambert, to describe any defeat as magnificent probably goes wholly against the grain.
But to the neutral – and, indeed, the vast majority of the Canary faithful gathered at Carrow Road – there was little doubt as to who, on the day, were the better side. And who – to a man and a collective unit – put in one of the biggest ‘shifts’ in recent memory.
Only for Ryan Giggs’ script-writers to deliver the cruellest of punchlines as the 38-year-old Old Trafford legend marked his 900th appearance in a Reds shirt with a 92nd minute winner.
By then, of course, Holt had bagged his tenth Premier League goal of the season with the sweetest of touches, turns and drives off a Zak Whitbread knock-down to briefly blow United’s title ambitions off course.
The 30-year-old’s goal-scoring record – combined with that old-fashioned centre-forward play that is so rare in the English top flight these days – once again prompted the question of a full, England international call-up after caretaker boss Stuart Pearce put his faith in the likes of Sunderland’s Fraizer Campbell and United’s Danny Welbeck for next week’s friendly clash with Holland.
Welbeck would miss a total sitter in this afternoon’s thrilling, closing moments, whilst none of Pearce’s favoured five – Campbell, Welbeck, Darren Bent, Daniel Sturridge and the absent Wayne Rooney – bring Holt’s style of play to bear on continental opponents.
It is, increasingly, a pointed question as to what more the one-time tyre-fitter has to do to make it all the way from the Unibond League to Wembley and Three Lions on his chest one Wednesday night.
A similar claim could be made for Swansea’s Danny Graham who, likewise, is now in double figures for the Premier League.
“I don’t think it [an England call-up] is just around the corner,” admitted the Canary favourite. “As you say, me and Danny [Graham] got overlooked for this particular squad, but we’ve just got to keep doing what we’re doing.
“I know Danny well – he’s a good lad – and he’ll be disappointed that he’s not getting the call-up. But you’ve got to keep doing what you’re doing; keep scoring the goals; keep turning the performances in and let people like yourselves write what you want to write.”
But what would it actually mean – should Pearce finally pick up the phone?
“It’s the pinnacle, isn’t it?” said Holt, whose footballing fairy-tale is more remarkable than most. “As any young boy, your dream is to play for your country. Everyone has that dream and some fulfil it and some don’t.”
He wasn’t alone in wondering what it takes to get noticed on the international stage when playing in Norfolk.
“I think it’s everybody. Look at Wes Hoolahan – he hasn’t had an Ireland cap for the last two years and yet he’s probably been by far the best Irish player for a long time,” said Holt, with Anthony Pilkington, Bradley Johnson and John Ruddy all likewise being talked of internationally – and yet none getting the call.
Russell Martin’s latest Scottish call, ironically, might now be in doubt after he missed this afternoon’s thriller with flu.
“People might say it is a Norwich thing – that we’re not at a big club. But if the lads keep doing it for Norwich City, we’ll see where it takes them.”
He was, inevitably, disappointed that the Canaries failed to prise a deserved point out of United.
“I thought we gave a good fist of it today,” said the City skipper, bang on course to claim his third successive Player of the Season award given the level of his performances in the top flight this season.
Today he once again led by example as the home side rarely gave United a moment’s peace and rendered the likes of Michael Carrick and Nani largely anonymous. Unfortunately, the Norfolk side could find no answer to the ageless threats posed by Giggs and Paul Scholes.
“I felt we pressed them high, tried to get the ball back and we’re disappointed,” he said, as for once an injury time winner went against Norwich. “We’ve done that against a lot of teams and its cruel when its done against you.”
He would have swapped a point for his latest strike on goal – the 65th of his City career.
“It’s always sweeter if we get the win at the end of the day, but I’m happy with the way I am playing at the minute. The goals are going in and I’m enjoying myself.