You always know how fast time flies when it comes to that certain time of the year when the ‘Player of the Season’ votes are being cast.
And here we are again; pondering the runners and riders for the 2011-2012 Barry Butler Trophy.
I’m going to nail my colour to a mast from the off. Grant Holt.
In the Press Box at Carrow Road, I sit next to a one-time Canary winger. Someone with an England cap to his name, if memory serves.
We invariably swap notes at the end of every game; he is head down into a mic for most of the 90 minutes.
We did it again on Saturday; fresh from watching the 30-year-old Canary skipper take his tally to the season to 14; the fab dink and nod into an empty goal and the cool-as-you-like penalty to put the Canaries within touching distance of Premier League safety.
What marked Holt out from the crowd? His touch and his mentality. Both are straight out of the top drawer.
The touch, I think, people are slowly starting to appreciate. The manner in which he deftly lobbed Wayne Hennessey last weekend was remarkable; as City boss Paul Lambert remarked afterwards, when you get to see the whites of the keeper’s eyes in such moments, all too many a player would snatch and panic at that kind of opportunity.
Holt goes cold in the penalty area; cold, calculating and precise. It was a magnificent piece of timing and technique; those that view him just as an old fashioned lump of a centre-forward do him few favours.
But the point about the mentality was interesting. Because the arrival of Steve Morison last summer clearly threw a large gauntlet at his feet.
Whilst on occasion – as in a centre-half lite Newcastle United – the two have been paired together, the general view would be that it is an either/or situation.
One or the other. And given a rare fair wind on the injury front, it would be one from the two to partner James Vaughan.
Look back now and there was a period in the early autumn – and beyond – where Holt was left to play second fiddle; to be the walk-on part in the game’s final 20 or 30 minutes. And that must have hurt.
But the manner in which he responded, took on that challenge and – in many respects – won, speaks volumes for the strength of character of the individual. Others would have reached for their toys and despatched them out of the pram; or accepted the first offer that came a-knocking; that of Rangers, for example.
But Holt knuckled down, let his goals do the talking and now stands poised not only to claim his third, successive Player of the Season gong, but – potentially – to even earn himself a trip to the Euros this summer with those Three Lions on his chest.
And that’s what seals the deal for me.
In common with any journalist, I love a good story. From the Unibond League and fitting tyres for a day job to the Premier League and, ideally, an England call is the stuff of legend; it is a Boys Own tale – all-too rare in the world of professional football these days.
Over and above all that, the trick to staying in the Premier League is – unless you’re Everton, of course – to score goals. To score them against some of the finest defenders in the world merely adds a final touch of glitter to Holt’s extraordinary Norwich cv.
Mentions in despatches? Fair play to John Ruddy; he has barely put a foot wrong. He would grab second, to my mind. Only just though from Russell Martin, who answered his club’s call when centre-halves were all-too thin on the ground.
Some of his goal-line clearances were out of this world; quite rightly has Scotland come a-calling for his talents.
Fingers firmly crossed, England now follow suit and make one man’s unique journey through the English professional game complete.
Andrew Lawn says
Has to be David Fox for me. He is the heartbeat of the team, which all our play goes through.
Ruddy has been the player of the season.
Derek Piercey says
It’s hard to argue with any of that. I do think that Marc Tierney could have run him close had he stayed fit but it has to be Holt.