City boss Paul Lambert and club skipper Grant Holt walked away with two, big awards this weekend – Premier League Manager of the Season and Premier League Player of the Season.
Well, at least in the opinion of Blackpool boss Ian Holloway who gave the Norfolk pair top billing in his end-of-season ‘Ollies’.
The Barclays Manager of the Season award has yet to be announced; traditionally, the award is only made come the second or third week in May following both FA Cup and Champions League finals.
Lambert’s name has already been mentioned in despatches; as has that of fellow Premier League new-boy Brendan Rodgers at Swansea.
In fairness, Alan Pardew’s achievements at Newcastle merit some attention – if the award is, for once, to fall outside the usual ‘Big Six’ of the two Manchester clubs, Arsenal, Tottenham, Chelsea and Liverpool.
Holloway, however, is always one to voice an alternative opinion and could be found handing this season’s gong to Lambert in his weekly column in The Independent on Sunday newspaper.
“Alan Pardew taking Newcastle to the brink of the Champions’ League is incredible. But I cannot look past Brendan Rodgers and Paul Lambert,” he wrote.
“The pair of them have been an absolute credit to the Premier League with the way they have gone about trying to stay in the division.
“Lambert just about gets the nod, as he has taken Norwich from League One to the very top in the space of two years.”
As for Player of the Season, that too was heading the way of Carrow Road – even if Holloway wasn’t quite about to leap aboard the ‘Grant Holt For England’ bandwagon.
Rested for Saturday’s 3-0 home defeat by FA Cup finalists Liverpool, the Canary hero looks an odds-on certainty to lift his third successive Player of the Season Trophy ahead of the final home game of the season against Aston Villa.
Ever the football romantic, ‘Ollie’ recognises the Boy’s Own story that lies behind Holt’s rise to Premier League stardom; whether that remarkable rise from the Unibond League will end with a trip to the Euro2012 finals with England this summer is for impending new national boss Roy Hodgson to decide.
But Holloway is a big fan.
“Every so often the player you least expect to have a remarkable season does just that. Take a bow Grant Holt,” he wrote. “He has been terrific at Norwich.”
In Holloway’s eyes, the fact that Holt plays for one of the less fashionable clubs may do the 31-year-old few favours; that said, Hodgson is probably sufficiently ‘old school’ in his thinking that a good, old fashioned English centre-forward may yet cross his mind.
The Baggies chief is one of the game’s more pragmatic characters – and knows a big, honest heart when he sees one.
Holloway fears that without the big name employer Holt may be left on the sidelines this summer.
“There has been a debate about whether he merits a call-up to the England squad. I think that would probably be taking it too far, though he hasn’t a chance anyway; the bottom line is that if you don’t play for one of the big clubs in this country, you don’t get selected by England.
“That’s just the way it is, unfortunately.
“But in this year’s Premier League Holt has been sensational and well done to the lad – a victory for perseverance and hard work.”
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