Canary skipper Grant Holt has revealed just why boss Paul Lambert is such a marked man in this summer’s managerial merry-go-round – as well as his pride in climbing ever higher in terms of the club’s all-time scoring lists.
The 31-year-old became the first player in the club’s history to lift the Barry Butler Memorial Trophy this afternoon for the third time – relegating fellow England hopeful John Ruddy into second place.
Both were at their best for City’s final game of the season as Holt deployed his left shoulder to bag goal No17 of a magnificent campaign; his 15th in the Premier League; his 70th for the Canaries since making the switch from Shrewsbury Town in the summer of 2009.
He now boasts 60 goals from 120 league appearances for the Norfolk club; bang on a one-in-two goals per game ratio. That alone puts him in amongst the club’s all-time greats; his 70th strike leaves him seventh equal with John Deehan.
He still has a way to go to overtake two, recent heroes in the shape of third-placed Iwan Roberts (96) and fourth-placed Robert Fleck (84), but the Canary skipper knows his charts and his history. He also has precisely the kind of ambition and determination required to close in on such heights.
“There’s things that I still want to do – and that’s definitely one of them,” said Holt, with representing his county at international level clearly being another.
“I want to get into that top five [of all-time City goal-scorers]. I’ve already over-taken quite a few of the names associated with that.”
Whether Mother Nature and the footballing fates will give him the chance to match Roberts’ 96-goal mark is another question.
“I saw Iwan the other week and I said to him: ‘I don’t think I’ll be able to get to yours – I’ll have retired by then!’”
Inevitably, the conversation turned to Paul Lambert – lauded by both sets of supporters today as the Villa faithful urged their board to show Alex McLeish the door. ‘One Paul Lambert, only one Paul Lambert…’ they chorused in tune with the Barclay.
“We can’t talk about the Villa situation – whatever happens to their manager, happens,” said Holt, with McLeish due to have a high-level meeting with owner and chief executive this week.
“We can only worry about our manager and, I don’t know, ask him… And let me know what he says,” laughed Holt. Non-committal would be one way of describing Lambert’s response to said question in his own Press conference afterwards.
“But he’s good – that’s why a lot of people are chanting his name,” added the Canary favourite. “He’s got an aura; a something about him – that when he’s about he’s got that something that makes you want to work for him.
“And that’s why he’s getting touted around for most jobs at the minute.”
A long, hot summer of speculation awaits all concerned. “I’m sure that any top job that comes up over the summer, his name will get chucked in,” said Holt. “And only he will know what he wants to do.
“I’m sure the club will do everything to keep him here and if he feels its right to stay, he’ll stay. But if he feels its right to go, he’ll go. He’s strong-willed and he’ll do whatever he decides to do. But whatever happens I’m hoping he’s here when I come back.”
The other person who figured large in Holt’s thoughts was keeper Ruddy after the Canary No1 again confirmed his Euro2012 credentials – this time in front of the watching England goalkeeping coach, Ray Clemence. It wasn’t a wasted trip.
After Manchester City’s Joe Hart, Holt insists Ruddy is the obvious candidate for the No2 role.
“There’s no one else,” said the skipper. “Joe Hart is at Manchester City and, obviously, has done fantastically well. But if John churns out the performances he has done over the last three weeks, there’s no-one better. Without a doubt he should be in that squad.”
Nor does Holt buy into the suggestion that one or two of yesterday’s men should be persuaded to come out of retirement; as a proud Englishman that has yet to receive his country’s call, the City hero is adamant that the Paul Robinsons and the Ben Fosters have had their chance – and made their decision.
“They’ve retired – if you want to play for your country, you shouldn’t retire,” he said, with a passion and a pride that would serve his country well – if the call ever came.
“I wouldn’t get them back out. I would give the young man his chance; he’s 24, give him the opportunity to show what he can do. Some of the saves that he’s pulled off for us have been unbelievable.”