City fans were tonight sent reeling as it emerged that three-time Player of the Year Grant Holt had slapped in a transfer request.
If the current uncertainty surrounding the future of boss Paul Lambert were not cause for consternation enough, the news that the Norwich skipper was now of a mind to seek pastures new will come as a double blow to the Canary faithful.
Whilst making no official statement themselves on the matter, the Carrow Road club did confirm this evening that they had, indeed, received a transfer request from the 31-year-old.
City also confirmed that the request had been denied.
Even by Norwich’s own standards and the club’s love of a dramatic twist to every story, today’s events are extraordinary – particularly given the whole situation surrounding Lambert as the Canary chief finds himself linked to the managerial vacancies at both Aston Villa and Liverpool.
With the bookies closing in on Ole Gunnar Solksjaer for the Villa Park post and Roberto Martinez for the Anfield role, Lambert may yet be obliged to bide his time before testing his managerial strengths elsewhere.
Instead, all eyes are now likely to turn towards Holt’s intentions and just what may have prompted this evening’s shock news.
Given that it is less than a week since Holt lifted the Barry Butler Memorial Trophy for a record third time and was to be found happily doing his lap of honour after the Villa game with his three young daughters in tow, the landscape must have shifted fairly dramatically in the last 72 hours for the City skipper to risk the wrath of his beloved supporters to make such a move.
He was, he told reporters, setting his sights on smashing into the Top Five when it came to the club’s all-time goalscorers’ list after making it 70 goals all told since his switch to Norfolk in the summer of 2009.
Alas, given the very nature of the Premier League beast, certain scenarios aren’t too hard to paint.
With 15 league goals to his credit this season – second only to Wayne Rooney in terms of goal-scoring Englishman – Holt will have a raft of admirers.
Managers whose pockets will be rather deeper than those Lambert enjoys as the Canaries keep a tight lid on wages and transfer fees in a bid to ensure that they never again flirt with administration.
It is a commendable line – and one that chairman Alan Bowkett repeated again at the End of Season Dinner on Monday night.
But it comes with risks.
Not least that predatory Premier League rivals can prey on Norwich’s conservatism wages-wise and, through fair means or foul, make it known that a far bigger return for his services can be found elsewhere.
Viewed at it through Holt’s eyes and that of his agent, the argument would run something along the lines of:
‘I’m 31-years-old; I’m not getting any younger; football is a fickle game. I probably have one, big fat, three or four-year Premier League contract in me – one in which I could, potentially, treble my wages and set me and my family up for life…
“In fairness to Norwich, I will offer them the opportunity to better my current contract to stay…’
At which point, the Canaries stick to their financial guns; refuse to smash their way through their self-imposed ceiling. Holt then plays the transfer request card; Norwich say ‘No!’ – and then the real games of the summer commence.
Because football is a meat market. The fact that Holt put pen to paper on a three-year deal only last April – tying him to Carrow Road until the summer of 2014 – means that the club have two years worth of contract to negotiate with.
That, potentially, is big money. Particularly if Grant – and his agent – are keen to cash in their earning chips this summer to a club who could deliver the real deal in terms of a Premier League-type wage.
Given the number of players he out-scored this season who command wages in the region of £60,000-a-week or more, the potential numbers will be eye-watering – even if they threaten to bring a tear to the eye of every distraught Canary fan this evening.
What he brings to the team, City keeper John Ruddy explained this week: “He’s looked like he’s been playing in the Premier League for the last three or four years.
“As to what he’d bring to a team, he’d bring goals – that speaks for itself. And he’s a handful. I think if you spoke to any defender in the Premier League who they didn’t like coming up against and he’d probably be in their top three.”
All of which commands peoples’ attention. Be it that of his agent or other managers.