Have we seen the last of Grant Holt? If the rumours are to be believed Melbourne Heart are considering a second, ‘improved’ bid for our talismanic leader. The first, which apparently fell short of City’s £2M price tag, was seemingly rebuffed by David McNally quicker than you could say Neighbours.
If the Sporting Life is also to be believed, the great man is ‘interested in Australia’, although quite how Heart’s CEO Scott Munn would know that – given the initial bid was turned down – is anyone’s guess.
Cards on the table… I’d hate to see the big man depart.
Where once City were renowned for injecting new life into the careers of thirty-somethings – Martin Peters and Mick Channon being two fine examples – our recent history has been littered with examples of us being the premature discarder of said footballing demographic.
Nigel Worthington’s decision to wave steely goodbyes to Malky Mackay and Iwan Roberts post the 2003/04 promotion party were, in hindsight, massive mistakes. The qualities of both gents, on and off the pitch, were horribly underestimated at the time and the scatter-gun flurry of summer transfer activity that followed did little (nothing actually) to fill the respective voids.
To this day I’m still haunted by the image of Simon Charlton and Craig Fleming lining up as a central-defensive pairing in the early-season mauling by Arsenal; both good honest pros – Fleming a great Canary servant – but would Malky have fared worse than either against Thierry Henry and co that Saturday teatime? Certainly not.
Similarly, given Worthington’s early penchant for playing Gary Doherty as a striker, would we have fared any worse in those turgid opening months of that season by having Iwan leading the line? Same answer.
Another case in point – and I can feel the hackles rising as I write – was Glenn Roeder’s heartless and spiteful ending of Darren Huckerby’s City career. It’s hard to believe Hucks was just 31 when deemed by Roeder to be no longer fit for purpose; the manager’s venom extending to announcing his departure after the final game of the season; a well-deserved and fitting send-off thus denied.
Sadly the rest is history – the following season our club sank to a record, pain-ridden, low – but would it have been so with Hucks still marauding down that left wing? Obviously we’ll never know –some perceive our dally with the third tier as a horrid blessing in disguise – but there’s no doubting the soul of the club suffered a huge dent the day Huckerby was shown the door.
I’m sure there are other examples of City’s management perceiving age as a barrier to progress, but these three in particular smack of poor judgement based on the player being the wrong side of 30 (with a sprinkling of vindictiveness on the part of Roeder).
I hope we don’t make a similar mistake with Holty.
It’s clear, with Ricky van Wolfswinkel ‘s route to Colney now clear (summer diving/swimming accidents aside), the club captain may well enjoy less game time next season, but if he were to leave he’d have to be replaced.
With Simeon Jackson and Chris Martin now no longer of this parish, Hughton is left light in the striking department. Assuming Luciano Becchio is afforded a chance to impress and James Vaughan returns pre-season that still only leaves four senior strikers; if Holty disappears Down Under we’re left with three.
We’ve long established strikers who can score goals at the highest level come at a premium; how could we possibly afford one who – for example – has scored 23 Premier League goals over the last two seasons? And don’t even get me started on those with ‘impressive’ scoring records in the Scottish Premier league…
Since the day he arrived Holty has continually proved us all wrong; even going back to the very early days when some questioned why Bryan Gunn was picking this bloke from Shrewsbury ahead of the goal-machine that was Goran Marić (or perhaps it was just me).
Hardly a season has passed since when a mini-barren run and the ensuing questions have been answered in the only way he knows how (well almost; he does enjoy the occasional tweet): by scoring goals, loads of them.
His sense of timing has invariably been impeccable and how many of us commented that the home win against WBA saw him ‘back to his best’.
For all of these reasons I’d hate to see him leave.
While the way ahead looks to be one that relies on a lone striker, who better to have up your sleeve than a lean, mean goal-scoring machine in the form of Grant Holt. Premier League defenders still hate playing against him and that’s good enough for me.
Besides… the round trip to Cumbria would be a nightmare wouldn’t it?
Matt Thrower says
While your comments about previous departures are accurate and well-made, I’m not so sure on this occasion.
Holt this season has been a shadow of the man who top scored for us last-year. I can’t help but feel this may in some way be connected with his desire to leave last summer.
It’s possible his heart isn’t in the club any more. But whatever the reason a dip in form coupled with the arrival of a proven big-name international striker makes me think has day has come.
Certianly he should be replaced, but one would hope that since we have other reasonable options upfront, a sensibly-priced journeyman from the lower leagues would suffice to fill the gap.
Completely agree that Holt shouldn’t be sold for no other reason than that with the arrival of RVW, it brings our tally of genuine, premiership quality strikers up to 2. Becchio is still unproven and Vaughan’s 14 goals in the championship (5 behind Becchio) proves he isn’t good enough (& will probably be sold). So even if we bring in another one (& that won’t be cheap) we would still only have 3 genuine contenders (with Becchio as cover for Cup games).
There’s an old saying ‘form is temporary, class is permanent’. Holt lost form last year but its worth asking why. He was playing in an unfamiliar role, he was knackered from playing up top on his own for more than 30 games & for more than 75 minutes per match. Morison’s loss of form & our inability to bring the quality we needed in January, left Holty as our plan A without much of a plan B.
The fixture list dictates that a lone striker will remain the formation in the majority of games next year, even if we sign another poacher like Hooper. Clearly, RVW will be plan A target man next year, but surely there’s no one better than Holty for plan B
Kurt fricker says
Never a truer word. Even if Holt doesn’t play a minute next season. Football should always be a matter of evolution rather than revolution. I for one would feel it a huge risk to let Holt go before his replacement has his feet firmly under the table (and his goals on the board)
Agreed Matt, Holt doesnt seem to have as much passion as he used to, i mean, after we were safely promoted to the prem, he came back, proper lean and fighting, did really well!! Then didnt make the England call up, oh… Where did his flare go?…. Oh! Then it came back again!! Then got his extended contract (after putting in a transfer request) Came back at the start of this season, put the weight on again and low and behold hardly any goals. Could blame that on Hughton playing him “differently” Really?? Or is it that he got what he wanted to secure his wages, then turned. Into a bit of a plodder? Not having a go, he did great for us! But personally think it was for his own gain ie England and Contracts. Think we should make some money out of him whilst we can
Bucks Canary says
On the most basic level: isn’t Holt the right guy to hold the ball up (which he can still do better than almost anyone on the Prem) for RVW, AND score goals himself. We all know that last season the playing system didn’t suit him, but I never noticed any lack if willingness or commitment.
Mike C says
I’m sorry Matt, but I have to disagree with just about everything you’ve said.
Whilst our formation didn’t favour Holty’s strengths in the season just finished I cannot see where this comment about him wanting to leave comes from. He never said he wanted to leave. Even his ham fisted agent didn’t say that. He wanted a better deal and stuck out for it and good luck to him. Hughton wanted him to stay and persuaded the Board/McNally to do the deal.
Holty is a pragmatic pro – he knows what he wants and he knows what he can say, but the evidence from that picture after he had scored the penalty against Villa should tell you everything you need to know. I’d love him to stay.
So what other reasonable options do we have up front? Vaughan – unpoven, injury prone, Becchio – unproven, manager not sure? Ricky isn’t yet a proven big-name international striker and what sensibly priced journeyman from the lower leagues do you have in mind? There would be a queue of Premier League clubs at the door of any lower league club with such a prospect.
I’m not offering answers – just questioning the basis of your opinions
Yet another article that does nothing but fuel speculation. Both Holt and Hughton have answered the question so just leave it at that.
The likes of Holt, Martin and Hoolahan are hugely important, they have done the whole journey.We need to keep Holt for the rest of his contract as he has said he is happy to do. Talk up a problem then you get a problem.
Matt Thrower says
Don’t be sorry, Mike, interesting to discuss these things!
On reflection you, and others, are right about lack of depth. The players I was thinking of are untried either at PL level or in forward positions. So letting Holt go certainly represents a risk, perhaps too much of a risk.
I stand by my other arguments. We’ll never know for sure what lay behind the contract wrangles last summer, but it’s a little convenient they coincided with a dip in form, don’t you think? And dips in form by experienced, motivated players ought to be measured in months, not a whole season.
As for being played out of position, if Holt is as talented as some of his defenders make out he really ought to be able to adapt to some extent.
But the situation is certainly more complex than my initial assessment would suggest. Best of luck to Chris Hughton in making the right decision!
Good article as always Gary. We definitely need to keep Holty. Who knows, RVW could yet struggle with the transition and Holty could be the one to bail us out, we just don’t know yet. People certainly should not under-estimate the ability to score 23 PL goals in 2 seasons – that’s not to be sniffed at.
We’re all excited with the RVW signing, but I’m sure both Wigan fans were equally excited when they paid a club record fee £6.5 for striker Mauro Boselli about 3 years ago. He never scored a PL goal.
I do take umbridge with your Scottish Premier League comment though. Of course it’s a League 1/Championship standard, but don’t slate Gary Hooper’s approximate 30 goals he has scored. This includes the Champions League don’t forget! If we’re getting snooty about signing a top striker from the SPL Champions and Champions League Group Runners-Up, then that’s going to discard an awful lot of players that we may otherwise be after! (not just SPL!). Oh, and didn’t we sign Ruddy after he spent a season in the SPL (heaven forbid, mid-table team also!!)? He hasn’t turned out bad has he?
And don’t forget that a large proportion of our existing key players were in League 1 just 3 years ago (some just 2!) – Hoolahan, Holt, R Bennett, E Bennett, Johnson, Pilks, R Martin, Howson, Becchio, Snoddy…
With many of our successful signings of late coming from a so-called lower standard that the PL, we of all fans should recognise that there are some very good players out there, regardless of the level.
And if Man U signing a player from Crewe is good enough for them, there should be no reason why dipping into the SPL sfor the right player should not be good enough for us.
Don’t worry Matt, the game is all about opinions!
I thought the contract situation was sorted out before pre-season, so there shouldn’t have been any association with a drop in form – more likely that Premier League defenders (and their coaches) had identified some of Holty’s weaknesses and capitalised on them. I’m not sure he had a blistering return to form in the last couple of games either. Once the result was settled against West Brom, and it was by that comical mis-kick by Foster (how the heck he’s in the England squad) that led to the second goal – the shackles were at last off all of our players.
I understand Hughton has some tantalising targets in his sights this summer and with McNally’s guiding hand I’m sure we’ll have some new faces to look forward to. If we can get our absolute top choices alongside van Wolfswinkel I would wave a very sad farewell to Holty if the decision was to be taken to sell him on – but time moves on and at some point he will go.
He’s just been absolutely brilliant for us if he were to want to play out the rest of his career in Oz, who could blame him, but I don’t think that time is just yet.
As someone brought up in Scotland, I offer you these thoughts about the SPL.
Stephen Elliot, remember him? – Lambert brought him in as a loanee at the fag end of the League 1 season. Were you impressed? Lambert wasn’t particularly – he used him mainly as a sub and didn’t offer a contract for the following Championship season. He went on to become a regular starter for Hearts in the SPL when they were a top six side.
Owen Tudur Jones? Lambert moved him out PDQ. He has been a mainstay of the Inverness Caley Thistle side since and they have only just missed out on a Europa place, finishing fourth.
Scoring goals for fun up there means nothing when tested in the English Premier League. How well has Jelavic done at Everton?
And remember Kris Boyd’s anonymous appearance at Carrow Road . . . . .
IMO the club would be stupid to let Holt go. Talismen like him don’t come round too often.
And surely to goodness we’re not going to be lumbered with 38 games of one up front again . . . ? If there isn’t some tactical flexibility, and some rotation. then we’ll struggle again.
Hope Trappatoni goes soon and creates a vacancy !
Adrian, for every OTJ, Stephen Elliott and Kris Boyd, there is an equal opposite example I could throw at you. James McCarthy, James McCarthur (both from lowly Hamilton Accies!!) are 2 highly promising youngsters, Arthur Boruc (Celtic) didn’t do too badly at Southampton this year!
As for John Ruddy after spending a season at Motherwell… remind me how that one turned out again?
How has Stephen Whittaker performed this year? Where did he come from last year?!
From league 1 we got Pilkington, Elliott Bennett… could have gone for Jordan Rhodes, Matt Lowton, Ashley Westwood (actually league 2 last year). All at least 2 leagues lower than the Prem. Ade Akinfenwa, Cody McDonald and Chris Brown have all played in that league 2, might be the same league but that doesn’t automatically make them the same quality of player compared to them mentioned above.
Should Arsenal not have mad Sczeney their number 1 after proving himself at Brentford for a season?
Is Hoolahan not good enough for us despite playing in League 1 for us?
It doesn’t matter what league you are in. We should know after the Paul Lambert era that you just don’t know how far a player can go unless you give them a chance.
Gary Hooper has all the qualities to succeed with us, whether he is currently playing in the PL, Championship, League 1, Erevedisie, Portuguese League, Belgian or the SPL.
Russell S. says
Weighing up the pros and cons, I think it’s time for Holty to move for his sake (Aussie sunshine and money) and the club’s (maximise his price tag – it’s only going to decrease from here on). He’s been a great CF for us but he ain’t no Ryan Giggs in the fitness-age stakes. Th fact that he came top in the PL for fouls committed points to his lack of pace.
I did see Carlton Cole was out of contract – just throwing a different name in the air – experienced PL player, played for England, good foil for a pacy poacher like Becchio and presumably not mega bucks like Hooper would be.
Jeez! I hear Rob Hulse is available on a free, might as well save a few quid and go after him instead eh?!
We aren’t scrabbling around for cheap bargain buys these days – we are in our 3rd season of the PL. This is now the big time and that brings big time salaries and transfer fees. Spending £7m on a striker when you are in your 3rd PL season is now a bog standard amount. Anything less than this and you will only realistically be after the Deeney’s, Cox’s, Murray’s and Emnes’s of this world.
We are now in the position of being able to aim higher, still maintaining a low risk I would add, than at anytime in our history. That means getting a striker that is suited for the PL. That striker will cost no less than £7m and will not be Carlton Cole. There’s a reason why Big Sam is happy to get rid (and if Cardiff / Palace / Hull want to go after him, then that will say more about them then it would us!).
Come on, let’s raise the bar a bit folks!!
Russell S. says
Gareth – just thought I’d run it up the flag pole. You clearly didn’t salute it as much as chop the flag pole down and burn it. I’m not his agent and he is a bit injury prone (as most strikers seem to be in the modern game), but big, strong, powerful in the air – bit like Kamara.
Re: Hooper – Celtic would struggle to compete in the PL. Bags of goals in a division where they don’t even have Rangers to compete with does not a multi-million pound striker make in my eyes.
Before we carried away, let’s remember how Lambert built success i.e. by picking up bargains from lower leagues. Throwing pots of money around does not guarantee success.