There are not many snippets of sporting news that would usurp a Brit winning a Wimbledon title, but as news broke of Grant Holt’s pending move to Wigan the attention of the Yellow Army was far removed from SW19.
What began as a run of the mill Twitter rumour around Sunday lunchtime slowly turned into something more credible. By the time BBC Cumbria Sport tweeted: “Norwich striker Grant Holt will have a medical at Championship side Wigan on Monday after the two sides agreed a fee @Grantholt31 #football”, at around the time Andy Murray was clinching the first set, it became clear to those of us who bleed yellow and green that this was seismic.
We knew Holty would leave us one day… but now that it’s almost upon us it’s impossible not to feel more than a tinge of sadness.
That doesn’t mean it shouldn’t happen of course. In the cold light of day it’s impossible to argue that the fors don’t significantly outnumber the againsts.
The great man likely sensed the writing was on the wall the moment Ricky van Wolfswinkel was announced as a future Canary back in March. When you sign a full Dutch international for a reported £8.5million it’s not to play second fiddle to anyone – not even a club legend.
From the day Holt arrived in the fine city it was obvious to all that here was a proud man – someone unwilling to ever be on the periphery. No cameo roles for him. Instead Bryan Gunn acquired us a warrior; a fighter; someone who – courtesy of his footballing roots – would attempt to squeeze every last drop out of the opportunity afforded him.
And he did exactly that… big time.
The McNally and Lambert years are already etched in canary folklore and throughout – alongside a diminutive Irishman – our favourite Cumbrian has been there every step of the way; living and breathing every single glorious minute.
It’s difficult to believe the ignominious circumstances in which it all began.
August 8th 2009 has long been identified as one of the most significant in our recent history – the Colchester horror show unforgettable for every wrong reason possible – but what almost passed unnoticed was Holt’s City debut. As a centre-forward who was starved horribly of anything resembling decent service that fateful day, the new-signing from Shrewsbury was one of the few to escape wrath of a frustrated (and devastated) Yellow Army.
Quite what went through his mind after that game is anyone’s guess – and in interview afterwards with BBC Radio Norfolk’s Chris Goreham he went on the play the first of many straight bats – but no-one would be the least bit surprised if it didn’t include the phrase ‘what the hell have I done’.
Luckily for us all, the resultant demise of poor Gunny and the arrival of Lambert signalled in a new era, and just two weeks after his disastrous debut, Holty broke his City league duck with a brace in the 5-2 home win over Wycombe Wanderers – the hat-trick against Yeovil in the Carling Cup being his first in the yellow shirt.
And he never looked back.
What followed saw him earn a place in the City Hall of Fame with goals aplenty – at a rate of almost one in two – and a place in City’s all-time goalscoring chart, ahead of such luminaries as Ron Davies, Ted MacDougal and John Deehan.
And along the way there have some special ones.
None of us will ever forget the hat-trick against ‘that lot’ or indeed his ‘engagement’ with the home supporters in reverse fixture at Portman Road that took his iconic Canary status to new a whole new level.
Another that particularly sticks in the mind was his last minute winner against Reading in the same promotion-winning season; a perfect retort to a highly dubious sending-off at the Madejski earlier in the campaign.
His sense of timing throughout has been impeccable; none more so than his winner against Arsenal last October, which came at a time when his continued goalscoring prowess had – not for the first time – been under scrutiny.
The ‘wobble’ that coincided with Lambert’s departure has been long since forgotten but it was the first sign that the Holt love affair with Norfolk was feeling the strain. Like all good things it had to come to an end, and at the age of 32 – and with a family now fully ensconced in Carlisle – it looks as if the big man and Chris Hughton between them have decided now is that time.
One thing is for sure… if it happens – which barring a failed medical it will – the void he leaves around Colney and Carrow Road is nigh on impossible to fill.
While there is every reason to believe that Master van Wolfswinkel and others (still to be announced) will adequately fill his shooting boots, his leadership and, dare I say it, talismanic qualities will be irreplaceable.
But time moves on; football moves on.
When the inevitable happens – one assumes the pending trip to Wigan means Holt wasn’t on the plane to Austria – Hughton will be acutely aware of the need for a new leader to emerge from his pack.
So, while we await some new heroes to help carry our great club on to the next level, we should prepare to say goodbye to one who has been instrumental in the most thrilling footballing journey ever.
If tomorrow goes without a hitch it’ll be a case of many thanks and good luck old boy.
It’s been emotional.