Tomorrow’s probable return of Grant Holt will be emotional, no doubt about it.
His departure had the slight essence of an airborne dummy but the passage of time (17 months to be precise) seems to have quelled any minor qualms any of us had about his desire for pastures new.
That things didn’t work out for him as planned at Wigan was perhaps a tad surprising but confirmed that his four years in the Fine City were him at his absolute pomp. Peaked at age 28, powered along at the very top of his game for four breathtaking seasons, and hit the slight downward curve aged 32.
His subsequent loan move to the Midlands, to be re-united with Paul Lambert, was further confirmation that his days as a thorn in the side of Premier League centre-backs are almost certainly behind him
We were the lucky ones.
But, while the legs may not be what they were, let’s not be fooled into thinking there is no life left in the old dog. By all accounts he’s ruffling feathers aplenty in the blue and white of Huddersfield and I suspect Russell Martin and Carlos Cuellar – if indeed they are the chosen pair tomorrow – will be nursing a bruise or two at around five o’clock.
And woe betide any defender who gets too close to a back-to-goal Holty in City’s defensive third. We know we’re he’ll end up and we know which way Mark Brown (tomorrow’s referee) will award the decision. Another factor for for Messrs Martin, Cuellar, Olsson and Whittaker to bear in mind.
But let’s not turn it into the Grant Holt show. Yes, it will great to show our appreciation pre-match and to give him the goodbye he deserves as he says his Carrow Road farewell post-match, but in the greater scheme of things three points are what really matter.
Holty understands that, in the same way he understands that for 90 minutes we become ‘the enemy’. But it will feel a little odd.
For those four seasons we revelled in the fact that opposition supporters, and players, loathed him. For 90 plus minutes tomorrow we find ourselves in that same role, except there is no way we’ll be able to generate the venom deserving of one of football’s great pantomime villains.
I’m sure he’ll try and wind up one or two – that’s what he does – but in the same way we know the pantomime dame is in fact the bloke who was once on Eastenders, we’ll know that behind the Holt facade there is a heart that will always be a little bit ‘Norwich’.
The journey was an unforgettable one. Genuine Roy of the Rovers stuff. From the brink of oblivion to the Premier League in two gargantuan leaps, with Holty leading the charge.
The memories remain, each one causing the spine to tingle and the hairs to stand on end, and most with a snarling (or occasionally beaming) Holty at the fore.
For those fours years he was the leader, no question, and it became the norm if we were hovering close to the brown stuff and needed pulling up by the bootstraps the skipper would be the one to turn the tide.
Wes would do his bit with the dancing feet, the Scotsman would do some tweaking from the technical area but it’d be Holty who, in his own inimitable way, would strain that extra sinew to make the difference.
He led from the front, the epitome of a leader, and we loved him for it.
Great days, wonderful memories, and naturally some will be milling around the mind tomorrow afternoon.
So, let’s give him a glorious send-off, one befitting a bona fide City legend, but in between let us be the ones who are straining every sinew to roar on those in yellow. Let’s give him a final reminder of what we are capable of.
The debate around who should ignite who has been done to death. The crowd sparked into life by the team? Or the team driven on by the crowd?
Let’s put that to one side for once and take it upon ourselves to set the tone. Too much time and effort has been spent lamenting those in the dugout and those on the pitch – whether deserved or not – so let’s not afford them any excuses tomorrow.
For all the undoubted wrongs of the last two months, the lack of genuine quality in the Championship has ensured that City still, unbelievably, remain in touch with the pack. A win on Saturday, other results permitting, could even see them return to the top six.
But it needs last Saturday’s win at Wigan not to be a one-off and it needs the Carrow Road form to improve massively.
I’m loathe to mention the ‘f’ word because it’s been a while since the old place has resembled a ‘large fort or fortified town’, but three wins in ten games simply won’t do if, as the board suggest, promotion is the only show in town.
So… it’s going to be poignant but, as Holty would no doubt tell us, winning those three points are what it’s about.
“Never mind the danger…”