5pm update: Aston Villa complete surprise loan signing of Norwich City legend Grant Holt from Wigan
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Aston Villa have confirmed the loan signing of former Norwich City striker Grant Holt, completing a surprise Premier League return for the former Canaries captain.
Holt has been signed on loan until the end of the season to provide cover and competition for Villa’s star striker, the tall Belgian Christian Benteke, after Libor Kozak’s season was ended prematurely by a broken leg.
It reunites the 32-year-old, who scored 78 goals in 168 appearances for the Canaries during four hugely successful seasons, with former City manager Paul Lambert.
Villa boss Lambert had Holt as his captain as the pair spearheaded City’s rise from League One to the Premier League with back-to-back promotions.
“Losing Libor was a blow to us, obviously,” Lambert told Villa’s official website. “When I knew Grant had become available it was something I wanted to pursue quickly because he’ll add strength and experience to what is still a young squad overall.
“Having worked with him for three years at Norwich, I know what he can do and that’s important.
“Coming back into the Premier League will rekindle that desire in him to succeed again at this level and, if he can replicate what he did in those three years at Norwich over these next few months here at Villa, then he’ll make an impact, that’s for sure.
“Grant’s got some really strong attributes, he’s someone who is tried and trusted and a player I’ve worked with before. We’re looking at one or two other positions as well but this is good business for us and he’ll be a really strong influence.”
Holt won three player of the season awards in a row at Carrow Road and was hailed as the driving force behind many of the spirited wins secured during Lambert’s time at the club.
But after Lambert left for Villa in the summer of 2012, and Chris Hughton took over at Norwich, Holt’s influence in the team began to lessen.
He still finished last season as City’s top scorer, having scored eight goals in 38 games, but Hughton allowed the big striker to join Wigan in the summer for an estimated £2m.
Holt said of the loan deal: “It’s a massive opportunity for me personally, an opportunity I couldn’t turn down.
“To be able to come back into the Premier League, especially at a club as big as Villa, is fantastic and it’s a an opportunity for me to work with the gaffer and his staff again as well.
“He’s able to get the best out of people, there’s no doubt about that. I know what he wants to achieve here in the long-term and I know what he expects.
“I know what he expects on the training ground and I’m looking forward to working with him over the coming months to try to help things along and to consolidate the club’s position.
“We all know this is a club in transition but we’re making progress this season. We’ve got a lot of young lads at the club who are doing fantastic and I’m really delighted to be a part of it and to be able to lend a hand.”
Holt could now face the Canaries when Hughton takes his team to Villa Park on Saturday, March 1.