Opinion: Paul Lambert signing Norwich City legend Grant Holt for Aston Villa is either a marriage made in heaven – or the very last resort
11:07 14 January 2014
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Here’s the scenario: Paul Lambert has a pack of cards. On the table are 19 other men, many of them sweating profusely. It’s a tough job.
The next card Lambert lays down on the table will hold the key to his future. It’s a big call: Lambert looks at the others and finally decides to pick out the card with the face of Grant Holt on it.
The question is: will the card prove to be the Ace of Hearts, or will it be the Joker?
Lambert and Holt stood side by side at Carrow Road as Norwich City made the glorious transition from League One embarrassments to fresh-faced Premier League arrivals in the space of three amazing seasons and now a loan move has been agreed, they will be reunited again.
Holt was an iconic figure among the fans, a man of the people, “a proper man,” according to Lambert.
But the love affairs ended when May, 2012, became the month from hell: Holt put in a transfer request and by the end of the month Lambert had walked, heading for Villa Park.
Holt wanted to be closer to his family in the north of England, and, despite having seemingly resolved any issues with the new management, eventually, a year later, went to Wigan.
Holt has scored twice for Wigan in the Championship and is out of favour; Lambert is struggling for wins with Villa – what has now transpired is either a marriage made in heaven – or the very last resort.
There is little doubt of the influence Holt had in the Carrow Road dressing room, but will he be able to replicate that at Villa Park; at Norwich, most of the players were cut from the same seam, plying their trade at other lower league teams, some unwanted by their managers (Russell Martin), some, like Holt, resigned to being League Two’s top striker. Holt was there from the beginning of the Lambert era – not being brought in halfway through.
And what of his fitness? Will it stand up to the Premier League?
Holt has written his own stories over the years: he went to Singapore and Australia trying to kick-start his career. He struggled at Sheffield Wednesday and had a few issues at Forest, but when he dropped to Shrewsbury he scored the goals which attracted City’s interest. Such was his success that two years ago he was being touted for a place in England’s European Championship squad.
The call never came and while there was never any doubting his desire when he was at Carrow Road, as he ground his way through the final season, there were murmurings of discontent. There were suggestions that he didn’t like the way Chris Hughton played – the tactics perhaps an excuse for some lethargic performances – then his family moved back up north, then came the hints that he wanted to be closer to them. Then the departure.
Wigan has not been the right move so, personal feelings notwithstanding, you’d expect Holt jumped at the chance to team up with Lambert again.
And while the news brought ridicule in some quarters, I’ll wager there are a few who looked at the fixture list, saw a trip to Villa on March 1 and thought, “Holt’s bound to score against us”.
He writes his own stories – what will he be writing at the end of this season?