When the going gets tough Holt steps up to the mark

David CuffleyGrant Holt admitted he had not heard of Ron Davies after becoming the first player since the great Wales international to score 30 goals in a season for Norwich City.David Cuffley

Grant Holt admitted he had not heard of Ron Davies after becoming the first player since the great Wales international to score 30 goals in a season for Norwich City.

In fairness, unless he is a student of British football of the 1960s and early 70s, it would be unreasonable to expect him to have done so.

Davies' top-class career ended well before Holt was born and, after less than a year with the Canaries, the current skipper has not really been at Carrow Road long enough to become familiar with the achievements of the leading players in the club's history.

If City fans, many of them born too late to see the Welshman play, managed to omit him from their 'Greatest Ever' line-up in the special poll held two years ago, Holt can certainly be forgiven for not being acquainted with his career details.

Holt's winning goal against Stockport on Monday brought him level with Davies' total in 1963-64, likewise his first season with Norwich after arriving from Luton Town for �35,000.

Other than that obvious link, comparisons between the two men are rather pointless.

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Davies was just 21 at the time of his golden first season with City - his goal tally all the more remarkable as they finished sixth from bottom of Division Two - and was inevitably on course for a career in English football's top flight.

After scoring 66 times in less than three full seasons with the Canaries, he moved to Southampton for a giveaway �55,000 and was top scorer in Division One in his first two seasons at The Dell. Davies won 29 international caps and no less a figure than Sir Matt Busby once described him as the 'best centre-forward in Europe' after he scored four times in one match for the Saints at Old Trafford.

Holt, who will be 29 next Monday and has so far seen little action above the equivalent of the former third division, will never be talked of in such terms, but as the terrace chant rather too crudely puts it, he will always be loved for his achievements this season in the same way Davies, Ted MacDougall, Robert Fleck, Iwan Roberts and other goalscoring favourites were revered by different generations of City fans.

Manager Paul Lambert has been reluctant to single out individuals for praise when so many of his squad have played key roles in what should now be a League One title success, but there is no doubt Holt's contribution has been immense, his leadership qualities and sheer strength coming to the fore in some of the toughest situations, invariably away from home.

This was never better illustrated than at Huddersfield last month, where his drive and energy in scoring the first goal, setting up the second and helping create the third turned likely defeat into emphatic victory in a matter of minutes and ended the Yorkshire club's unbeaten home record.

A week later, he stuck his head in a dangerous place to score what should have been the winning goal at Swindon, and even in the bizarre Good Friday game at Tranmere, he was giving it everything to try to salvage at least a point from a game where 10 men were effectively playing against 12.

Throughout it all, Holt has always insisted that the team comes first.

While admitting he would love to break Terry Allcock's club best of 37 goals in a season, set in 1962-63 - a tall order even in his current form - he has not been trawling through the record books.

He said: 'It's one of those things I never look at. I know names, I know Mark Robins has been here, I know Chris Sutton's been here. I concentrate on the team performance. The team gives me more enjoyment, winning games, than being engrossed in what I'm doing. That's all I worry about - getting this team back where it should be.

'The aim was to come here to get in the Championship. Look around at 25,000 and it's all geared up to be back where it should be.

'If you look after the first few games I think anyone would have taken the play-offs after that. It's just a measure of how the manager has done and how the lads have done to get us back in the position where we are now sitting nine points ahead of everyone else with six games to play and some games coming up at home where if we do things right we won't be far off.

'I'm now at a fantastic club with, I hope, a chance to have a good go at the Championship.

'It would be nice to be at a club where I'm happy and settled and have a good stint in it.'

After reaching his landmark against Stockport on Monday, Holt insisted: 'If I don't score from now until the end of the season I don't care, as long as we get promoted. It was nice to get the 30th but more important we got the win.'

Most players would say exactly the same, but in Holt's case you sense he really means it.


On the assumption, surely no longer dangerous, that the Canaries will be playing Championship football next season, who are likely to join them in the automatic promotion places?

The battle for the other top two slot has become an absolutely gripping one with just two points separating teams in second and fifth place with six matches to go.

It makes it all the more satisfying that City will, barring a total disaster, be spared the nerve-shredding agony of the race for second place or the additional torment of the play-offs.

Looking at the remaining games, I believe one of the two London clubs, Millwall or Charlton, will snatch the other promotion spot. All has gone a little quiet on Charlton's chances in recent weeks, but their fixture list has a favourable look about it - even leaders Norwich, visitors in 10 days' time, have not won a league match at The Valley since 1972.

And whichever of the London clubs misses out is a decent bet for the play-offs.