In a new series, Nick Hayhoe (rather ambitiously) explores the history of Norwich City in an original concept that definitely hasn’t been stolen from somewhere else. This time we are at Anfield, Liverpool on 22 October 2011.
Imagine a painting by Monet. Imagine a painting by Rembrandt. Imagine a painting by Lowry. For each of these, you will have conjured, in your mind’s eye, the style of each of these artists – even if you could not think of a particular painting. Monet = blurry impressionism, like when you’ve forgot your glasses. Rembrandt = realistic portraiture or, perhaps, a great biblical scene. Lowry = matchstick men and chimney stacks. The work of these great artists has become such a part of our collective cultural consciousness as a society, that their style is instantly recognisable in your own mind at the mere mention of their surname.
The very same can be applied to goals scored by strikers.
Theirry Henry would pass the ball into the net with a reassured French coolness that would only look better if he had done so while lighting a Gauloise. Messi is tapping the ball over the line having genuinely almost literally tied the goalkeeper in knots while going around him. Le Tissier? Well, he just scores the most insane goal you’ve ever had the ego to dream yourself scoring in an FA Cup final when you were kicking a ball against a brick wall by yourself in the garden.
This goal, a walloping, towering header from an ex-tyre fitter from Carlise in front of the agog faces atop the most famous stand in world football, is what I think of when I see the name Grant Holt. It is his masterpiece and his magnum opus. The pièce de résistance of his incredible Norwich career.
It seems strange now – in the world of Jurgen Klopp and a dominant Liverpool who, to the collective groan of the nation, have easily become one of the best teams in the world – that they were a mere upper-mid table Premier League side in 2011 and still had not recovered from the ill-fated sacking of Rafael Benítez the previous season. Someone called “Kenny Dalglish” was placed in charge of the club at the start of the season, and they limped along as a result of this self-inflicted foot wound.
Norwich, on the other hand, had had a great start to the season. Winning at Bolton as well as beating Sunderland and Swansea at home, we all got a touch of vertigo and a bad nose bleed as a result of sitting in 9th place.
Later, during this particular patch of top flight football riding in the up-down-up-down Yellow Submarine that is Norwich, we found ourselves on the receiving end of some canings from Liverpool due to a regular habit of allowing Luis Suárez the Freedom of Norwich when playing them at home. Yet, on that day at Anfield he had an off day. The whole Liverpool team, Kenny Dalglish, the Kop, The Special Anfield Atmosphere – they all had an off day. And if you’re a big team having an off day, that is when we, Norwich City, have a habit of making you look like total idiots.
Liverpool had gone 1-0 up early in the second half thanks to a deflected goal, despite Norwich equaling, or even outperforming, the side in red; and The Norwich City Manager Between 2009-2012 Who Can No Longer Be Named, knowing how much City were in the game, brought Holt on in an attacking gamble.
Our Wesley hit the ball out to the right, Anthony Pilkington swung a looping cross into the Kop’s box and Holt, with the strength and effort that could only be conjured by a man for whom this meant everything, rose above a flailing Jamie Carragher (38 international appearances for England), Glen Johnson (51 international appearances for England) and Pepe Reina (26 international appearances for Spain) to smash the ball into the red net, completely silencing an already quiet Anfield and causing a creative writing student in a pub in London 200 miles to the south east to throw his entire pint of Kronenbourg 1664 up to the ceiling.
Norwich would hang onto the point and ultimately have an excellent season in the Premier League – finishing an extremely comfortable 12th where we made it all very un-along come Norwich. We, again, had a decent year the following season. It could be argued that, if The Norwich City Manager Between 2009-2012 had not left the club in the circumstances that he did, then Norwich were on their way to becoming an established mid-table Premier League side; certainly, they were in their highest position of status for many years and no doubt for many years after.
And it all started with Holt’s goal at Anfield, where “plucky little Norwich”, made loud and clear to the Premier League that they where going to be a pain in the arse to all of those above them.
Bellissimo Holto. Il maestro.