Comparisons may be odious but sometimes they are irresistible, and 12.45pm at Carrow Road today is surely one of those times. On one side will be Fernando Torres, the former Atletico Madrid and Liverpool striker for whom Chelsea paid £50m, who has scored two Premier League goals in 16 appearances this season. On the other will be Grant Holt, the former Barrow and Shrewsbury forward for whom Norwich paid £400,000, who has scored seven in 20.
Unfair? To Holt and to his team-mates, definitely. The Cumbrian's return for the Canaries is impressive, but if there is one thing the Premier League considers it has learned about Norwich this season it is that the whole is greater than the sum of their parts. Less readily acknowledged seems to be the fact that those individual parts are of a considerably higher quality than many people were prepared to admit.
Holt is a pretty good example. Given the quality of the goals he has scored and the assists he has provided this season, one of these days people might stop referring to him as "old-fashioned". Not many who were at The Hawthorns last Saturday to see him sprint down the left wing before curling in a perfect cross for Steve Morison to head home City's second-half winner against West Bromwich Albion would continue to place him in that category.
"Well, I'm certainly old, but I know what you're getting at," the 30-year-old smiles, a little wryly. "A lot of people have put me in a bracket where they think all you get from me is, 'Stick it up in the air and Grant Holt will knock it about.' I think people are slowly starting to realise I'm much more than that really. Those who saw my turn of pace down that left wing last week... it took a few people by surprise."
As he quickly points out, however, hoping he has been value for money is not the same as saying he has been better value for money than Torres.
"You're only worth what someone wants to pay for you, so if someone wants to pay £50m for him that's what he's worth, and someone pays 400 grand for me, that's what I'm worth. Actually, with the club just having been relegated into League One [in July 2009] I was a big investment, but I'm hoping they think I've been good value for that.
"Of course I'm happy I've got more goals than him, but I've got more goals than a few. I'm not going to get drawn into that [comparing my record with Torres], because if he wants to he can bring his World Cup winner's medal to the table. I'd have that."
Of rather more interest to Holt is why and how he and Norwich continue to out-perform expectations this season, so much so that even those pessimists who cite Blackpool's late collapse last season have begun to go quiet. As their manager, Paul Lambert, said yesterday, Norwich could still undergo a similar slide – but it has to be accepted that the two clubs are very different animals.
For Holt, Lambert is one of the reasons why. Like his players, the Scot has learned with every game, and in terms of tactics and systems has made City into arguably the most flexible side in the division.
"The thing we've got at the minute is I don't think any opposing manager knows what team we'll be putting out until the team-sheet goes in, and when you do that it's very difficult for the opposition to work on through the week on the basis we will come with a 4-5-1 or 4-4-2, because they just never know," said Holt.
"Against Chelsea, we ourselves won't know who is starting until the morning of the game. From Monday to Friday you train on the basis you're going to play, so that whichever formation he goes with you're ready for the challenge. It gives you that belief that if your name is written up there, he knows you are ready for that game, and that's what he's going with."
It helps, says Holt, that Lambert clearly trusts in the ability of every member of the squad.
"A lot of lads travel [to away games], he keeps the squad really tight-knit, that's the way we've done it for the last two years now and it's worked. But it doesn't matter whether you play five minutes or 90 with the gaffer, he expects the same level of performance.
"When he tells you something you listen, and if you don't listen you're out. He doesn't need to say anything to me – he knows, and I know, what he expects from me, and when he puts me in the team he knows what he's going to get, and if I drop from that he'll be the first to jump up and tell me."
At the same time, he says, it has helped that Norwich's players have learned what to expect from each other. "I think that's what has started to happen over the last six or seven weeks – everyone knows what Anthony Pilkington is going to do, that if Elliott Bennett gets the ball wide he's going to put it in. I know if I get the ball wide Stevie [Morison] will be at the back stick."
The likelihood is that whatever formation Lambert decides is likeliest to confuse Andre Villas-Boas, at some stage in the afternoon Holt and Morison will be matched against John Terry and Gary Cahill. "You want to test yourself against the best, and when you look at them two they won't be far off being England's two centre-halves this summer," said Holt. "We played against Cahill at Bolton and 'Moro' gave him a good game, and I gave John a good game at Chelsea, It'll be a good battle."
Rather better than many people predicted, in fact.Reuse content