There has been lots written and tweeted in the build up to England’s game vs. Netherlands that Grant Holt should feature for England. Some say he’s earned a call up, others counter that he’s still a fat tyre fitter, here’s my take.
I’m a big fan of Grant Holt, or to put it another way, I’m a big fan of Norwich City. The two are one in the same, you won’t find a Norwich fan that isn’t in love with Grant Holt in a truly emotional and meaningful way. That makes it difficult to put together a coherent argument because love isn’t rational. However, there are some things you can’t argue about, the first of which is Grant Holt scores goals. There is only one Englishman to have scored more in the Premier League this season and that’s Wayne Rooney.
Grant Holt is a natural finisher. If you watch him play you will see this, there are very few players I’d want ahead of him in a 1 on 1 situation or taking a penalty. There are very few players that work harder than him. He’s not fat he’s strong. He’s not slow he’s quick. He’s not a fat target man, he’s basically the complete striker. If he looked like Jamie Redknapp (who is a very handsome man) I think Holt would probably have had a different career path. Grant Holt is a grey box of a PC in a world of the iPad. I think it goes to show that football can be shallow, yes he doesn’t look flashy and he doesn’t have the cool apple logo, but look at what he can do, look at what he’s accomplished, really look, watch him in 5 games for Norwich, don’t glance at the highlights on Match Of the Day and decided he’s useless.
The other thing holding back Holt is his age. He’s not getting any younger, it’s taken him a long time to get to the top. This puts him very much in the category of circumstantial England players. If we were about to enter into a must-win qualifier with a manager under pressure, a game that England simply had to win, a nation expecting, then Holt might have a good chance of a cap. He’s the man in form but he’s not exactly a man for the future, by the time the next world cup comes around he’ll be 35 and Stuart Pearce made it clear with his squad selection that aside from the senior key players he was looking to give youth a chance, which I think is too his credit. Rather worryingly Harry Redknapp suggested he’d still want to take Paul Scholes to the Euro’s so perhaps there is hope for Holt yet.
The problem here is that it leads me to John Ruddy. Ruddy who is young, English, promising and full of potential. Ruddy that has made countless brilliant saves and put in many a convincing performance this season to more than justify a place in the England squad. Instead we have Robert Green, who has more than had his chance and Scott Carson, who perhaps has a future with England but again has already had the opportunity to test himself at this level. Why not Ruddy then, in this most meaningless of friendlies, even if he were to sit on the bench and watch Joe Hart, at least it would be a sign that players from Norwich were being considered.
It’s not like this is just a Norwich fan conspiracy either. We’re 8th in the league, it’s not an accident, we have good players. Anthony Pilkington is another whom England should be looking at, certainly ahead of the likes of Stewart Downing who has been terrible this season and yet makes the squad. Pilks has more goals, more assists, more everything. He’s been better at crossing, dribbling, tracking back, set pieces, he’s simply been miles better than Downing.
Wes Hoolahan can’t get an Irish cap… Are you kidding me? It’s not like you can make the argument that he’s a luxury player either. That might have held some water when we were in the championship and Wes operated almost exclusively in the hole behind the front 2, but this season he’s proved that he can work his nuts off as an all round midfielder, winning the ball back, making tackles and putting other teams under pressure. If there was a stat for number of forced errors this season, Hoolahan and Holt would lead the way, they work very very hard and when you see incomplete passes against Norwich so often it’s because they’ve got a Holt or a Hoolahan all up in their shit making it extremely difficult for them.
Another team who could write a similar blog are Swansea. Swansea sit 14th, 9 points from the relegation zone and have been praised up and down the land for their style of play, in particular their passing game and attacking flair. Their first choice front 3 are all English. With perhaps the exception of Aston Villa no other team in the Premier League consistently has an English front 3, the irony being Swansea are Welsh. It’s always been said that England players don’t get enough of a chance to play week in, week out in the Premier League, well here are Swansea, doing just that. Scott Sinclair scores goals, Danny Graham scores goals and Nathan Dyer scores and makes goals yet none of them get a look in to the England squad.
The conventional footballing wisdom which is so often misplaced says that to play for England you have to prove yourself in the Premier League. Holt and Graham both have 10 goals already this season. Norwich and Swansea both sit comfortably in mid-table this season. What more is there to prove? It seems the culture of ignoring the smaller clubs goes well beyond the football media and extends right up and in to the Football Association as well.