IT’S BEEN HELL BUT NOW HOLT IS BACK...

The Football League Paper - - NEWS - By Chris Dunlavy

FROM the brink of an Eng­land cap to os­tracised and in­jured – the last two years have not been kind to Grant Holt. Frozen out by Uwe Rosler at Wi­gan. Forced to train with the kids. Ruled out for ten months with a cru­ci­ate rup­ture and then rel­e­gated in ab­sen­tia.

For a man who fin­ished the 2011-12 cam­paign as the Premier League’s lead­ing English goalscorer be­hind Wayne Rooney and was con­sid­ered by Roy Hodg­son for Euro 2012, the fall from grace was tough to take.

“It has been an ab­so­lute night­mare,” ad­mits the 34-year-old, now on loan at Wolves in a bid to re­cover match fit­ness.

“I’d signed for Owen Coyle at Wi­gan in the sum­mer of 2013, then got in­jured for four months. By the time I came back, Uwe Rosler had come in and he ex­iled me to the U21s.

Ex­ile

“Why? I really don’t know.That’s a con­ver­sa­tion you’ll need to have with Uwe be­cause it cer­tainly isn’t one he had with me. I spoke to him once in nine months. All I was told was that he didn’t want me, that I had to train with the kids and that I had to stay away from the first team.

“I used to go in at half seven in the morn­ing, leave at half three in the af­ter­noon and that was my life for five months.

“I was on loan at Hud­der­s­field when Rosler got sacked. I came back, spoke to Malky Mackay about play­ing and he said I’d get my op­por­tu­nity. Then the day be­fore I was due to go back, I did my cru­ci­ate and was out for ten months. It was just one thing af­ter an­other.”

Soon Mackay was gone, too. Gary Cald­well took over at the DW but, by then, Holt was in re­hab and the Lat­ics were sliding to­wards League One.

“Watch­ing Wi­gan strug­gle and get rel­e­gated was prob­a­bly the most frus­trat­ing time of my en­tire ca­reer,” he adds.“My liveli­hood and the club’s fu­ture was in some­one else’s hands and I couldn’t do any­thing about it.”

What Holt could do dur­ing those days ma­rooned in the youth ranks was pass on the 15 years of know-how gleaned at the likes of Bar­row, Shrews­bury, Rochdale and Not­ting­ham For­est.

“They knew I didn’t want to be there,”he ex­plains.“But I just said ‘Lis­ten, I’ll treat you with re­spect and I’ll do what­ever you want me to do’.

“The coaches there, Joe Parkin and Gre­gor Rioch, were great. They got me in­volved, used my ex­pe­ri­ence.They got me through a pretty tough time, as did the young lads.

“And I’d like to think that the five months I was with peo­ple like Jor­dan Flores,Tim Chow and Ryan Jen­nings will help them along the way.” Holt has cer­tainly helped oth­ers hit the big time, not least Derby’s £7m-rated striker Chris Martin, whose bustling, phys­i­cal game is a mir­ror im­age of his old Nor­wich strike part­ner’s.

“When Chris was a young lad, he was more of a No.10,” ex­plains Holt. “He liked to come off, ma­noeu­vre, drop into holes. It was only when he went on loan to Swin­don that he re­alised he wanted to be a No.9.

“That was ac­tu­ally a con­ver­sa­tion I had with him. I said he’d have a good ca­reer if he em­braced be­ing a proper cen­tre­for­ward. That he could be that big phys­i­cal player but still get in­volved in the game. He just needed to be­lieve it him­self.

Dan­ger­ous

“He went to Derby, had it forced on him and it’s turned into a great move. From see­ing Chris at Nor­wich to Chris now, he’s a far more dan­ger­ous player. Hope­fully I helped him along the way but I can’t take too much credit. Chris has de­vel­oped his own game.”

But now Holt is hop­ing to help sought-af­ter Wolves striker Benik Afobe get back on the goal trail af­ter a five-match drought.

“The goals will come for Benik,” in­sists Holt.“You don’t get a £10m price tag on your head for no rea­son. He’s very tal­ented and he just needs one to hit him and go in.”

As for Holt,does he still dream of a re­turn to the Premier League?

“I don’t know about that,”laughs the 34-year-old. “But I never dreamt I’d do it in the first place, so who knows? I’m the fittest I’ve felt, the best weight. I need min­utes to start show­ing ev­ery­one that I’m the same player I ever was.”

PIC­TURE: Ac­tion Im­ages

FLOORED: Grant Holt has had tough times at Wi­gan Ath­letic FRESH START: Grant Holt in ac­tion for Wolves and, inset be­low, with Chris Martin at Nor­wich

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