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Rochdale 1 v 0 Shrewsbury Town
SkyBet League One
Saturday, 1st February 2020 Kick-off 15:00
Played For Both: Dale v ShrewsburyTown
Thursday, 30th Jan 2020 16:18 by Chaff

Dale face Shrewsbury at home this weekend and because of that, we take a look back at one of the best strikers the club has ever had.

Holty joined Dale in January 2004 and after one average performance against Darlington, many had written him off already, but he went on to have a quite brilliant spell at Rochdale which propelled him to reach the Premier League later on in his glittering career.

Steve Parkin, for all his faults, could pick a striker. Rickie Lambert, Chris Dagnall, Paul Connor for example, and a bulky target man from Sheffield Wednesday called Grant Holt. Dale paid a nominal fee for the striker to bring him to Dale from Hillsborough believed to be about £10,000.

I already knew of Holt before this as he’d bagged a hatful for my mate on Championship Manager and he didn’t stop going on about him. Then he signed for Dale and it was me who wouldn’t stop going on about him!

Holt started his career coming through the ranks at Carlisle but didn’t make it there and went to Workington Town in non-league before making it into the football league with Halifax Town. He couldn’t hold down a regular spot at The Shay and was shipped out on loan to Australian side Sorrento for a month before coming back and going to Barrow.

He left Halifax to head over to Singapore (as you do) to play for Sengkang Marine and after scoring 12 in 17 over there, he believed he’d secured a deal to sign for Carlisle United again but the club went into administration and the deal was off, so he signed a permanent deal with Barrow.

Holt was superb at Barrow and he bagged himself 31 goals in 59 appearances which got bigger clubs interested in him and it wasn’t long before he got a big break. Sheffield Wednesday signed him in March 2003. He scored twice in a 3-0 win over Brentford and his other goal came away at Scunthorpe in the FA Cup, but Holt picked up more bookings than he scored goals. He picked up 5 yellow cards and even a red card away at Yorkshire rivals Barnsley!

Holty made 30 appearances for Wednesday but half of them came from the bench and he scored just 3 goals, so in January of 2004, he dropped down the footballing pyramid and landed at Spotland.

Not all fans were sold on Holt to begin with and it took him a while to get going. His first goal came in his seventh appearance for Dale when he scored at home to his hometown club Carlisle. He then didn’t score again until April when he scored a brace at home to Leyton Orient. His first season at Dale saw him score 3 in 14 games. He picked up 5 yellow cards in that period as well!

The following season saw it all click into place for Holty and he soon became absolutely unplayable!

He scored 24 goals in 45 games and was simply outstanding. He was a hard as nails striker who would go for absolutely any sniff of a goal and didn’t mind dishing out a bit of physicality himself. He certainly wouldn’t ever be bullied on the pitch by anyone. In fact, he picked up 16 yellow cards that season which the likes of Vinny Jones and Roy Keane would be proud of!

Little side story for you, we won 2-1 at home to Oxford in the FA Cup in the November of 2004. Holty scored both goals! Because of TV contracts and the BBC and Sky not having the FA Cup highlights, nobody had the rights to show highlights of the FA Cup and I was asked by former employee Stuart Ashworth if I could get some lads together and meet him at Spotland and to bring our boots! I got a few lads together and Stuart’s big idea was to reconstruct the goals so that ITV Granada Reports could do a piece for the evening news. After about 100 takes on the Spotland turf, we got it right, or close enough at least and we all featured on the local news that evening. I was a big lad back then and the only shirt that would fit me was Tony Gallimore’s! I lost 6 stone in the following year!

Anyway, I digress slightly!

What a season! He scored from everywhere and he scored all sorts of goals. He was good in the air, he scored from inside the box, outside the box and had good feet. His best goal came against Macclesfield at home where he did the most immaculate Zidane turn on the edge of the box and finished in the bottom corner. A move we were recreating in The Litten Tree later that night, knee slide celebration and all!

The below video from Youtube shows some of his best.

It looked almost certain that Holt wouldn’t be at Spotland for much longer, but he started the 2005/06 season in blistering form. He scored 15 goals in just 24 games before leaving Dale for League One side Nottingham Forest in January 2006. I was absolutely devastated. The fee reportedly £300,000 because of a release clause in his contract. To this day, he goes down as my favourite ever Rochdale striker, just ahead of Henderson and Lambert.

He started life at Nottingham Forest well by scoring on his debut against Oldham Athletic, but it wouldn’t be plain sailing for the rest of his time at the City Ground. He was often played wide right instead of as a striker. He scored 4 goals in 19 games in his first half season at Forest. His second season saw him score 17 in 55 games in a campaign that ended with defeat in the Playoff final against Yeovil Town.

The 2007/08 was a bit of a disaster for Holt. He was stuck playing out wide as a wide target man and only managed 3 goals in 35 games for Forest before finishing the season on loan at Blackpool in the Championship.

Holt made a huge decision in the summer of 2008, one that saw him drop back to League Two with Shrewsbury Town who had big plans to get out of the league and those plans were based on Holty firing them there. Shrewsbury paid £170,000 to Forest to secure his services and what a decision that was from a performance perspective. He scored 28 goals in 51 games but was again beaten in the playoff final, this time by Gillingham who had beaten us in the semi-finals. Holt’s Shrewsbury side had beaten Bury in the other semi-final but lost 1-0 to Gillingham at Wembley.

He managed to score one of the best goals you’ll ever see at Spotland against us, a sensational goal but not only that, he scored 5 goals away at Wycombe in the LDV Vans Trophy or whatever it was called back then.

He joined Norwich City in League One in the summer of 2009 for £400,000 and had another sensational season where he scored 30 goals in 44 games including a hattrick away at Yeovil Town in the Carling Cup. Norwich won the league at a canter ahead of Leeds United and got themselves back in the Championship.

Holty quickly became a Norwich legend and the 2010/11 season saw another impressive goal return with him scoring 23 goals that season. This included a hattrick against fierce local rivals Ipswich Town and another against Scunthorpe later in the season. His goals helped Norwich achieve back to back promotions and they finished second in the Championship and booked their place in the Premier League!

The Premier League, I thought might be a tough ask for Holt, but it turned out I was talking and thinking bollocks. He took to it like a duck to water. His first goal that season came against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, his second came at Anfield against Liverpool! He also scored against United and Arsenal that season in a season where he scored an impressive 17 goals in 38 games. Surely it wouldn’t be long before he was being mentioned as a potential England player?!

The England call would never come unfortunately.

His following season saw him score 8 goals in 38 games in the Premier League.
Wigan Athletic would fork out £2million for Holt in the summer of 2013 but it would turn out to be a disaster for the striker. He would score just 3 in 21 that first season for Wigan but Holt demanded to be allowed to move on loan to Aston Villa towards the end of the season.

Holt’s Wigan hell would continue, and he managed to get himself a move on loan to Huddersfield but only managed 2 in 15 for the Championship side.

Another loan spell, this time to Wolves would follow as he continued to go through hell at Wigan before he ended up back at Spotland having finally had his contract terminated by Wigan Athletic. Hill managed to bring the striker back in February of 2016. He made his long-awaited debut against Bradford City as a second half sub. One of the best receptions I’ve ever seen or heard greeted Holt onto the pitch.

He did a job did Holty but age wasn’t on his side at this point. He scored against Sheffield United and again against Southend United and those were his only goals in his 14 games at Dale. He only started 3 of those games as well.

I’d have offered Holt a deal, but Hill released him. Maybe it was just sentiment that made me want to keep him, but he ended up going up to Scotland to play for Hibernian in the SPL. He scored 7 in 37 games for Hibs before moving back to Barrow briefly before hanging his boots up in 2018.

A bizarre career move saw Holt turn his hand to professional wrestling.

Not quite the heights of WWE but there is a wrestling promotion over in Norwich which is owned by the parents of WWE star Paige (a google search may not be safe for home or work!) and he took part in the Royal Rumble 40 man over the top rope match in which he won. He became the holder of the Crusher Mason Memorial Trophy.

That may well be the end of his wrestling career and he is usually found as a BT Sports pundit on match days these days, but rest assured, Holt will go down as one of the best strikers ever to play at Rochdale.

He did a podcast with the lads over at Undr The Cosh and the link is below:

Photo: Action Images

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