If there is anyone who knows about winning promotion it is Hibs new boy Grant Holt, the striker having played a massive part in lifting Norwich City from League One to the English Premiersihip in the space of just two seasons.
And former Hibs defender Michael Nelson believes his old Canaries team-mate, who has just become Neil Lennon’s first signing, will bring all that experience to bear as the club seek to lift themselves out of the Championship at the third time of asking.
Holt has already stated he has arrived in Edinburgh intent on achieving that goal and although he may now be 35, Nelson has backed him to be a massive influence both on and off the pitch.
“Grant certainly won’t let anyone not put in as much work as him,” insisted Nelson. “If he thinks anyone is slacking in training or on matchday he’ll let them know all about it.
“There’s going to be pressure on Hibs to get promoted, they’ll be one of the favourites again to go up but that’s something Grant is more than capable of coping with and hopefully he’ll take a bit of pressure off the younger lads. It will be refreshing for him to have that challenge but I’m sure Grant will thrive on it.”
“I think it will be refreshing for him to have that challenge, to go somewhere a bit different, a slightly different culture and a different league but I’m sure Grant will thrive on it.”
Although he went to the very top – Holt was once touted for an England call-up on the back of his impressive goalscoring at Norwich – Nelson insisted the much-travelled striker remains very much down to earth, pointing out how he once combined playing football with working as a tyre fitter and in a factory in his early days.
He said: “Grant has quite a CV, but he has done it the hard way. He knows what it is like to work all day, train two nights a week and play on a Saturday and yet he ended up reaching the top in the Premier League. He hasn’t come up through an academy, he’s lived a life. Nothing has been given to him, he’s had to work for everything he has got.”
Carlisle-born Holt began his career with Workington, spent short spells in Australia and Singapore and featured for a string of clubs in England including Nottingham Forest where he was a team-mate of Lennon’s before a switch from Shrewsbury Town where he had scored 28 goals in 51 appearances to Norwich saw his reputation soar.
In his first season at Carrow Road he scored 30 goals in 44 games as Paul Lambert’s side took the League One title and then won promotion from the Championship to the Premiership the very next season with Holt notching 23 more, adding another 17 in his first year in the top flight.
Nelson said: “Grant was brilliant, unbelievable. Norwich had been relegated the season before and were expected to go straight back up but no-one expected us to be promoted again the next season to the Premiership. People had said Grant would find it tough to score as many goals in the Championship but he got plenty and then he thrived again the season after in the top tier.
“He was getting spoken about in the press in terms of England. At the time he was the highest scoring English striker in the Premier League but for one reason or another he didn’t get into the squad. If they’d decided to go with someone who was bang in form Grant would have been right in there. But Grant had a great impact off the field as well as with his goals on it. I think Hibs fans will like what they see, he’s very hard working, a player who gives everything to the cause and is a very good influence in the dressing-room. I know Hibs have a fairly young squad so hopefully having someone like him who has a great CV of doing well, being successful, can help drag the club over the line and win promotion.”
Although they have long since gone their different ways Nelson, who at 36 is preparing for another season with League Two club Barnet, and Holt have remained firm friends and keep in regular contact, the pair having taken part in a charity match in Norwich this summer where they were both on the scoresheet although the defender claims his goal was “slightly better” than his mate’s.
He said: “I speak to Grant quite regularly. I knew there had been contact and that he had a link with Neil Lennon and so with him knowing I had been at Hibs, we had a wee chat. I told him the facilities, the training ground, the stadium, were great, similar to what we had when we were at Norwich.
“Grant had a bad injury which put him out for a while but he’s fully recovered now and once he gets his chance and gets into the team playing regularly I have no doubt he will score goals and make a massive contribution not just with them but his all round work-rate which will help bring out the best in the players about him.
“He’s had a long spell out but he’s as hungry as every to get back in, to enjoy his football and score goals.”