'God, this is a big club' - Grant Holt on joining Hibs, scoring against Hearts and drinking in a Jambo pub

Former Hibs striker Grant Holt has opened up on his time at Easter Road in his new autobiography, as he described the Edinburgh derby as "totally different" to any match he had ever played in.

Tuesday, 28th May 2019, 10:13 am
Grant Holt joined Hibs in the summer of 2016 - his sixteenth club

The veteran forward arrived in the Capital at the start of the 2016/17 season, after taking a 'phone call from Neil Lennon asking if he fancied a crack at Scottish football.

Holt writes: "[Lennon] wanted some experience and leadership in his squad. I'd never played in Scotland, so it gave me the chance for a new challenge."

Admitting he had been inspired by videos of the club's historic Scottish Cup win some months earlier, Holt added: "It was a brilliant film, and I remembered their fans singing Sunshine on Leith at Hampden Park. It sounded amazing.

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Holt wheels away after scoring against Hearts in the Scottish Cup

"I thought it would be awesome to hear the song in person; to be on the pitch when it was sung by 20,000 fans."

'The derby looked really tasty'

Although admitting it took some time to settle in Edinburgh following his move north from Norfolk, leaving wife Fay and three daughters behind, Holt was nevertheless impressed by the set-up at Hibs.

"I couldn't believe how good it was", he writes. "The training ground was fantastic, the lads were brilliant, and Easter Road was a great stadium."

It was at Easter Road that Holt scored the second goal in an emphatic 3-1 win over Hibs' city rivals Hearts, in a second consecutive Scottish Cup replay.

Recalling the "ridiculous build-up" to the first match at Tynecastle, Holt said: "We got drawn against Hearts in the Scottish Cup, which I was thrilled with.

"I'd seen the derby on TV before and it looked really tasty. I couldn't wait for it.

"I would walk out of my door in Edinburgh and within a couple of minutes I'd have a Hearts fan coming up to me and telling me they hoped we'd get smashed, and then a Hibs fan telling me to make sure we beat those Jambos.

"It was intense."

'Amazing, phenomenal, spine-tingling'

Holt, who once scored a hat-trick for Norwich against local rivals Ipswich, insists that, while outside of Scotland it's "all about Celtic v Rangers", the Edinburgh derby was a "proper battle".

Describing Hearts as "horrific" in the first meeting between the two teams, Holt added: "They played so badly and we passed them to death, but the game ended 0-0. We rolled into the replay at Easter Road under lights. What an occasion. Really special."

Holt bagged the second goal in the match, doubling Hibs' advantage after strike partner Jason Cummings had given Hibs the lead. The ebullient youngster had a hand in Holt's goal, threading the ball through for the Englishman to prod the ball past Hearts 'keeper Jack Hamilton.

"The roar was deafening. It felt amazing to score in a derby on such a big occasion, and I took off on a run with all of the lads. I finished my celebration with a roly-poly, to mark [daughter] little Erica's ninth birthday," Holt explains.

"We won 3-1, and with all of the Hearts fans leaving the ground, they put on Sunshine on Leith over the PA.

"You had 20,000 Hibs fans belting it out, and it sounded phenomenal. Spine-tingling. It got louder and louder as we walked around clapping everyone and I remember thinking to myself, 'My God, this is a big club'.

"We were progressing in the Cup, and leading the Championship. Things were going brilliantly, and my goal in that match meant I'd be remembered fondly by such a brilliant set of fans."

'We downed the pints and legged it out of there'

The former Carlisle and Wigan player also told of an incident early on during his time in Edinburgh, in which he and some friends were drinking in a Hearts pub.

"I was told in no uncertain terms by the landlord to drink up quickly and move on. In half an hour it would be full of Hearts fans, and me being there would not have been OK," he recalls.

"He didn't have to go into details about what might happen if we stayed, so me and my mates downed the pints and legged it out of there."

• Grant Holt: A Real Football Life is published by Twocan and is available from Norwich City's Canaries webstore