Holty on his time with Town and Norwich CityIn the matchday programme Town Talk Colin Bloomfield spoke to Grant Holt about his time at Town and at Norwich City
Grant Holt might have only spent one season with Shrewsbury Town, but he credits his time at the club as the year which rejuvenated his career - and helped him become a huge success at tonight's opponents Norwich City. Left in the shadows at Nottingham Forest, Town pulled off a real coup in signing the striker, paying a club record £170,000 and showing their League Two rivals they meant business in the quest for promotion under Paul Simpson.
Defeat at Wembley in the 2009 play-off final against Gillingham ended those hopes, as Holt departed to the Canaries who were in League One at the time. He went on to secure back-to-back promotions to the Premier League with his 78 goals in League and Cup playing a major part in the Canaries success. There was even talk of an England call-up.
"Going to Shrewsbury helped kick-start my career again and was probably the best decision I've ever made," said Holt, currently at Championship side Wigan after a loan spell at Aston Villa last season.
"I thought I was going in the right direction when I went to Forest but in the end it didn't work out. The first season there, I loved. In the second season, while I still enjoyed being there, I wasn't playing and when I did it was out of position on the wing. I went to Shrewsbury and was very fortunate that the lads who were there were a really good group. I just enjoyed my football and it made me appreciate the game again."
Speculation that Holt was moving to Shrewsbury had been rife in the weeks leading up to the deal. There were other offers on the table, but he says the club's ambitions were the reason he dropped down into League Two.
"I had quite a few options, a couple of bids had gone in," recalled Holt. "I spoke to Paul Simpson who I knew from his Carlisle days. I had a good chat with him, he showed me who he wanted to bring in. I had Paul Murray badgering the life out of me to go there too and I knew they were signing Mike Jackson from Blackpool.
"I got a call from the chairman (Roland Wycherley) and the whole thing was infectious. When I went to meet them, the chairman wasn't going to let me leave until I signed and you could see his ambition and what he wanted the club to be like. You could see how passionate he was to get the club up. That was the same with Paul Simpson, it was a chance for him as-well. Everything just fitted."
Holt scored 28 goals for Shrewsbury, including one on his debut against Macclesfield Town in a four-nil rout. But while no side managed more home wins than Town that season (14), no side also collected fewer away wins, with Shrewsbury earning a maximum points return on only three occasions.
"We should have gone up," admitted Holt. "We couldn't get any consistency away from home, we lost Ben Davies for nine or ten games too which was a big loss for us because he was on fire at the time. He chipped in with a few important goals that year. We had other injuries too and in the end, the away record got in our heads a little."
Holt took the plaudits in Town's five-nil Football League Trophy win at Wycombe Wanderers, scoring seven of the goals at Adams Park, just weeks after Shrewsbury also hit seven against Gillingham in the League at the Greenhous Meadow. Ironically though, it was the reverse fixture at Priestfield that stands out more for Holt.
"One of the main games was the two-all draw at Gillingham," he recalled. "We were two-nil down and I managed to score a penalty and then got another late on. We knew that was a massive game for us at the time and that was my most memorable game at the club. We realised then we had a fantastic chance of achieving promotion."
In a twist of fate though, it was the Gills who ended Town's promotion dream at Wembley with Simeon Jackson's 90th minute winner enough to break Shrewsbury hearts. Holt would later play alongside Jackson at Norwich after moving to Carrow Road for a sum believed to be £450,000. Despite the size of the fee, Holt revealed that Roland Wycherley tried to persuade him to stay and have another crack at getting out of League Two.
"Norwich were a club who were only going one way and that was up," he said. "The chairman reluctantly took the offer although I think he'd have liked me to have stayed for another season. He realised I had to go."
Holt admits some "disappointment" that an England call-up never came after leaving the Greenhous Meadow.
"It's nice to be considered in that way, and can take a lot of positives from the fact I was there or thereabouts," he said. "That's football though. It's a business where you never know what's around the corner. That's why we all adore it. "