This season we have been reflecting on 10 Years at Oteley Road - to celebrate this we will be bringing you an exclusive interview with a player from the last decade. Today it is Grant Holt!
When Grant joined Town for a club record fee of £175,000 from Nottingham Forest there were question marks as to whether he was worth the money. 12 months and 28 goals later those question marks had gone.
It could be argued that no player in Town’s history achieved as much in one season as Holt did. Nearly a decade later Grant remembers joining a club, which he felt were starting a new era.
“I used to like the old ground”, Grant told Town Talk.
“I’ve got a soft spot for the old grounds, but when I arrived you could tell there was a shift and they were building to do something different in the longer term.
“It’s been good for the club in the long-term. Obviously, we didn’t manage to achieve it, but they did it a few seasons after us and now they have been able to sustain it, which is the important thing.
“The next step is obviously a lot more difficult, but what the Chairman and the staff have done is built the club, they’ve set up the training facilities and that’s what you’ve got to do.”
It was the 24th June 2008 when Grant Holt walked through the doors of the stadium for the very first time and he still remembers his earliest conversation with the Chairman.
“I spoke to Muzza (Paul Murray) before joining, I spoke to Paul Simpson and then when I came down to speak to the Chairman that was it really”, remembered Grant.
“I don’t think he was ever going to let me leave the building without signing a contract. He told me exactly what he wanted to do and what he wanted to achieve.
“He told me that if we didn’t succeed in that season then he wouldn’t stand in my way and I’m really thankful to him, because a lot of Chairman could have kept me and held other clubs to ransom.
Town made a number of marquee signings that summer with the likes of Mike Jackson, Graham Coughlan and Richard Walker all arriving from higher league opposition. It led to one of the most exciting and intriguing seasons in living memory with Town twice equalling their record victory margin of 7-0, whilst also failing to win an away game for nearly eight months. It was certainly a rollercoaster season and one that Holty looks back on with fond memories.
“I think we always knew that there would be a chance of promotion”, Holt admitted.
“I think we thought it would be a bit of a bedding in season really and I think the aim was for it to always be the year after where we really had a go.
“You’ve got to remember that we had a lot of new lads come in and it takes time to bond really. I think at the end of the season you could see how much of a good group we had become.
“We had some really good games that year. You obviously remember beating Gillingham 7-0 at home, but it’s the other games at the end of the season when we played Dagenham and beat them to get into the play-offs, they are the ones that stick in my mind because as a player you know how hard they are to achieve.
“I think if we’d had a few more away wins that season then we wouldn’t have been talking about the play-offs. We didn’t win enough games on the road that season, but we had a good crack at it, the fans had a good time.
“It was tinged with sadness because we didn’t achieve what we set out to do, but that’s football at the end of the day and Gillingham were a good side who were better on the day. To be honest they should have gone up automatically because they were the best side we played that season, but that’s football.
“That season probably helped Shrewsbury go up a few seasons later because we put Shrewsbury’s name back on the map. People knew we were a good club, we were well ran and there’s no doubt that that is why the attracted more players to go there.”
‘Holty is Superman!’ was a chant regularly heard from the terraces and he feels very fortunate to have been held in such high regard by the Town faithful.
I’ve been very lucky and very fortunate that I’ve done pretty well at most clubs I’ve been to”, said the former Nottingham Forest and Norwich man.
It was probably my style that people enjoyed the most. It wasn’t all about my goals, I think people could see that I cared and they knew that I wanted to win.
I think when people see winners and people that want to win week in week out they are the kind of people the fans want to see on the football pitch, because they are a representative of how they want to see themselves play in a Shrewsbury shirt.
I’m very lucky that when I do go back I am held in high regard by people around the club and you always get welcomed by a nice smile on people’s faces and that shows you have achieved something and captivated the fans.
It’s been over 8 years since Grant left Town to join Norwich, but he still keeps an eye on the club and believes they have everything in place for a bright future.
“You always look with a fondness at the club”, Holt said.
“I think they’ve done a lot of good work there, behind the scenes, that people don’t see and I hope that at some point they can get those couple of players in that will help them get up to the top of League One and maybe the Championship at some point.
“It’s about getting the infrastructure right so that when you do get up there you are set to go. What you don’t want to do is make it up there and then you haven’t planned for that, but it seems like they are doing everything in the right way, so that they succeed and get in the Championship one day.”