With four wins in all competitions against his former employers since trading in Carrow Road for Villa Park in 2012, Paul Lambert’s knowledge of his former squad has come in handy as the bitter rivalry between Norwich and Aston Villa in the lower echelons of the league continues to grow.
As fans of both sides take into account the recent history of the two clubs locking horns in numerous battles on and off the pitch, another twist in the tale is the addition of former Canaries cult hero Grant Holt to the Villa setup, making a loan switch from Championship side Wigan.
Reuniting with his former boss under whom he enjoyed the best seasons of his career to date, signing with the Birmingham outfit was met with cries of disapproval from both sets of fans.
The target of unkind words from Norwich City fans that once adored him on his Twitter account, the sentiments of Villa fans weren’t too different. The 32-year-old's arrival was seen as an average addition in a transfer window where Paul Lambert seemed to acknowledge that a ‘number 10’ style attacking midfielder was the priority in a side that lacked creativity and attacking flair going forward.
Having lost Czech striker Libor Kozak to a season-ending leg break, reinforcements for
the Villa strike department were also targeted by the Lions boss. But with Christian Benteke returning to goal scoring form alongside fellow senior strikers Gabby Agbonlahor and Andreas Weimann along with fringe players Nicklas Helenius and the recently loaned-out Jordan Bowery, dealing in a player to provide service surely would have been a more worthy investment to make as they continue to struggle in piecing together good attacking play on a consistent basis.
As Lambert chose to loan in a former favorite from his time at Norwich, this again shows the Scot using the knowledge gathered from his previous managerial experiences. Should he choose to play Holt, he would know how to utilise him to the fullest and could take advantage of and play to his strengths; with his main quality being his strength.
Known to be a heavy-set player that isn’t easily shaken off the ball, he could be used to hold up play while Benteke is given more freedom to roam and be creative. He knows where the goal is and likes to be a bit selfish when he finds himself in some space, something that Agbonlahor seems to struggle with as a forward who isn't considered to be a natural finisher.
Chris Hughton has since transformed Norwich City into his own side, with few players remaining from Lambert’s time in charge, including goalkeeping stalwart John Ruddy and club captain Russell Martin.
But Villa fans will be hoping that Holt, having spent a few seasons with these Norwich mainstays, will know a thing or two about how they play and possibly exploit their weaknesses, if given the chance (and judging by his lack of game time, it’s a big if).
Speaking to the Birmingham Mail, Holt addressed the prospect of playing against his former club: “It will be very, very weird; it will be a strange game. I didn’t think I’d be playing them as soon as I might be, but I’m looking forward to it.
"Obviously, I’ll know quite a lot about them because there’s a lot of lads I’ve played with.
But I’ve got to try and get in the team and hopefully be ready to play.”
With only four appearances in total - including one start in the 2-1 defeat against Everton on February 1 - Holt’s chances of proving himself to the Villa faithful have been limited.
While Holt may not be the player he was a few seasons ago, the vital quality he brings to a youthful Villans squad is his vast experience in the game.
As a well-travelled 32-year-old, having played his way up the ranks from League One all the way to the Premier League in a matter of seasons, the Carlisle-born striker will have a wealth of knowledge to impart on the young squad whose lack of tactical awareness has cost them on several occasions this season.
Whether he is picked to start or if he even makes the bench remains to be seen. But there would be no sweeter sight for occupants of the Holte End to witness Holt rattle
the back of the net against the team he enjoyed cult hero status with, in a game that oozes such bad blood, at an especially crucial time of the season where both teams are fighting tooth and nail for the right to remain in the Premier League.
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