The novella Jekyll and Hyde was published by Robert Louis Stevenson in 1886. It is about a lawyer who investigates strange happenings between his old friend, Dr. Henry Jekyll, and the evil Edward Hyde. The phrase Jekyll and Hyde has since come to signify a person who is vastly different in moral character from one situation to the next.
It can be fun trawling the fan forums on the internet. You can unearth exceptional posts, the quality of which can put professional journalists to shame. But you will also find the other extreme, those that are off the wall, often products of anger and frustration. As fans we rarely get a real glimpse into what is happening behind the scenes at a football club. We make most of our judgments based on what we have seen on the pitch and the sifted information that reaches us from the media.
But whatever the rights or wrongs of the fans forums, they act as a barometer, reflecting upon issues which are of concern to fans. The number of responses to a particular thread can give an indication of the degree of concern in that area at the time.
Some topics really get Latics fans contributing their thoughts. The Latics Speyk forum on Vital Wigan Athletic started a thread on Grant Holt on August 10th. At this moment in time it has had 276 replies and 28,754 views. More posts on Holt might well be raining in as I write this article. Most are highly critical of the player, questioning his commitment. Many of the earlier posts questioned his fitness, suggesting he was grossly overweight.
“Holt won less headers in his time at Wigan (..) than Riera did on Saturday (and i think Riera only won 2 or 3!). Clearly he isn’t bothered and hopefully we can move him on. I was hoping maybe we could get him fit and firing but he obviously doesn’t care enough.”
“He’ll be happy to rot in the reserves on his last contract, probably doing his coaching badges or his media work for radio Cumbria in his spare time. The 2.5 million quid he’ll make from us will set him up nicely. Would you leave?”
“As to other loan signings being as bad – at least they actually moved on the pitch occasionally. Holt’s singular lack of effort (or perhaps it was lack of fitness) stands out as something that I seldom remember in 35 years of watching Latics.”
Some questioned the treatment of Holt by Uwe Rosler and by fellow fans. His home base was also an issue:
“Grant Holt has not helped himself with one thing and another but I am on record as saying the stick and personal criticism is nothing short of disgraceful and serves no purpose in motivating a player who could do a job for us.”
“Rosler either came to WAFC with a preconceived opinion of Holt or he is working to orders from Whelan/Jackson to force him out, Rosler’s first game in charge was Maribor away less than a week after he was appointed, for that game he alienated Holt by leaving him at home, he publicly announced it was to work on his fitness, that isn’t exactly the way you would go about it if he was going to be part of your imminent plans, three weeks later he was shipped out on loan.”
“Things with Holt for me was that the manager who bought him wanted to use him up front on his own & it’s not a role that he is able to play to any great effect. Yes he picked up a couple of injuries but either side of those he was poor. His weight was also an issue & whilst I don’t go to every game it always seemed that his shirt was getting tighter & tighter every time I saw him.
So by the time Rosler arrived he saw an unfit, out of form player who couldn’t play the type of role that Rosler likes his centre forwards to play. On top of that it now appears that Rosler asked him to move nearer to Wigan & he refused. Not criticising Holt for that coz I’ve now doubt that it was part of the deal that bought him here but I know plenty of managers who have insisted on that in the past for a combination of making them feel closer to the club/community & probably more importantly that sitting in a car for 1.5-2 hours then training for 3 hours then going back into a car for another couple of hours isn’t good for the body & maybe that’s why he was picking up niggling injuries.”
But to many Huddersfield fans Holt has been more of a Jekyll than a Hyde:
“Holt is what we have needed for over a year now. His experience, leadership and the way he bullies defenders is great to watch. Lots of people on here were crying out for this signing for a long time and it still amazes me that it took so long to sort this out.Whilst I understand the need to have a budget, on this occasion we should sign him up at ALL costs.”
“Exactly the kind of player we’ve been missing. The guy is absolute class. Still crazy to think we got him in, and it would surely be even crazier to think he’d want to be here for a bit longer.”
“The little back heel he hit to play in Scanz was superb. Much more than just a big centre forward, the fella’s got great awareness of what’s around him and he annoys the hell out the opposition, wins aerial balls and holds it up wel and got an eye for goal too, a proper old school centre forward. …
I like him…..A lot.”
The comments are taken from the forum of the Down At The Mac fansite.
Clearly Holt has been a very different player at Huddersfield than he was at Wigan. Almost a Jekyll and Hyde situation.
The above fan comments were made a month or two ago. Since then the Huddersfield fans have cooled down a little on their seemingly desperate need to sign Holt and the hostility towards him in Wigan has diminished somewhat, although there are fans who really do not want to see him come back.
However, Malky Mackay has opened the door to the big Cumbrian’s return by stating: “Grant Holt is absolutely a Wigan Athletic player, make no mistake about that……There’s an understanding from me of what he brings in terms of goalscoring ability.”
Holt has made 10 starts for Huddersfield, making one appearance off the bench. He has scored two goals and made three assists. Since his arrival the Terriers have moved out of the relegation zone.
Holt’s history at Wigan makes sad reading. Owen Coyle brought him in as the centre forward who would get the goals needed to propel Latics back to the Premier League, even if fans questioned him giving a three year contract to a 32 year old. After scoring in the first game at Barnsley he found more goals hard to get. and managed only one more, a penalty against Middlesbrough. He came back too early from a nasty knee injury and from then on he had elements of the crowd on his back. The change of manager from Coyle to Rosler exacerbated his problems. Holt left in January having scored that brace of goals from 13 starts with 8 appearances off the bench.
One of Rosler’s first moves had been to leave Holt out of the squad that travelled to Slovenia to play Maribor. Then in January the player was sent on loan to Aston Villa until the end of the season. When he came back he was consigned to training with the development squad and he was not given a squad number. Moreover his face was conspicuously absent from the squad photograph at the start of the season. Being shipped off again on loan seemed inevitable
Rosler’s treatment of Holt might well have contributed to his own demise. But Holt was not the only player alienated by Rosler. Mackay’s recent pronouncement that all players will be given a fair chance will be music to the ears to such as Ali Al-Habsi, Fraser Fyvie and Thomas Rogne.
The centre forward position at Latics has certainly been problematic over the past year or so. The goals have been sparse. Only two of Wigan’s twenty league goals this season have been scored by the central striker, a disturbing statistic.
Marc-Antoine Fortune is a fine player in terms of his hold-up play, but a record of 7 goals in 61 appearances (including 31 starts) for the club hardly suggests that he will be a threat in the penalty box. Andy Delort and Oriel Riera have struggled, with only one goal between them. Media reports about both of them going back home may be mere speculation, but Latics might cut their losses in the January transfer window should a good offer come in for either.
A little over a couple of years Grant Holt was being tipped for an England place. But now at 33 years of age he is surely past his best. After a great start at Huddersfield his performances have become less productive. Moreover if he were to come back to Wigan would those fans who have been so critical of him in the past be willing to give him a fresh start? Or would he be subject to jeering?
Should either Delort or Riera be leaving in January it will surely open the door for Holt’s return. Does Mackay believe that Holt could turn things around at Wigan and win the crowd over?
Can Holt put back the clock and play like he did in his glory days at Norwich?