Having won promotion twice during his days with Norwich City, it’s hard to overestimate the importance of a reliable, experienced and talented pro like Grant Holt in helping Hibernian achieve their goal of a return to the Ladbrokes Premiership.
Ladbrokes News spoke exclusively to the Hibs star ahead of their Scottish Cup replay with local rivals Heart of Midlothian to discuss everything from the upcoming cup clash to how the current Easter Road crop would manage in the top-flight, and his strike partnership with Jason Cummings. Read on for Grant’s take on life in Leith…
Ladbrokes News: We’ll start with the Ladbrokes Championship. Nine games unbeaten, including five wins. What do you think have been the key factors in helping you maintain that great run?
Grant Holt: I think we’ve kept with our game plan – which is taking the game to sides, and always setting up to win. But we’re comfortable changing formations, and have a really good squad, meaning we can rotate and work well playing different styles.
I think that keeps things fresh, and our opponents never really know what formation we’re going to play. We’re well balanced as well, and I don’t think there’s a weak link for us in any position. That’s led us to being very consistent in what we do.
LN: You’ve touched on the squad you have at Hibs. Would you say this is a crop of players who work well as a unit?
GH: Yeah, we’ve got a very good group here. Not just on the pitch, but also in the dressing room. We all bring different skills to the side, and so many different guys have played a vital part in getting us to where we are in the table right now.
As a group of individuals, we like going into work with each other every day and that’s absolutely key. When you enjoy the people you’re playing with all season, then it’s a huge boost towards getting success as a team.
LN: You’re now seven points clear at the top of the table, and the bookies have you at 1/9 to go up as champions. If you do go up, do you think this current Hibs crop have the ability to flourish in the top-flight?
GH: Definitely. I think you can tell a lot from how we’ve fared against the teams who are up there now. Hibs beat Rangers in the Scottish Cup final last year, and they’re third in the Ladbrokes Premiership now. Hearts are also doing well in the top-flight, and we held them at Tynecastle just over a week ago.
I think we’re at a level where we can compete with those sides, and we have a great bunch of players.
For me, the toughest thing isn’t surviving in the Premiership. It’s getting out of this division. I think some people take for granted that a club of our size will win promotion, but it’s very tough going to certain grounds and we’re a huge scalp, so teams are so fired up if they come to Easter Road, when it’s rocking and the place is packed.
I’m not saying it will be easier for us if we’re in the top-flight next season, but it’ll be more even, in terms of the expectancy being on the home sides to attack. This season we’ve gone away from home and the impetus has still been on us to go forward and break teams down. So promotion would bring different challenges for us.
LN: In terms of seeing promotion through this season, do you think the fact that you’ve been through it twice in your Norwich City days helps? And is that experience something you’ve tried to pass onto the younger lads?
GH: The goal ahead of the season is obviously promotion – winning the league if possible, but otherwise getting up any way we can. But it’s by no means over. There’s still plenty of points to play for [24 in total].
You can never become complacent, and by the same token, there’s no value in worrying about other teams’ results. That was drilled into us at Norwich. And I’ve said that to the younger lads. What we do as a group as Hibs players will dictate what we achieve at the end of the season.
LN: You’ve played a big role as a provider this season, with five assists (and counting) to your name. Most of those have been goals you’ve set up for Jason Cummings. What’s he been like to play alongside?
GH: Jason’s a great goalscorer. He’s pulled us out of the mire a few times with crucial strikes this season, and he’s a very talented all-round player with a bright future.
I’ve enjoyed setting chances up for him, but I’ve also been disappointed with my personal goal tally. I’ve missed quite a few chances, which has really frustrated me, and also been unfortunate in the last six or seven games where I’ve had quite a few efforts cleared off the line.
Obviously the main priority is winning games and securing promotion, but I’d have liked to scored a lot more often than I have, and also to have got on the end of more chances. But sometimes things don’t quite click for you as a player, and fortunately for me, Jason’s been banging them in – and I’ve been able to help him do that.
LN: Obviously improving your tally is a big focus for you right now, but you have chipped in with a few goals this term. What’s been your favourite one in a Hibs shirt so far?
GH: The way I am, I enjoy every goal equally. It doesn’t matter to me whether it’s a 25-yard-screamer of a three-yard tap-in. Every goal is important for me. Obviously if it’s a title-winning game or in a cup final, it’s different, but generally they’re much of a muchness for me.
LN: Next up for Hibs is Wednesday’s Scottish Cup Replay against Hearts. Do you think we’ll see another tight game, or do you reckon it will be a more open encounter at Easter Road?
GH: I think it’ll be close again, but not necessarily tight. Hearts bring a different threat to some of the sides we’ve faced this season – they’re good on the ball and a creative outfit. One of the good things about this game is that both sides are desperate to win. Some teams have come here this year and focused on frustrating us and keeping it tight, but the signs point to this being a very entertaining game.
Overall, I’m confident ahead of this game. Defensively, I do think we can negate a lot of what they have to offer, and we’ve got really talented players up front who can get goals.
As I’ve said, we’re tactically flexible, and have players who can slot into different positions easily. That naturally gives us an extra edge. Hearts will have been wondering all week how we’re going to set up, and that element of surprise could just be what swings it in our favour.
LN: Meanwhile, in the league, you have the visit of Dunfermline Athletic and then a trip to St Mirren. You’ve already beaten both of these sides home and away this season. Are you confident of taking six points from those two games?
GH: I certainly don’t think we can take that for granted. You look at Dunfermline – they’ve picked up in the last few weeks. They’re a tough team to play against, and have a real threat on the counter-attack.
St Mirren brought in quite a few players during the January window, which will give them a bit of a boost, and they’re fighting for their lives at the bottom of the division. And that game’s at their place.
No game in this division is a gimme. Everywhere you go is tough, and you really have to earn every point. We went to Raith Rovers at the weekend [drawing 1-1] and they defended for their lives to stop us winning. We need to keep taking points and ticking games off, and just focusing on preparing for the match directly ahead of us.
Meanwhile, the Leith outfit can be backed at 1/9 to win promotion from the Ladbrokes Championship as title winners this season.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing