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Massive Attack: A Loving Tribute To Big, Fat Strikers

by Andrew Woods
20 April 2014 51 Comments

Gone are the days of blokes with big guts battering terrified centrebacks and that's (mostly) a damn shame...

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Crystal Palace’s Neil Shipperley, Aston Villa’s Grant Holt, John Parkin at Fleetwood Town… let’s hear it for those centre-forwards of the modern game with turning circles of Canterbury Cathedral….

There must exist – in some statistician’s mind – the concept of the perfect football match. Eleven of the best players on earth in one team pitted against another equally matched outfit. Each of the 22 players would be at their physical and mental peak. The managers will be the best the world has to offer too. Both team’s managers will aggregate every tiny advantage over their opponent through strict training, diet, technique, mentality and strategy. Twenty two men representing the nearest Earth has to perfection battling it out over 90 minutes. Well, if this spectacle ever does come to a TV screen anytime soon, count me out. I’d rather watch Grant Holt huffing and puffing for Norwich City.

February, 26, 2011 and Grant Holt is partnering tiny Wes Hoolahan up front at a Norwich City away game at Barnsley. The pair look like they’re playing in a father-and-son side. Wes is petite, his frame as feeble as a matchstick model of a Victorian orphan. Holt on the other hand is a walrus of a man. Holt’s giant head has proper cheeks and a discernible under-chin. The yellow number nine shirt looks like a stab-proof vest. The Barnsley fans mock the big man’s physique by lifting their shirts and patting their equally ample bellies. Holt just laughs and rips Barnsley to pieces.

Norwich City’s Grant Holt is not the quickest player alive but what he lacks in speed he more than makes up for in guile. Barnsley nervously encircle him like the dogs of a Russian townsfolk waiting for Grizzly to dance. However, Holt pays no mind and wins it in the air and on the ground. He gets into dangerous positions. He has a couple of pops. He stands firm and holds up the ball. When Holt runs, defenders know he could go to ground as, like a grand piano falling down a flight of stairs, he genuinely can’t stop. He pulls them all over the pitch creating space for Hoolahan, Lansbury and Crofts. For 90 minutes Holt is a constant distraction to the Barnsley defence and a god to the Norwich fans.

Sightings of the big beefy centre forward have not been that common over the last couple of seasons. Yes, there are still tall, muscley strikers who can stick the odd elbow out, but we’re talking about the big dogs here, the glorious pub-style athletes with some serious junk in their trunks. We’re talking Grant Holt.

Now, it used to be that centre halves were the HGVs of the team, but recent years has seen a trimmer, leaner gamekeeper perfectly able to keep up in this Michael Owen era of nippiness, constant practice and precision strikes. Gone are the days of Razor Ruddock moving across the pitch like a Mississippi Steamer. Midfielders are more agile now, too. Could the human bouncy castle that was Jan Molby survive in the modern game?


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However, the larger man up front could actually be due a renaissance. With defenders having to watch their every move, a player as clumsy as Grant Holt has a much greater chance of squeaking a spot kick (which Holt regularly does much to Neil Warnock’s chagrin); and the ref certainly won’t lose sight of the lard arse in a tangle of legs. Holding up the ball, fending players off, there are definite advantages to his game and the most powerful shots ever recorded are nearly always attributed to an XXL.

There are still a few jelly bellies around. There’s John Parkin at Fleetwood, who scored a cracker against the Canaries the other year, and his former Cardiff team mate Michael Chopra who looks like he enjoys a McFlurry or two at half time, but the pot-bellied bag buster does seem to heading towards history as a crumb-covered relic of a bygone age. A sad fact that could ultimately be to the detriment of the game.

Gazza wasn’t loved because he was good, he was loved because he good – and as fit as a butcher’s dog. We loved him because he defied logic. How can someone upholstered like Alan Sugar’s boardroom chair play such sweet football? Indeed, the lump up front’s most important gift to us is that sense of carnival. The pantomime which pits the athlete against the ‘bloke’.

Michael Owen spent his childhood repeatedly kicking a tennis ball against the garage door for hours on end, day after day and eventually his mindless, repetitive practice paid off and we were treated to one of the most charmless, automatons of the modern game. Give me the lazy, crazy genius of Gazza and Maradona any day.

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Seth 3:18 pm, 3-Mar-2011

Saw John Parkin at Stoke - he is actually a very talented footballer - just too fat and lazy to ever make it at the highest level.

Damian Wilkinson 4:10 pm, 3-Mar-2011

Leon Clarke deserves an honourable mention. When asked what he liked best about being a footballer, he paused, reflected and answered "You get the afternoons off"

herrdaubs 4:19 pm, 3-Mar-2011

When football was innocent... Sweet!

Keith Wildman 5:48 pm, 3-Mar-2011

Shipperley's always been big boned, and always had a decent record against us, but I couldn't believe the size of him when he rolled up (literally) to Valley Parade a couple of seasons ago for Brentford. It looked like he'd eaten the rest of the Sheffield United squad before moving to Griffin Park. .......Adebayo Akinfenwa is another, the size of a rugby league player but without the ability to run, or score goals. Just waddles around upfront ........ As for none strikers... Andy Morrison ex dog botherers and Blackpool ...... Jim Bentley at Morecambe ..... And there must be something about Morecambe and the dog shaggers because Danny Adams was a fat bastard as well.

Tewkesbury Caravan Club 6:53 pm, 3-Mar-2011

i suppose in some ways goalkeepers should have an exemption but props to Big Nev and of course the OG, Fatty Foulke. Check out google images of him. A man mountain at 6 and a half feet and 22 stone - in his playing days.

Mr Worthicles 7:23 pm, 3-Mar-2011

Fatty footballers are going out of fashion, but there's something comforting that there are still players like Andy Reid about plying their trade at the highest level. Once saw him play for Sunderland at Portsmouth and we were all laughing that someone so porky could play in the Premiership. Honestly, 99 per cent of Blue Square South I've seen over last few seasons are slimmer than Reidy. Peach of a left foot, mind. Like a bleedin' wand.

James 8:43 pm, 3-Mar-2011

The boy Holt is a true legend and long may he continue to draw defenders into rash tackles

Bloominho 10:02 pm, 3-Mar-2011

Top read. I used to love Bolton's Tony Kelly, a legend at Burnden Park in the early 1990s – voted the Trotters' 34th greatest ever player in a club poll and memorably described as a "silky skilled fat man".

Tim Russell 5:35 am, 4-Mar-2011

I remember Micky Quinn actually jumping off the ground to score a fantastic volley against the Villa at Highfield Road back in 1993. That was the game he became a true Sky Blue legend - 2 goals in a 3-0 win against the Vile.

eliminatorjr 12:09 pm, 4-Mar-2011

We fucking love Grant Holt! Got skills for a big lad. There is nothing more rewarding for a footballer than to be hated by Neil Warnock, there should be a little award. Hope the Canaries go up - would love to see Holty in the Prem.

dixiedeehan 1:27 pm, 4-Mar-2011

"Grant Holt has a much greater chance of squeaking a spot kick (which Holt regularly does much to Neil Warnock’s chagrin);" Think he's actually only won one this season.

Fat Dude 5:18 pm, 4-Mar-2011

No Dean Windass? the guy is a legend!!!!

s2h 8:05 am, 5-Mar-2011

matt le tissier. big fat lazy legend

Clarkey 10:20 am, 5-Mar-2011

Grant Holt, what a player, can shoot with either foot, great header of the ball and causes opposing defences to panic when he heads into the penalty area He is also the hardest working player at Norwich in defence as well as attack. Long may he reign at Norwich city. We love him.

James Brown 12:53 pm, 5-Mar-2011

As a Leeds fan, I'd say Holt and Hoolahan are two of the best players I've see outside of the Premiership. Holt never seems to stop looking for goals and Hoolahan is like having a dog on the pitch.

James Brown 12:57 pm, 5-Mar-2011

I should also throw in the name of Frank Strandli. Frank arrived at Elland Road in the early 90s as Norway Under 21 captain or something and left with a 14% share holding in Flying Pizza. He actually once scored with his arse in front of the South Stand. The wingers said it gave them something to play off.

WolfmanJack 2:45 pm, 5-Mar-2011

Watching Jackie Gallagher play for Wolves was like watching Les Dawson play for Wolves - but without the mother-in-law jokes.

Gramps 10:55 am, 7-Mar-2011

Good article, wish you put in some links so we could all laugh at the fat masters.

Jelly 12:04 pm, 7-Mar-2011

D Dunn is still doing it for Blackburn despite his chip butty diet..........never plays the full 90 mins though. The Yak, now at Leicester City, has never knowlingly refused a calorie infused meal. No mention of Sammy Lee, Gerry Francis, Neil Webb, John Robertson et al, all masters in their day.

Jimmy C 3:37 pm, 7-Mar-2011

There's also Werder Bremen's plump Brazilian, Ailton:

Bob Hazell's Nuts 3:59 pm, 7-Mar-2011

Wolves' Sylvan Ebanks-Blake is not lacking in the 'trunk full of junk' department'. Lethal finisher, of chances and dinners alike. Also a shout out for Warren Aspinall - pie-eater extraordinaire..

Steve 5:49 pm, 7-Mar-2011

In an FA Cup match between Gravesend & Northfleet and Notts County, the rather portly 'Fleet goalkeeper injured himself diving for a shot and had to be replaced by a far slimmer substitute 'keeper. The County fans behind the goal actually did launch into chants of "you thin bastard" and "who ate all the salad"

Benny Profane 6:49 pm, 7-Mar-2011

Mark Yardley, former Albion Rovers 'target-man' him to see what I mean (wide-screen laptop needed)

Roual 12:09 pm, 8-Mar-2011

no mention of Tomas Brolin - he was a porker at Leeds

austo 1:43 pm, 10-Mar-2011

It wasn't Hot Shot Hamis who was fat. He was cut from marble. You're thinking of Mighty Mouse, his team mate with the fat gut and NHS glasses..

Rob 9:25 pm, 10-Mar-2011

Paul Moody and Rob Duffy are the two lumbering Oxford strikers that come to mind. Moody was a legend for us in the mid/late 90's, such a fantastic centre forward for a big bloke.

Werthers Original 1:59 pm, 11-Mar-2011

Akinfenwa is the fattest player I've ever seen. Dainty skills for such a fat man, though. Somehow reminded me of Cee-Lo Green.

riverside blue 1:23 pm, 14-Mar-2011

At Ewood, David Dunn indeed, but no mention of Kevin Davies (who since leaving us somehow transformed himself into a lithe England hopeful) or the fans favourite... Mr Simon Garner

Dan Botten 5:16 pm, 14-Mar-2011

Thomas Brolin anyone?

Graham 2:19 pm, 15-Mar-2011

"The only player that has admitted to scoring with his penis" Not entirely true. Zander Diamond did the same for Aberdeen against Rangers a few years back. I believe the Sun's headline at the time was "Cock of the North"...

Ian Saunders 4:50 pm, 16-Mar-2011

Being a Cov fan and going regularly during Mickey "Sumo" Quinn's heyday i have to say he was a fantastic specimen. The sight of him defying gravity jumping for a header (he one 1 in 2 seasons) was a sight to behold. Much loved by every Cov fan, The Mighty Quinn couldn't run, couldn't beat anyone with pace, had no tricks, and hopeless in the air. All he did was put the ball in the net on a frequent basis, and i'd prefer that to some silky skilled forward who only scores 5 a season. Mark Hateley's return to Cov whilst playing for QPR was good for a giggle too.

valdenojabart 6:40 am, 17-Mar-2011

With Maarten Stekelenburg out for the rest of the season with a broken thumb and back-up goalie also injured, Ajax (in the Dutch top league) turn to third man ... Jeroen Verhoeven ... in goal. From what I've seen of him at Volendam something tells me Ajax have put their title hopes on the back burner ... if you though Seaman couldn't get off the ground check this guy out ...

Damian Wilkinson 6:24 pm, 23-Mar-2011

"Pan Pizza"

Damian Wilkinson 6:25 pm, 23-Mar-2011

@ James. I have it on pretty good authority that the Leeds players used to call Frank Strandli, "Frank Scandalous"

woodsy 6:26 pm, 23-Mar-2011

deep pan, peeeeza

Damian Wilkinson 6:35 pm, 23-Mar-2011

Cheer up Woodsy

Rob Kemp 2:48 pm, 12-Apr-2011

not a striker I know but seeing weeble Andy Reid come on for Blackpool against Arsenal on Sunday was an inspiration for any footballer whose shirt size is 'Dart Player'.

Nick clayton 6:50 pm, 22-Sep-2011

Don't forget adebayo akinfenwa of Northampton. That guy is a unit!!

jj 9:03 am, 23-Sep-2011

Sylvain Ebanks-Cake? Plus Antonio Cassano said something like "when i retire i just want to eat - i want to get fat. Really really fat". P.s. The headline is AMAZING

amancalledbuck 10:31 am, 23-Sep-2011

Mark Yardley was brilliant but he wasn't the greatest fatty we've had at Cowdenbeath. That honour goes to Peter 'Sumo' Lamont. He might have been a fat, lazy shit but the overhead kick he scored against Stenhousemuir was the best goal I've ever seen.

Foxy 2:40 pm, 23-Sep-2011

At our u16's end of season presentation, the club got Jon Parkin to hand out the trophies. He had to put down both his pints to shake our hands and hand out the trophies. Also, whilst on-loan at Barnsley, Chopra used to keep a bottle of Coke at the side of the pitch.

Totty 3:59 pm, 23-Sep-2011

I propose you have a 'I hate Andrew Woods'article on Sabotage Times for taking the piss out of Grant Holt.The guy's a legend (not you Woods).The only problem is that it would be neither amusing,clever or interesting . . . . coincidentally much like yours.

Herr Daubs 6:04 pm, 23-Sep-2011

Harsh, Totty, esp as Woodsy is a Canary. Chill out, brother.

woodsy 6:48 pm, 23-Sep-2011

Can I write the 'I hate Andrew Woods' article? - btw Grant loved the piece when he was first sent it last year

Seán Flynn 8:26 pm, 26-Nov-2011

Tomas 'Fatboy' Brolin from Palace; now that was a fat waddling striker

Spoffer 10:09 am, 27-Nov-2011

Holty had his usual half time cow pie and when Lambert gave the nod, he chugged onto the pitch with Wesley tucked under his bingo winged arm to score the winner! Wanker, the panto dame of Shepherds Bush failed to ruin princess Delias day.

Tony 12:05 pm, 27-Feb-2014

Three players mentioned here, Micky Quinn, Tony Kelly and Warren Aspinall all spent their formative years at Wigan. Pies: not just science ... ROCKET SCIENCE!

Umesh 1:03 pm, 27-Feb-2014

Robert Fleck, Norwich/Chelsea player. At a corner, he had a burger thrown at him, he picked it up, pretended to take a bite, rubbed his (large) stomach and threw the burger back into the crowd. While we sang "You fat b*****d". Top chap.

Robin 10:32 pm, 27-Feb-2014

St Mirren legend Mark Yardley was a heroic stiker with more to love.

Stan Dalglish 11:14 pm, 1-Mar-2014

Ray Houghton was a bit compact but Jan Molby was a tubby Kop legend.

Graham Clayton 9:38 am, 19-Mar-2014

"Wes is petite, his frame as feeble as a matchstick model of a Victorian orphan" - what a great description!

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