They played together in League Two… now Holt and Lambert go head-to-head in the top flight
11:01 GMT, 28 November 2012
Grant Holt and Rickie Lambert will be no strangers to each other when their sides Norwich and Southampton face each other on Wednesday night.
Following long careers that have spanned the Football League, the two veteran strikers meet in the Premier League for the first time.
But Lambert,30, and Holt, 31, know each other well – their paths crossed seven years ago when the pair formed a devastating partnership for Rochdale and they have been friends since.
Embrace: Holt and Lambert formed a devastating partnership at Rochdale
In half a season in League Two, Lambert and Holt struck 27 goals in just 24 matches and the team were pushing the top of the table.
Their manager at the time Steve Parkin remembers it well.
'They didn't take too long to settle and they hit it off straight away,' he said.
'Those two you could build a team around. When we had them together we were right up there. Playing at home on a pitch that wasn't great. They were two of the top three strikers in the league and we had them at our club.
'They worked because they were different. Both physical players but Holt is more aggressive whereas Rickie had more technique and ability. Grant was always getting in the box and scored a lot with his head. And Rickie always has that great ability to score free kicks. They complimented each other.
On the ball: Holt and Lambert have forged careers at Norwich and Southampton
'Rickie was always seen as a midfielder before he joined us. He had the ability to use the ball very well. When Rickie dropped into the hole to receive the ball Grant could stretch teams up top. It got Rickie the space to turn and he's very good at scoring outside the area.'
They got on as well off the pitch as they played on it – part of what made their partnership work so quickly.
Parkin added: 'They were very different. Rickie is quiet and unassuming. Holty was loud in the dressing room. But they got on very well. Full credit to them for getting into the Premier League. They have stretched their potential to the max.'
It was unfortunate for Rochdale that Holt was snapped up by Nottingham Forest in January 2006 and with the devastating partnership – that Parkin described as 'frightening' – broken the club ended up 14th.
Flat out: Lambert's goals have fired Southampton to consecutive promotions
But in those five months the pair competed against each other for goals.
Holt ended up with 15 during that period, two more than Lambert on 12. And the goal-scoring competition still resonates from the Saints striker when he recalls it.
'He was leading goalscorer and I was a couple behind him – he was on the penalties though!' Lambert said.
'It was a really good partnership and he got the move to Nottingham Forest which disrupted it and I was gutted. We hit it off straight away. He's a great lad to have around the dressing room and we're still good friends.'
'I did all the running and he just stood there. I was putting all the balls in for him to score,' Lambert added with a laugh.
'It's been an unusual situation the career paths we've had and for him to do what I've done a season before it's given me the confidence to do what he does. It's been a pleasure to watch the way his career has gone in the past few years and that's what I try to emulate. I knew straight away Grant was a little bit special so I was made up to be playing with someone like him. I haven't seen him for a while, but it'll only be nice if we beat them.'
Lambert moved to Bristol Rovers and then Southampton and his goals have fired them to back-to-back promotions into the Premier League.
Holt moved from Forest, on loan to Blackpool, to Shrewsbury and then Norwich where his goals helped them to two consecutive promotions into the top tier.
Seven years on the two meet again in the Premier League for the first time. The similarities between their careers is uncanny – and both will want to be leading scorer in the fixture today.