It was weird going away for the summer knowing I’d return as a Premier League player with Norwich. It wasn’t something I had ever dreamed would happen and yet, here I was: Grant Holt, Premier League striker.

It definitely had more of a ring to it than Unibond striker.

Our first match was away at Wigan. Now, with all due respect, that didn’t exactly scream ‘Premier League’…until you got to their ground. It didn’t matter which stadium you were at, they all felt big time.

As soon as you came out of the tunnel you’d see BBC, Sky, Premier League TV. Everywhere you looked you had a camera following you.

We got a decent 1-1 draw but I still don’t think it quite resonated that I was in the Premier League. Two weeks later, we went to Stamford Bridge, and that’s when it really hit home.

We knew the likelihood was we’d get spanked, but you wanted to give your all. When we exchanged team-sheets ahead of kick-off, it all hit me. Cully [Ian Culverhouse] and me were both laughing while walking back to the dressing room, reading the names: Drogba, Lampard, Torres, Cole, Ivanovic.

The bench wasn’t too shabby either: Lukaku. Anelka. Mata. Yep, this was the Premier League.

We played well and were just 1-0 down in the 63rd minute. Just after, a cross came in and I was thinking, ‘Where’s their keeper going? He’s never getting this ball.’ I was going to go for the header but then saw a defender flying in too, so I decided to let them both go for it, as they looked like they were about to smash into each other.

I backed off, they collided and the ball dropped in front of me. I had my back to goal, so took the split-second decision to hook it over my shoulder and hoped for the best.

It looped straight in. I couldn’t believe it! My first Premier League goal, and it’s at Stamford Bridge.

I ran off, and as everyone was jumping on me, I started thinking that it was such a shame my dad didn’t get to see it. Those sort of moments were always tinged with sadness because of that.

Our 2-1 defeat at home to Manchester United in February showed what a tough league it was, too. Paul Scholes put them ahead early, and David de Gea pulled off some sensational saves before I got an equaliser in the 83rd minute.

I held off Rio Ferdinand – not bad – and fired it into the top corner from just inside the box.

We thought we’d done enough, but then Ryan Giggs popped up in the 89th minute to win it for them on his 900th appearance.

It was the most surreal match I’d ever played in. I’d loved Man United as a kid and I pretended to be Scholes and Giggs when kicking a ball around in the park. Now, aged 30, I was playing against them. I was even marking Scholes for most of the match! In a Premier League game! He was just ridiculous. It’s not often you get starstruck, but he was 36 and I could not imagine how good he would have been at 25.

I was gutted to lose, but to have ‘Norwich City 1-2 Manchester United, goalscorers Grant Holt, Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs’ forever in the record books means a lot to me.

The following season when we played them, I went in to do the team-sheets and Sir Alex Ferguson was there.

He said: "Hello, Grant, how are you?"

Sir Alex Ferguson was saying that to me! I acted as cool as I could, and we had a quick conversation. I walked away buzzing. Sir Alex Ferguson knew my name! How had that happened! I think that was my biggest achievement in football: someone of his calibre, a genuine legend, knowing who the hell I was.

Not bad for a fat lad from Carlisle.

When we rolled into Anfield that season, I was named on the bench and told myself to soak it all in. It felt amazing that the legendary Kenny Dalglish was just yards away in the Liverpool dugout, but of course I just wanted to get on.

On the 57th minute I got the call. I ran onto that pitch and just thought, ‘Wow, How have I done this?’ From Workington in the ninth tier to coming on at Anfield in the Premier League...

Straight away I got the ball, rolled someone and got a shot off that Pepe Reina saved. Three minutes later, Anthony Pilkington sent over a fantastic cross and I powered my way through Jamie Carragher and Glen Johnson and, with Reina flapping at thin air, I smashed in a header.

Not a bad impact. As I ran off to celebrate, I thought of [my wife] Fay’s dad, who was in the crowd and would have been swearing at me because he was a Liverpool fan.

Then I thought of my dad. He’d have loved it.

One of the side effects of scoring at Anfield and Stamford Bridge is you start getting noticed more. There’s more attention on you, and my ugly mug became more recognisable when I was out and about.

I remember going to London and there was a group of Chinese tourists on a guided tour, and when I walked past they all looked at me. The next minute I was getting chased down the road. "Mr, Holt, Mr Holt! Can we get a picture!"

It’s so bizarre when it happens, but you have to embrace it. Doing all the media stuff was good fun. I really liked it, probably because I never thought I’d ever play in the Premier League. So I knew I had to make the most of it, and not moan about it, and just enjoy it all.

I finished that season with 15 Premier League goals. I’d more than shown I could succeed at that level, but it also came with regrets about it taking so long to get there. If I’d got there at 26 or 27, I think I’d have ended up with far more Premier League appearances and goals, and maybe a better shot at playing for England.

But how can I have proper regrets when the fact I got there in the first place was barely believable?

A Real Football Life, by Grant Holt with Dan Brigham, is published by Twocan and is available via

*Tomorrow: Overawed by my Carlisle United heroes