Two weeks have passed since Grant Holt announced his retirement, yet the response from fans, pundits and players still warms the striker. "You don’t know if people will be that bothered, because it's been a long time since I was in the Premier League," says Holt, who admits he was surprised at the volume and profile of some of the messages.

"Someone mentioned it was on the BBC. It might sound stupid, but you don't think you're gonna make that level. I've had a good career, but not really as high as others. The likes of Henry Winter [chief football correspondent at The Times ] mentioning it…I suppose it means you've done something good along the way."

Holt's decision to end his playing days at 37 was confirmed along with the acceptance of a new coaching and ambassadorial role at Norwich City. He has also been appointed director of football at Langley School, where the Canaries' academy players are educated.

It is the next stage of a remarkable story for the Carlisle man, who made a fairytale rise from Cumbrian non-league football. Retirement may feel like a big decision but Holt was keen to get its timing right.

"You know it [retirement] is gonna come, so you've got to embrace it," he says. "I could have played on, but you can't keep turning stuff down. I've got a fantastic opportunity to learn from all different areas at Norwich - teaching the kids, working with the 23s, the 18s, looking at players; a real mixed bag.

"As well as the opportunity to work in the school, my weekends are free now, so I can do some scouting, some BT [television] work, and more time with the family. Last Saturday was lovely, because I got the chance to spend all day with the kids.

"You'll always miss that three o'clock buzz. I went past Carrow Road the other Saturday thinking, 'I could have been on that pitch'. But the reality is, you can't. I've done all that."

Holt's ultimate ambition is to become a manager, yet at this time of looking forward it is irresistible to glance back, given his tale: rejection at his home-city club, a tyre-fitting apprenticeship whilst playing for Workington Reds, then a stunning climb.

Nothing comes easier to mind than the hour of his greatest step, with Norwich, in 2011. "Someone asked me what was my most memorable moment," he says. "It was the day we got promoted at Portsmouth, and knowing that next year, we were gonna be in the Premier League, and on Match of the Day . The goals are fantastic [memories], but the realisation I was going to be called a Premier League footballer was phenomenal.

"We had a group of players who had never been there, who knew nobody was gonna buy us in the Prem. We knew we needed to do it for ourselves. Personally, it was a case of thinking how hard I'd worked to get there, the things people don't see, the travelling to places like Exeter, being on trial, the hours I did when I worked.

"I think everyone takes that for granted a little bit. That's one thing I learned - to back myself to achieve what I wanted, as long as I worked hard."

The memory of his father, George, who died from cancer in 1999, has been a strong and constant partner. "As a kid, if we played tennis, he wouldn't let you win," Holt says. "At football, he used to come down to the park with us, in the snow, still with his shorts on and boots on, and he wouldn't let you win.

"If he had to take you down for a penalty and hoped you'd miss it, he would do. It was that will to win, that ethos."

Holt, throughout his career, has often "spoken" to his late father. "It's something I always do," he says. "Some believe in it, some don't. I believe he's there, watching. At certain times in my career he's probably smiled and at other times he's probably swore. But I always believe he's looking down, trying to help me. Would he be smiling at what I achieved? Yes, I think he would."

Those achievements gathered initial pace at Workington, after Holt, from Harraby, was picked up from amateur football. "I'd left Carlisle, from the youth system, and got a bit disillusioned. I went back to playing with my mates, and for the working men's team, and it did me the world of good. I started enjoying football again.

"I was playing Sunday morning football at 15, learning how to jump out of tackles, and if you're gonna get kicked, kick someone harder. Then Workington approached me and offered me to play for £50 a week. All I thought was, well, that's £50 a week more in my wages."

Holt remembers his North-West Trains League introduction: a red card for a "stupid" tackle in the reserves, then a call-up to cover an injury at right wing-back. This was his route into the side which saw Holt then move up front and have a late-season scoring flurry, also replacing the injured talisman Paul Stewart to score a promotion-clinching goal.

"Within the space of seven months I was in the League with Halifax," he says. "Then it changed - you think you've got a career at that point. Then, what happened to my dad gave me a bit of a road block. I was then fortunate to bump into Kenny Lowe at Barrow, who told me to get my finger out."

Holt claims he was "lucky" to work under certain other managers - Steve Parkin at Rochdale, Paul Simpson at Shrewsbury, Paul Lambert at Norwich - who similarly unlocked his potential. Holker Street, under Lowe, was a firm grounding. "A lot of the lads at Barrow were on £75 a win. We had a group of players who I knew were relying on me to help pay their mortgage. You had to work as hard as you can to win football matches. That stayed in me."

Holt sees the same work ethic "embedded" in other non-league success stories, like Glenn Murray, also once of Workington. Murray also played for Carlisle, but Holt did not, despite a yearning which should have been satisfied in 2002, when, after a spell in Singapore, he was taken on trial by manager Roddy Collins.

"It was all agreed. I was in the building for a month and a half, then it disappeared," he says. "I only scored two goals in three games against Newcastle and Celtic, so obviously it wasn't enough…

"I've been close at other times, like when I went from Nottingham Forest to Shrewsbury [in 2008], and they [Carlisle] said I wasn't worth the money [around £170,000]. They can be the judge of whether it was good money or not. So yes, it's a regret, but on the other hand, if I did go up there, would I have left?

"When it didn’t happen, and I went to Shrewsbury, other clubs had also looked and felt I wasn't right for them. I said, 'Right, I'll show you'. And then I went to Norwich for £400,000."

Holt's time at Carrow Road - 78 goals and two promotions in 168 games - made him a legend in a yellow shirt. It included one season (2011/12) when he outscored nearly every English striker in the Premier League, and produced memorable goals, including one at Liverpool's Kop end.

His battle-hardened attitude also endeared him to supporters, and wound up the enemy. "I've had everything," he says of terrace stick. "Big lad shouts, you fat so-and-so, you cheat, you this and that. I always embraced it because I'd done it myself when I was a Carlisle fan.

"Sometimes it gets taken too far, but without it, football's not as enjoyable. I remember once at Swansea, I'd had a spat with someone on Twitter, and when I touched the ball, 25,000 fans booed. It carried on for the rest of the game but they didn't say anything at the end when they got beat 3-2 and I scored two.

"I've had it all over. I remember getting dog's abuse off Coventry fans. The snow was everywhere but the game was on, they were beating us 1-0 but we got it back to 1-1. We went down to 10 men, they hit the bar, we went up the other end and I scored off a corner to make it 2-1.

"I jumped in the snow and I was getting snowballs chucked at me. You're just laughing inside. Those things give you your memories. You have to be thick-skinned, but you also have to remember that, without fans, the game wouldn't work. No-one would walk through the door. You'd see none of the money that's in it now. Football's in trouble without the fans."

Holt describes his toughest time as "Wigan, without a doubt" - where a big-money move faltered through the departure of manager Owen Coyle, the cold shoulder from Uwe Rosler and two serious knee injuries, one to his anterior cruciate ligament.

"I was 33. It could easily have finished me. Thankfully I got back on the pitch, and it makes it far sweeter when you do that and enjoy it again." This he did briefly back at another of his former clubs, Rochdale, then in a promotion-winning season at Hibernian, before rounding off as player-coach back at Barrow.

A substantial story, over in a flash - but also with an surprising coda, for Holt is also in training for a wrestling event next year. "There's a company here called WAW [World Association of Wrestling] and Rob Butler, who works for BBC Norfolk , does a bit for them.

"I said I'd come and do some refereeing. He then asked how I'd feel about doing a guest spot at a big event, and 10 per cent of what was made would go to charity. I asked what I'd need to do, and he said turn up and take part in a wrestling match.

"I said no problem - if I can go and chuck a few people around, which I've done every Saturday anyway, I might as well do it to raise some money."

As his new football life opens up, Holt laughs at this unlikely diversion. "It's a bit of fun. I get bored doing the same stuff in training all the time, so anything I can do to keep my mind stimulated is fantastic. Until next year it's more about learning the ropes of it, anyway. So I'll have to get the Shawn Michaels and Brett the Hitman Hart videos out."