Wes Hoolahan is in the twilight zone as Norwich City’s hoodoo match at Fulham looms
PUBLISHED: 07:00 17 October 2016
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“I wish we were back in League One.” It’s not a phrase you’ll hear many Norwich City fans mutter, but it’s a refrain I often consider when faced with the prospect of a dull international weekend.
Of course, having to watch City in the third tier of English football isn’t something I’d wish to see repeated, but being able to watch league action while the top two divisions had their campaigns interrupted was definitely preferable to a second fortnight’s break in as many months.
Back in 2009/10, though, Norwich could play their first choice XI without any concerns over missing internationals.
Unlike the past fortnight, where nine members of the squad were racking up air miles all over to turn out for their national sides.
Unbelievably, Wes Hoolahan, who made his international debut in 2008, was helping City romp to the League One title while the then Republic of Ireland manager Giovanni Trappatoni waited until 2012 to honour him with a second call-up.
Fast-forward seven seasons and the diminutive Irishman is putting in Man of the Match performances for his country in World Cup qualifiers.
Instead of watching him make assists and score goals against the likes of Carlisle and Colchester on these weekends, we are watching him do so for the Boys in Green instead.
While the past week has been dominated by debate over Wayne Rooney’s international future at 31, Hoolahan seems to be getting better with age and at 34 is producing some of his most sparkling displays in a yellow and green shirt.
His superb opener in Saturday’s win over Rotherham had defenders falling at his feet as he twisted and turned his way past them before coolly slotting it in the net.
A vintage Wes goal, one of many that the Carrow Road crowd has been treated to in the last eight years and further proof that he’ll be integral to the success of this campaign.
On an afternoon where the scoreline could have looked far more handsome, the link-up play between Hoolahan and Alex Pritchard was at times delightful.
Yes, Norwich should have scored more goals, but far more concerning was conceding what has become an almost obligatory sloppy goal.
It was the fifth time in the last six Championship games that Norwich have conceded when winning by a two-goal margin, and it’s fortunate that City have been made to pay for it on only one occasion.
That tendency to put ourselves under needless pressure when comfortable is worrying, as is the fact that Norwich have gone two months in the league without a clean sheet.
Defensive lapses aside, Norwich deserve to be top of the table.
While eradicating those errors will be high on his list of priorities, taking 18 points from the last 21 must have given him a great deal of satisfaction.
While it’s rightly been identified as a weakness, as Neil pointed out, Norwich deserve to be top of the table.
Cutting out those errors will be high on his priorities, but taking 18 points from the last 21 is an impressive record.
Next up it’s a trip to Craven Cottage tomorrow evening. Fulham, while unbeaten away, haven’t won at home since the opening day of the season when, ironically, they beat Newcastle United.
You have to go back to January 1986 for the last Norwich win there and travelling supporters have had to endure some truly miserable encounters in West London since. Now seems as good a time as ever to eradicate a 30-year hoodoo.