Wes Hoolahan's fine form in recent weeks has made him one of Norwich Citys most prized assets.

Opinion: Norwich City lynchpin Wes Hoolahan worthy of new deal

Thursday, November 22, 2012
3.49 PM

Rumours of our Wesley house hunting somewhere other than the Norwich area, because his “future is unclear” prompted one or two flutters at the weekend.

Until you realise that the headline on the story (not ours) wasn’t exactly backed up by the words underneath, which said Hoolahan might leave in January because he is unhappy the club haven’t offered him a new deal. Again, their words, not mine.

A year and a half seems a long time away, and while clubs are always claiming the players hold all the aces when it comes to negotiations, I know of no other profession where the employee can, if he feels the need, create a situation where he becomes a saleable asset ... that the employer might not want to sell.

Hoolahan is only an example of one of the many curiosities of the game of football. Even if I were the next best thing to sliced bread at Archant Towers, the thought of going to my gaffer and demanding a new, improved contract just wouldn’t occur to me. He has already told me what the reply would be ...

I can’t quite work out, though, whether player contract stories are the stuff of dreams, drawn up on a bad day simply by Googling a name, checking when his last contract was signed, doing the simplest of calculations and dividing the result in months by said player’s Premier League status.

If he’s an A-plus player of some standing, then it’s a story if he is within four years of his deal expiring. If he’s a Z-lister, it’s a couple of months.

Wes, for City fans, is top drawer; at the moment, he is playing out of his skin. To lose him would be very careless, although you do get the feeling that Chris Hughton has discovered rather more quickly than one or two others what he is capable of.

Anthony Pilkington’s goal against Manchester United came as a result of Hoolahan striding confidently past a couple of United midfielders, before playing it left to Javier Garrido to cross. If you look at Hoolahan, when he takes on players the ball is always at his feet; there is rarely a gap of more than a few inches between boot and ball. He owns the ball, it is his to play with and to tease opponents with.

The issue other managers have had is where to play him.

Glenn Roeder bought him from Blackpool, but often played him wide left. He is never in a million years a speed merchant, a la Darren Huckerby, but his particular specialities were wasted out there, when he could be doing better things in the middle of the park.

I don’t recall him getting that opportunity under Roeder, nor under Bryan Gunn – and apart from last weekend’s indecently short appearance for the Republic of Ireland, under Giovanni Trapattoni.

It was Paul Lambert who eventually put him into the round hole, at the top of the diamond, although there was a time when the Irishman looked to be on his way. Playing in a reserves game at Peterborough United alongside Gary Doherty, wasn’t in the plan.

The writing, it seemed, was on the wall. But Hoolahan, to his credit, buckled down, worked his socks off, and through his performances, convinced Lambert his services were indispensable.

They remain that way. He is a lynchpin of this side and fast becoming part of Norwich City folklore. If he wants a new contract, give him it.


Anthony Pilkington was, quite rightly, the subject of some adulation at the weekend.

His header – which immediately reminded me of Bobby Charlton’s during the 1968 European Cup final, albeit coming from a cross from the left rather than the right – was as sublime as the final scoreline (Norwich 1 Manchester United 0, for the stragglers). One would imagine Pilkington could have had the freedom of the city on Saturday night. And Sunday night. And Monday night...

Actually, he wouldn’t have needed it on Monday, because he popped up unexpectedly at Thorpe School, where Norwich City’s Under-13s girls team were training.

It was a cold, wet November evening, but he watched some training and then chatted with the girls. “Any Manchester United fans here?” he asked. There were – I know of one who put her hand up straight away.

My spy tells me they were thrilled that a chap who could well have been doing other things – perfecting that hairstyle, writing his memoirs, or just gloating – chose to take a look at football at its best.

Nice one.