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Paddy Davitt verdict: Barnum has nothing on Wes Hoolahan

PUBLISHED: 13:26 29 April 2018 | UPDATED: 13:30 29 April 2018

Wes Hoolahan went out in style with a first half goal in his final competitive Norwich City appearance. Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Wes Hoolahan went out in style with a first half goal in his final competitive Norwich City appearance. Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

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Leave them wanting more. Wes Hoolahan’s Norwich City exit would have given Barnum a run for his money.

The ‘Greatest Showman’ has a rival and he goes by the moniker of the ‘Irish Messi’.

What more is there to add to the avalanche of tributes, tears, reminiscences and a gloriously uplifting Carrow Road finale that tied all the strands together over a decade of highs and lows.

It was not all plain sailing for Wesley Patrick Cantona Hoolahan and Norwich City.

There were the periods where he had to win over a succession of managers who doubted they could harness his prodigious talent within the team template.

There was that rather public flirtation with Aston Villa in 2014, after a rejected transfer request, as he kicked his heels on the margins under Chris Hughton.

But be in no doubt, Hoolahan is now part of the footballing firmament in these parts.

The latest in a march through the ages, that indelibly links him to Gavin, Allcock, Keelan, Forbes, Gunn, Crook, Roberts, Huckerby, Lambert and Holt.

With apologies to many, many other legendary figures who have gone before.

The magic has been rationed under Daniel Farke with age and the emergence of James Maddison limiting the 35-year-old’s time front of house.

But this farewell against Leeds was a wonderful throwback; a reminder before Maddison there was another craftsman weaving patterns and mesmerising opponents.

Never mind retiring the number 14 shirt.

Those posts propping up the goal at the Barclay End should be preserved for posterity. Hoolahan’s 54th and final competitive strike for the Canaries was pure theatre.

Norwich City fans gave Wes Hoolahan a fitting send off. 
Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images LtdNorwich City fans gave Wes Hoolahan a fitting send off. Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Collecting the ball from Mario Vrancic’s sliding block he advanced and unleashed a left-footed effort that spiralled off the foot of a Leeds defender and arced over Bailey Peacock-Farrell, before kissing one upright and rolling agonisingly along the line to brush the opposite post.

The celebrations were volcanic.

Maddison was one of the first to mob his mentor; lifting him skywards as bedlam erupted.

Hoolahan looked to the heavens and clasped his hands together, with that huge trademark smile across his features, as he returned to the centre circle.

This was no divine intervention. This was a master at work.

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The assist for Josh Murphy’s winner in the second period secured a victory he had craved. Then it was time to take his leave.

Carrow Road can surely have never witnessed such a heightened outpouring of affection as the tears flowed on the pitch, in the technical area and all around the stands.

They were fleeting moments of conflicting emotions; relief, at a day which was superbly handled by the club before Hoolahan and his pals fulfilled their end of the bargain.

Sadness, that you will never see his like again, given the way modern football continues to evolve; where longevity is the preserve of only the very best in their profession.

Alas, Hoolahan and Norwich City is now the past tense.

In a season where progress at Carrow Road had been fitful and frustrating, this was the perfect send off for Hoolahan and his adoring public.

Perhaps only Timm Klose’s dramatic stoppage time equaliser, to deny Ipswich a priceless derby win, came anywhere near for box office thrills.

Hoolahan’s departure is the latest signal time waits for no footballer.

More of the old guard may depart over this coming summer.

Farke spoke again prior to thegame about the importance of retaining a core of young pretenders to Hoolahan’s crown.

Many will interpret that as whether Maddison can stay or the likes of Angus Gunn and Harrison Reed return on loan.

There was a touching embrace, in the midst of orchestrated pre-match tributes to the Irishman, when Maddison was announced as Hoolahan’s successor in winning the Barry Butler Memorial Trophy.

The Dubliner hugged the apprentice as he made his way to the presentation party.

The fear - given the financial reality impinging on City’s ability to mould a promotion-challenging squad - is that Maddison will now be spirited away to the Premier League.

Farke was quick to bat away such lines of questioning on whether we had also witnessed the last of any number of Hoolahan’s team mates in green and yellow at Carrow Road.

This was Wes’s day.

One goal, one assist and a decade of memories.

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