David Hannant: Emi Buendia is mending my broken heart over Wes Hoolahan
PUBLISHED: 19:00 17 March 2019 | UPDATED: 10:30 18 March 2019
Before I plunge two-footed, Muscat-like, into this piece I should point out that it is going to contain some slightly exaggerated melodrama to hammer home a point.
It was around this time last year we learned Wes Hoolahan’s 10-year stay at Norwich City was coming to an end.
It was a sad time, but I think one we all knew would have to arrive at some point - not even Wessi is immortal - but nonetheless one that was devastating.
I’ve never been shy about expressing my love for the little Irish wizard, it was an absolute joy to watch him play and I still think he’s my favourite ever City player - for many reasons.
I also still maintain what I said at the time about there never likely being another Wesley Cantona Hoolahan. To a certain degree anyway.
Obviously, I am aware there are players out there with similar traits to Wes and, even more obviously there are players out there with greater natural talent than him. Say, Lionel Messi.
However, I honestly struggled to believe we would see one pull on a Norwich City shirt. We, of course, get great players, but I certainly didn’t expect somebody to come along the very next season.
However, what we’ve seen of Emi Buendia of late has felt like Wessi’s apparition.
So much of what he’s been doing has been Wes-like - the quick thinking, the daringness to try something that almost certainly won’t come off, the sheer presence of mind in his play.
And that flick. It was exactly the kind of moment of brilliance that Wes used to pull off which used to bring about genuine gasps from the crowd on a regular basis.
Funny story about that moment actually, when Pukki found the ball stuck under his feet, I turned to my dad, feeling the moment had gone and said “that flick deserved a goal”. In hindsight, the fact Pukki returned the favour with a gorgeous touch of its own and Emi himself finished it made it even better than had the Finn finished.
Now, as outrageous as Emi has been this season, I’m not quite ready to officially dub him the new Wes Hoolahan - were I not so petrified of needles I would probably have Wessi’s face already tattooed on my chest. But the football heaven the Argentine has been producing is certainly going a long way to filling the void.
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I got a bit wrong a while back for suggesting that Alex Pritchard leaving wasn’t the end of the world, citing the way Wes had mended our broken hearts over the end of the Huckerby-era.
And my point that day still kind of stands here - new heroes will always come along. This season, we began without one of the biggest (in stature, not height) but a new crop has risen.
Emi Buendia, I feel, is turning into the perfect example of this.
While he’s playing in a slightly different position to Wes, he’s providing in very much the same way as Wes did - and Hucks before him, in fact.
He’s dishing up little pieces of individual brilliance, the touches, the through balls, the flicks.
He’s serving up excitement in the most decadent of forms.
However, there is one major difference between the two play-makers - Emi’s doggedness.
Every week my dad says at some point during the game that Emi is “like a dog with a bone”.
He does have a point though, even if it is one he does make over and over (and over).
When was the last time you saw Emi misplace a pass and then not charge however far he needs to charge it down?
That isn’t to say Wes didn’t show commitment, but he wasn’t nearly as downright impossible to shake off as City’s number 17.
As a player, he really is looking the complete package, as so many in the set up look right now.
Naturally talented, tick.
Technically gifted, tick tick.
A team player, big tick.
Football heaven, massive tick.
There is, for all intents and purposes, though, just one thing that is stopping me from officially naming Emi as heir to the Hoolahan throne - and it’s something I would be over the moon to be proved wrong on.
And that is the one thing that made Wes Hoolahan well and truly unique: his longevity.
Wes Hoolahan delighted Norwich City fans for a decade.
Sadly, I think we can be fairly confident that Emi Buendia will not delight Norwich City fans for a decade. Or at least not as a Norwich City player.
Keep up what he’s doing and he will make the club a heck of a lot of profit - Maddison-type profit. If not more. But he won’t be knocking around here a decade.
Such is the reality of supporting a middle-to-big sized club, we just have to enjoy these special talents while they’re still around. Or perhaps Emi can prove me wrong!
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