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Chris Lakey: Hankies out, folks, it’s going to be emotional as Wes waves goodbye

Wes Hoolahan and Grant Holt, partners in the crime of the unknown, and the exciting. Picture: PAUL CHESTERTON/FOCUS IMAGES LTD

Wes Hoolahan and Grant Holt, partners in the crime of the unknown, and the exciting. Picture: PAUL CHESTERTON/FOCUS IMAGES LTD

©Focus Images Limited www.focus-images.co.uk +447814 482222

There won’t be a dry eye in the house as Carrow Road says goodbye to Wes Hoolahan today.

An open top bus parade for the wee man might just about ensure everyone who wants to say thank you gets to do so.

And all this despite the fact we have known for ages that this day, when Wes makes his final appearance for Norwich City, will come. Yet we are far from prepared for it, in an emotional sense.

So what actually will we miss? Well, we do, in any walk of life, have a tendency to build up people we admire to ridiculous levels, to the point of deification. It’s only natural, because, despite the world becoming smaller and smaller, we each occupy only a minute piece of it. And in that minute piece of it, Wes Hoolahan has been important.

Wes encapsulates what many require of their sporting entertainment: an abundance of talent, skills that others rarely attempt, and the risk factor. Maybe the tears will be for a lost art - the art of the unknown.

With Hoolahan, the daring pass, the extra twist and turn, the audacious chip, whatever it was, didn’t always come off. But most of us forgave him, because he attempted it, he tried to entertain the paying customer. He tried to make it all an enjoyable experience.

Not for him the regimented way of playing beloved by some of our leading managers, which produces sterile football and handcuffs the best players.

Get there early!

That Hoolahan tried to turn on the style was perhaps perplexing to a few managers who weren’t sure whether to indulge him, or simply to cut out the risk factor and not play him.

Paul Lambert did the right thing and played him at the tip of a diamond in a team dominated by another great character and huge talent, Grant Holt. And I think having Holt there took the heat off Hoolahan. Instead of everyone looking at the Irishman and wondering what he was going to do next, they looked at Holt, to see when he was going to score. And because they were on the same wavelength, score he did, and Hoolahan was king of the assists.

Hoolahan and Holt were mavericks. They didn’t quite conform. But we loved them because they entertained. When they scored they celebrated. No sulky response like Cameron Jerome (the worst goal celebrator I have ever seen). It was the same pure pleasure enjoyed by the fans. Which is why they were favourites.

And then there was Wes’ demeanour and loyalty. Only once, when Aston Villa were showing more than a passing interest, did that waver. A goal at Villa not properly celebrated, an off-the-cuff remark shamefully repeated publicly by a TV reporter who should have known better. So what? Wes had a grump on with his employers. Tell me someone who hasn’t.

I reckon Wes would have had many suitors over the years, but the Villa interest was the only time it really bothered anyone. Instead of him moving to the Midlands, Wes stayed put.

For 10 years. That is an awful long time in football – you are either really, really good or really, really loyal. Or both. Like Wes. Like Messi at Barcelona.

The fan comments I have read this week have been almost exclusively thankful he spent most of his career in Norfolk.

The very few who haven’t been quite as positive include a few 
who take themselves far too seriously.

Wes Hoolahan’s talents were the envy of almost every opponent he came up against and beloved by those who saw them. His relationship with fans of all ages was superb, and that will be in evidence this afternoon at Carrow Road as we say goodbye.

Hankies out, people.

Travel sick

A former colleague, who was foreign editor of the newspaper we worked on, spent a week or two in Myanmar, for work purposes.

During the trip, every time he moved, a member of the military junta moved with him. Not a soldier in uniform, more a travel guide, which is what countries like Myanmar and China ‘provide’ to help make things easier. Sort of.

Myanmar is the military name for Burma so, by using it, we support the shabby regime that runs the place.

Which makes the news that Leeds are heading there for a pre-season tour a lot more than simply intriguing. Your view may be that countries like Myanmar should be shunned, whilst others may say it opens them up to the rest of the world, and to reform. Very general, simple reasoning, but you get the gist.

The tour is being sponsored by AYA, a private Myanmar bank implicated in ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya people in the north of the country, which has led to horrible deaths of thousands of innocent people.

Me, I’d say Leeds should think again. But then, if you can detach yourself for a moment from the atrocities being committed in Myanmar, you begin to think of other places in our sport we should think twice about visiting.

Like Russia, which is about to host a World Cup despite the background of Syria and its involvement in alleged chemical attacks, and the poisoning of two people on our own soil, the blame for which is being laid at Vladimir Putin’s door.

Or maybe Qatar, which granted the right to host the next World Cup amid claims of corruption in the bidding process - and is still dogged by political concerns.

Or maybe China, with whom club owners in this country have an unholy alliance. Clubs are clambering over themselves to play tours there, given the lucrative market available - whilst conveniently ignoring its awful human rights record.

What about Saudi Arabia which has a commercial agreement with Manchester United to help develop the Saudi football industry.

“The best PR machine in the world cannot gloss over Saudi Arabia’s dismal human rights record,” says Amnesty International.

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