Lee Payne: Let's appreciate Wes Hoolahan at Norwich City...while we still can
PUBLISHED: 09:42 13 March 2018 | UPDATED: 09:57 13 March 2018
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Norwich City's trip to Hull raised many talking points.
How could the defence suddenly look so brittle, having been so solid recently?
What on earth was the referee doing awarding four penalties in one game?
Do we deserve James Maddison?
I won’t be discussing any of those here, though, as I wasn’t at the KC Stadium on Saturday and I feel it would be dishonest to attempt to speak with any authority on a match I didn’t see.
Instead, as that most Irish of days - St. Patrick’s Day - approaches this week, I wish to write in glowing terms about City’s little magician from the Emerald Isle. I am, of course, referring to Wes Hoolahan.
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Two months away from turning 36, Wes recently retired from international football and his future as a Norwich player is uncertain as he has struggled to get time on the pitch in Daniel Farke’s brave new world. But he was brought to my mind again last week when he came on as a substitute against Nottingham Forest.
City were struggling to find a way through the Forest defence and, entering the play in the second half, Hoolahan demonstrated that he is still very much our most creative player. And, no, I haven’t forgotten about Maddison. Wes is still the master at opening the door for his team.
Wes couldn’t quite make the difference, but in the short time he was on the field he played passes and swung in crosses that many of his peers would not have been capable of spotting, let alone executing.
Each time he got the ball, I raised a little from my seat without even noticing.
You get the feeling that when Wes gets the ball, something might be about to happen. And until that feeling is no longer there, I want Wes Hoolahan around my club.
I got my first season ticket for the 2008-09 season, which happened to be Hoolahan’s first season with Norwich City.
For all his faults, he was a Glenn Roeder signing and the deal to bring him to Carrow Road from Blackpool was Roeder’s best decision in his time in charge at Carrow Road. Granted, that’s not saying much, but at £250,000 he was a bargain and possibly the best investment the club has made in living memory.
Hoolahan scored his first Norwich goal in Bryan Gunn’s first game as caretaker boss, a 4-0 win over Barnsley, and has gone on to score a further 52 in all competitions having made more than 300 appearances. He has scored in League One, the Championship and the Premier League.
Watching him on the field, you would never guess that this is a man in his mid thirties.
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He skates around the pitch, weaving around defenders like a teenager.
You only start to realise that Wes is getting on a bit when he starts to run out of steam the longer he’s out there for.
While we’ve been enjoying bearing witness to Wes for a decade, across three divisions, as City fans we’ve been left baffled by the lack of action he has seen for his country.
He retired last month after earning a mere 43 caps for the Republic of Ireland, a figure which seems criminally low given the paucity of creative Irish players during his career.
He probably should have had double that number, but at least he got to play at a major tournament – Euro 2016 – and scored a memorable goal against Sweden.
I guess I’m using this tenuous link to St. Patrick’s Day to issue a plea to my fellow Norwich fans - appreciate Wes while he’s still here.
The end is nearing and we will miss him terribly.
Appreciate what a player he has been for us.
Buy tickets to his testimonial match, should one take place. And be thankful that you were able to see the Irish Messi at work.