Getting better with age is no accident for Norwich City’s evergreen Wes Hoolahan
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Wes Hoolahan is enjoying his football more than ever before – and he's working to extend his Norwich City career as long as possible.
The Canaries' fifth win from six Championship home games lifted them top of the table, where they remain there following Huddersfield's home defeat to Sheffield Wednesday yesterday. City's win was driven by another master class from a true City great, set to notch 300 appearances and maybe 50 goals over the coming weeks. Certainly his opener against Rotherham on Saturday, when he latched on to Alex Pritchard's pass before coolly sidestepping a defender and sliding the ball home, was one of the goals of the weekend.
'Yeah, I'm enjoying my football more than ever,' said Hoolahan. 'As you get older you appreciate it a lot more. It's not often at the age of 34, you're enjoying yourself playing football and I think every game now you just enjoy as much as you can.
'When I was 18, 19, thinking about being 34 and still playing at the top level, I'd have loved it. I'm very lucky. I'm doing as much as I can to preserve it. It's your career. You've got to look after yourself. You don't know when you're going to retire. But being 34 you want to enjoy every moment that you can and keep it going as long as you want to.'
You get the impression Norwich are reaping the rewards of a little bit of chemistry at the moment.
Of course, the blend of Hoolahan and Carrow Road has rarely been anything other than a joy to witness when the reaction starts – but two more are also starting to bubble to the surface.
It feels like it misses the point of Hoolahan's career-best consistency to pin its success on someone other than the man himself.
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But likewise, it's hard to ignore the affect City boss Alex Neil is having on the club's longest serving player – and a man not quite a year his senior.
'He is older than me, just… Just about,' smiled Hoolahan. 'But that's all right. He's the gaffer, he's the boss and he says the last word at the end of the day.
'I'm a lot older now and I can go in and tell him what's going on, or he can come and speak to me. We have a good relationship on and off the pitch, so it's good.
'He came in halfway through the season when we got promoted from the Championship – and now he has us from the start this time, you can see the results we've been having and hopefully we can keep it going.'
The other partnership is more in its infancy – however the signs were hard to ignore. In fact, Hoolahan and Alex Pritchard even flagged up the potential chemistry before Saturday's game kicked off.
It may prove the pair had the perfect conditions to thrive; conditions unlikely to be recreated every week. But when the time is right, the sparks seem set to fly – exemplified by Hoolahan's gorgeous opening goal unlocked by Pritchard's faultless piece of vision.
'It was the first time we've played with each other and we were saying it before the game, that it's nice we could play with each other,' said City's Irish international.
'You could see his movement and my movement – we're on the same wavelength. You can see that in training as well, and it's nice to get an assist from him.
'It was a great pick-out, it's come to me and I've probably let them know I'd shoot a few times and the keeper's gone down, so I've put it in the bottom there.
'There were some good moments with Alex. He's a very clever player and he's come from Tottenham Hotspur, so he's got a lot of quality.
'That was his first start in the Championship for us, and I think he showed the gaffer what he can do.'
As did Alex Neil's squad, who for all the apparent Carrow Road jitters, have now dropped just two points home in their six league games.
'It's a good performance,' added Hoolahan. 'We created a lot of chances and could have been two or three up at half-time. But we stuck at it and got the win in the end.
'You've got to have good home form if you're going to win this league or get promoted, and we've had a good few wins here already. Hopefully we keep it going.'