Michael Bailey: Class and a lack of, hope and nostalgia, Mario and Madders – six things learned from Wes’ big day
PUBLISHED: 07:41 30 April 2018 | UPDATED: 07:41 30 April 2018
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It was Wes Hoolahan’s day at Carrow Road, but we weren’t short of subplots either – MICHAEL BAILEY delivers his six things learned from Norwich City’s home finalé victory over grumpy Leeds United.
1 – Now that’s how to say goodbye
So it’s all over. The end of an era and goodbye to a legend. Credit to the football club – that send off for Wes Hoolahan was everything a fond farewell should be.
No doubt some will think it got a little out of hand. Maybe that it was even overdone. After all, others have had even more success, scored even more goals, earned even more love from those that adore the Canaries.
But the thing with Wes is it will never come down to the stats, goals, assists, promotions versus relegations or any digits written in a book.
It took Wes minutes of his farewell game to produce a back heel – one that made space and opportunity, rather than simply a spectacle in its own right. His joy at scoring was outdone by his greater delight at assisting.
Between that, all the tears and all the affection, shone the reality. The joy of watching a man as gifted as Wes, for 10 years at our club. The stories are why his name will live long beyond Leeds.
2 – There will be more to follow (again)
Everyone accepted Wes would dominate Saturday – that exit is more than enough for most to bear. But let’s be clear, he will be far from the only one likely to call Saturday their final Carrow Road stint.
While there is genuine hope and a lot of work going into keeping Alex Tettey beyond the summer – maybe his Wes tribute video introduction sealed it? – as well as Moritz Leitner, the exit door is still going to be needed.
It was telling that Carrow Road made sure Angus Gunn knew how they felt about him one last time, while Harrison Reed will be keeping a close eye on Southampton’s remaining fixtures.
From Russell Martin to anyone else on a sizeable contract, their future carries a huge question mark.
And then there’s James Maddison. A prodigious talent whose level, in his own words, may have dropped in recent weeks. I struggle to see a scenario where he’s still here in July – but I am still happy we saw him here at all.
3 – The Canaries’ shoots will need water
Getting bogged down in who will depart City between now and next season’s big kick-off is entirely understandable. But it need not be the sole angle.
Not for the first time, the Canaries players who are set to hang around a little longer showed they have more than enough quality to cause teams problems next season – and without any more settling in required.
There should be no doubt now that Mario Vrancic is good enough for this level. His range of passing is being accompanied by some excellent work rate and a comfort that bodes well.
Meanwhile, Onel Hernandez is offering genuine excitement that a full campaign will ensure his smile really is contagious.
I’d like to think Daniel Farke would not have played Hoolahan, Vrancic, Leitner and Maddison all together had it not been Wes’ big day – yet it was more than enough to earn three Championship points, and some brownie points too.
4 – The reason all shouldn’t be lost for Nelson
That Nelson Oliveira’s final home game of the season came with a start plus some excellent work-rate and link-up play will be encouraging if City are searching for a summer fee for the striker.
While he didn’t carry so much of an individual goal threat, it is why people have continued to feel Oliveira would come good – harassing, working and weaving.
It is also why City’s issues have absolutely nothing to do with whether they opt to play one, two or three strikers beyond their creators.
The issues this season have of course been the antithesis of Nelson’s quiet but effective outing. By contrast the fallouts, friction and lessons have preoccupied and distracted a group that was going to need maximum time to gel without it.
While Oliveira himself loves it here, that may not prove enough to see him wearing City’s number nine shirt next season – if so, that’s a replacement City simply have to get right.
5 – They’d still swap Yorkshire for Norfolk
Leeds, Leeds are falling apart, again – so sang the United fans at Carrow Road, which I would have felt was a shame given part of me had thought it might be nice to see a genuine giant get over their slump and return to take on the big boys.
And in August I actually felt this could be the season: a decent manager with some excellent recruitment – who in flashes on Saturday, still showed what they’ve got.
What’s more, former City defender Paul Heckingbottom had got his big gig off the back of some sterling work with Barnsley. He seems a good guy and it’d be great to see him continue building his strong reputation.
But you know what, forget that. There are only one or two clubs who, had they been facing City on Saturday, would have had fans who booed off Wes Hoolahan.
An utter lack of class. They should have been grateful that at least it wasn’t one of the many players who had seen the light and swapped Leeds for Norfolk.
6 – We’ve got one game too many
No one inside Carrow Road is allowed to feel this, by the way – but let’s be frank. The season could’ve really done with ending on Saturday.
The positivity, victory and romance of Wes Hoolahan’s big goodbye was perfect – if almost entirely out of kilter with the campaign most Canaries supporters will feel they have experienced.
And yet, albeit without Hoolahan, it’s a trip to Sheffield Wednesday on Sunday that really finishes the deal. Where the Owls’ own dismal season has shown some shoots of recovery heading into the summer – alongside Fernando Forestieri’s return to fitness and form.
There’s an irony that Hillsborough is where Dion Dublin got a City goodbye and Darren Huckerby didn’t.
Still, it may be that we learn much more about where Norwich are ahead of next season come Sunday afternoon. What is guaranteed is that game will now set a City summer’s worth of tone.
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