Norwich City ace Wes Hoolahan handed vital World Cup mission
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Wes Hoolahan has the green light to terrorise Austria and fire the Republic of Ireland a step closer to the World Cup finals.
The Norwich City player-of-the-year reports back to training today with his country as they gear up for a crucial clash against the Austrians in Dublin on June 11.
Martin O'Neill is relying on the 35-year-old to play a vital role for the Irish, who sit joint top of Group D on 11 points from five games alongside Serbia. Hoolahan will fly out to America next week for a friendly against Mexico before one last tune up against Luis Suarez's Uruguay on June 4.
'I've played Wes more often than anyone else and he appreciates that,' said O'Neill, speaking to the Irish Independent. 'If he never played another game for me now, he's done brilliantly for us. Wes is incredibly popular at Norwich with his enthusiasm. They don't realise he is 35 because he looks 18. He has lovely ability and playing at home he gives us some creativity. He's had problems at club level with managers but we've used him as a number 10 and to accommodate Wes, we need to have an incredible work-rate around him and that doesn't always work.
'It's an awkward one considering the Championship finished so early but if we get these couple of days in, it will be a great help. From personal experience, I know it as a player, you finish the season, have a day or two off and then you meet up. They're conscientious lads but it's about going away for a week or two with family but not getting into holiday mode.'
Hoolahan's City team mates, Russell Martin and Steven Naismith, were yesterday named in the Scotland squad for next month's crunch World Cup qualifier against England. Martin is keen to feature this time around after the bitter blow of missing out at Wembley in a 3-0 defeat earlier in the campaign.
'You never take your place in the international team for granted. It relies on form at your club and how the manager sees the game and the opposition. The one at Wembley was the first competitive game I had missed in about 30-odd internationals, so I was disappointed,' he said. 'Thankfully I bounced back and was in the team for Slovenia when we won and kept a clean sheet. To be honest, I know it is a terrible time to have a game in the summer but I am looking forward to it.'