Paddy Davitt verdict: Wes Hoolahan has the dancing feet at Norwich City

Wes Hoolahan embarrassed Rotherham United earlier this season. Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images

Wes Hoolahan embarrassed Rotherham United earlier this season. Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

What Ed Balls would give for Wes Hoolahan's hips and the killer body swerve that elevated Norwich City's latest Championship home win out of the ordinary.

Cameron Jerome scores Norwich City's second goal. Picture by Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Cameron Jerome scores Norwich City's second goal. Picture by Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

The ballroom was a fitting backdrop for the balletic grace and deftness of footwork displayed by the Republic of Ireland international after collecting Alex Pritchard's gorgeous nutmeg to open the scoring.

Savour Hoolahan while you can. Particularly in this rich seam of form, because City fans may not see his like again. The spatial awareness, the way he caresses the ball, the intelligence to commit players in confined spaces continue to mark out the Dubliner even in the twilight of his career.

Pritchard and James Maddison, in the fullness of time, may compete for the crown but Hoolahan is still the King of Carrow Road; a magical footballer who in a less refined environment can cast a spell over these second tier rivals.

The compliant nature Rotherham allowed him to roam in a one-sided first-half where he appeared to have an almost telepathic understanding with Pritchard merely accentuated his influence.

Steven Naismith is congratulated after sealing Norwich City's win. Picture by Paul Chesterton/Focus

Steven Naismith is congratulated after sealing Norwich City's win. Picture by Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd


You may also want to watch:


Hoolahan was seemingly afforded an open invite to wreak havoc in those pockets of space behind the Millers' midfield and in front of a retreating back four.

The occasional over-indulgence in possession, the odd turnover when challenging more physically robust characters, are all part of Hoolahan's charm. Previous Norwich managers have viewed him with suspicion; a luxury item to be rationed.

Most Read

In the unforgiving world of Premier League combat, where City's success often hinged on their work-rate and collective shape without the ball, that logic may have been sound, but under Alex Neil in the Championship he has a perfect canvas to create sublime moments.

The gruelling, relentless nature of football at this level dictates Neil manages his prized asset carefully. Pritchard showed enough on his full league debut for the Canaries to suggest he is a worthy support act.

Norwich's diminutive duo were the axis for first-half dominance that was once again barely reflected on the scoresheet.

This time there was no cheap Carrow Road concession immediately after the interval, in a repeat of Burton's recent riposte, but there was another uncomfortable passage to navigate in the aftermath of Dexter Blackstock's near-post strike.

Yet this was no Wigan, hanging on for grim death to a game that should have been out of sight. Steven Naismith sealed the points from close range in the final minute of normal time but City quickly regained control after clearing their heads following a fresh defensive lapse.

Tougher tests lie ahead over the coming days and weeks. Right now the biggest battle appears to be from within; to maintain that heightened sense of concentration and focus, to block out the creep of complacency, when Norwich look capable of scoring at will in most home games.

Neil is the first to acknowledge room for improvement, but the Scot and his coaching staff can tweak and tinker from a position of growing strength. Rotherham was another link in the chain, a necessary obstacle to clear.

It also illustrated the depth of resource available in the absence of Jonny Howson and Robbie Brady. For all the recriminations unleashed by Norwich's failure to land another striker in the closing days of the summer transfer window, there is no discernible sign at present of vulnerability in Neil's frontline troops.

Timm Klose's untimely absence at Newcastle, however, served as a painful reminder Neil must protect a core of key performers to ensure they offer no encouragement to the chasing pack.

Hoolahan, rightly, is in the same bracket. One hopes there is plenty more magic dust left to sprinkle.

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter
Comments powered by Disqus