Quality not quantity for Wes Hoolahan at Norwich City

Wes Hoolahan was back in the side against Derby County.
Picture by Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Wes Hoolahan was back in the side against Derby County. Picture by Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Alex Neil aims to ration Wes Hoolahan's magic to keep the Norwich City ace at his peak.

Hoolahan produced a sparkling display in the 3-0 Championship win over Derby County in his first start for more than a month.

Neil revealed Hoolahan's hibernation is all part of his masterplan to ensure the 34-year-old can be at his influential best over the second part of the league campaign.

'Wes has played a lot of football for us in the last two years - for us, for Ireland and even by his own admission maybe three or four weeks ago he felt a bit fatigued when he wasn't playing well,' said Neil. 'I took him out of the team and put him to the side so he could hopefully get himself back to a level where he feels mentally and physically attuned and at his very best - and he rewards me with that type of performance. I think he has always acknowledged that there are games which will not be suited to him. The way I manage him is probably different to most players in that I will normally earmark games and tell him in advance to get himself ready for that particular one, like I did before Brentford. I told him he wasn't playing and to get himself ready for Derby.'

Hoolahan replaced Alex Pritchard against the Rams as City's creator-in-chief in one of five changes to the starting line up, with Neil keen to avoid the pre-festive pitfalls of keeping the same personnel on duty.

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'The team who played against Derby was already pencilled in before Brentford,' said the Norwich chief. 'We got caught on the hop at Barnsley because we didn't make changes, when we were searching for a team to win games, and then we got caught on the hop first half against Huddersfield. My intention was always to make changes to be fresh but not to the detriment of the starting XI.'

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