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Spud Thornhill: Why Wes Hoolahan has been the cat’s whiskers in our household

PUBLISHED: 08:03 28 April 2018

Wes Hoolahan celebrates after scoring against Charlton in September 2009. Picture: Archant

Wes Hoolahan celebrates after scoring against Charlton in September 2009. Picture: Archant

Archant

Spud’s teaser: Which unwanted record does Wes Hoolahan hold that no other Norwich City player in history has held?

(Answer at bottom)

Back in February 2011, me and the wife, Hayleigh, adopted two kittens. We spoke about names and immediately decided against the more common cat names. Instead we decided to go for our favourite Norwich City players.

I decided Eadie (after Darren), as he was my all time favourite player, whilst Hayleigh wanted to call her kitten Wesley, after Hoolahan.

I tried to put Hayleigh off, as one of my friends had a bad experience with naming a pet after her favourite player. My friend Jo named her rabbit Marshall, after Andy Marshall. A few months after she got the rabbit, Marshall (the goalkeeper) left us and joined that lot in Suffolk. Jo was mortified. How could she love the rabbit knowing the player she named it after was now with Ipswich? It was lesson learned.

With this in mind, I said to Hayleigh, “you can’t call him Wesley, as we don’t want a situation if he leaves on bad terms”. Hayleigh was adamant, so there we have it: the cats were named Eadie and Wesley.

Fortunately, we can safely say Hayleigh was right to call him Wesley as Mr Hoolahan’s legendary status was confirmed many, many years ago.

On Monday, the club released the news which most of us expected. But at the same time fans probably felt the same as me – it was a shock. After 10 years of being at our club, Wesley Hoolahan will be leaving. It was actually Hayleigh who broke the news to me, and she was totally gutted.

Having been a Norwich fan since 1982, I’ve seen star players leave on far too many occasions – Steve Bruce (my first hero) and Eadie hurt the most. These days I’m a lot older, and while I am sad, I accept that a player can’t be with us forever and I appreciate I’ve witnessed another great player wearing the famous yellow jersey.

It might be easier than the departures of Bruce and Eadie, but it will still be sad when we see Wes leave the pitch for the final time. I will look back with so much joy on one of the most naturally gifted players ever to grace Carrow Road.

Oddly enough it was Glenn Roeder – a man I don’t have too much time for because he brought so much misery and lack of respect to so many people at the club – who gave us Wes Hoolahan. He treated a previous legend, Darren Huckerby, awfully by releasing him, saying he was replacing him with a quality player. I didn’t think that was possible but, for the only time during his spell at Norwich, Roeder got it right.

I don’t remember much from his first season apart from his goal at home to Southampton, a fantastic 30-35 yarder, top corner. It was his second ever goal in Canary colours, but it would be the first of many quality and fantastic goals.

The list is endless and I hope the club bring out a DVD of Wes’s best moments, with all of his goals, as they did when Iwan Roberts left the club.

One of saddest things about Wes’s career is on the international side, and there is only one man to blame – Giovanni Trapattoni. In Trapattoni’s five-year spell as manager he picked Wes on just three occasions.

I know for sure I was laughing at some of my Irish friends for their repeated failures in qualifying for a tournament, but luckily for Wes and Ireland, Martin O’Neill became manager and started to select him.

I remember Wes’s goal in 2016 European Championships against Sweden. I think I cheered more for that goal then any England goal I can remember for a long time. Some Irish fans I know have said “what might have been” had Wes been playing before the O’Neill era.

Back to Norwich – and I have so many, many happy memories of Wes, I could write a book. But I will leave you with just one, which is not so obvious.

It was his goal against Charlton in September, 2009. Paul Lambert had just arrived and there was mention of letting Wes go. We were 2-0 down. Fourteenth in the table and going nowhere. With a bit of quick thinking between him and Grant Holt, Wes scored, before Holt got a late equaliser. Wes’s goal possibly changed the game, the season, his Norwich career and Norwich City history.

That might sound dramatic, but if you can remember it, I’m sure you may think the same as me. I’m just so glad it happened – had it not, we may have lost the game, Wes may have left the club, we may have never won promotion and maybe we wouldn’t have had those magical nights like at Ipswich or Portsmouth.

Thank you, Wes, for the last 10 years. Thank you.

Spud’s teaser answer: The only Norwich City player to be relegated three times.

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