11/12 Review: 14. Wes Hoolahan
Many a girl, or boy, has wondered what does the Norwich City dressing room look like after a match? I’d imagine it would be hot and humid; tight, black pants would be liberally discarded over moist benches; so that ripped torsos at the height of physical perfection could clamber in and out of warm, soapy plunge baths; every so often the crisp shot of fluffy white towel on chiselled buttock would crack through the steamy fug; skilled hands providing urgent, oily rub downs on aching but toned flesh; and the throaty laughter that only comes with a job well done as players chat and compare one another’s mighty bonuses.
But even within such a glittering gathering of buff, Premier League athletes there is one that is greater though more slight; one that has the potential to be even more powerful yet subtle; and one whose artistry is superior to that of Picasso or Monet even after a particularly good day’s painting. That player is Wesley Hoolahan.
When I wrote this Hooly article a year ago I was certain that he would step up to the Prem plate, literally step up as we all know he’s a bit of a shorter, and make an even bigger name for himself. And so it has proved. Indeed to mark his arrival at the pinnacle of English football it was beautiful Wessi that scored Norwich’s first Premier League ghoul as he pounced to slot home Morison’s spilled cross. In fact over the season Wigan probably aren’t Wesleys biggest fans as he also scored a beauty against them in the home fixture; deftly volleying in Jackson’s cross and causing Carrow Road to fall to its knees and hail him the messiah and a very naughty boy.
Of course Wes wasn’t picked for every game, but that’s fair enough as he’s a merciful being and realises that for the sake of team morale he has to let the others have a go too. When Hooly was a sub he usually came on and created at least one piece of fertile magic when previously all was barren. The game against QPR being a case in point. He and our former respected captain came off the bench and turned the game around. The fact is no current Norwich player has his special abilities: indeed there aren’t many footballers playing regularly for any club that do. Wessi sees passes, space and movement in a way that others do not, cannot, and never will because he’s unique. If we were able to hotwire a device into our heads that could see what Hooly sees during a game, I imagine if would be a bit like how the Terminator sees the world: Wessi’s brain evaluating others’ movement utilising complex algorithms; laser guided targeting of team mates runs; accessing how and where space can be used to maximise advantage; identifying the weaknesses of his opponents so he can perform a ‘power–up’ to devastating effect. He may be small but he is most definitely mighty.
Unbelievably there are an impotent minority that whine he doesn’t track back, or that he never puts the tackles in. Utter nonsense. The Wesmeister is usually to be found harrying crab-like all over the pitch. He regularly snaps away at the ankles of his opponents and not just because that’s his working height, but because he’s a team player and because that is an area of his game he was clearly worked on.
Another moan is that he loses the ball in theNorwichhalf too much which puts pressure on our back four. No offence but our back four, whichever pairing it has been, have been guilty of more errors and mental slips than all the management team of News International put together. The point is that players do make mistakes – even a God like Hoolywooly – just not as many as is perceived to commit. I’d argue it’s a backhanded complement that these deviants notice his mistakes more because he is the player they look to for a dose of playmaking porn; the creator of Norwich City’s sexual football. At any given moment he’ll turn, jink to the left, wiggle his hips to the right, possible do the timewarp, and from nothing it’s suddenly game on: this is what he does. In 99 cases out of 100 it’ll work out for the best, but on the odd occasion it doesn’t. That’s football folks – deal with it.
But he’s more than just a football centrefold and you can now add leader to his achievements. Wes was made club captain v Bolton when Norwich won not only our first Prem game, but our first away game too. With this, plus the mesmerising ability and all the assists and goals, you would think he’d be a shoo-in for the Eire team but it appears that Crapattoni, the dullard in charge of the Republic of Ireland, thinks otherwise. I appreciate they have a system, let’s face it a really boring system, but all teams need a plan B and as QPR found, if you have a pocket rocket like Wessi on the bench you always have some magic to pull out of the hat. To put this sad situation in cliché terms if ever a coach was to be tried for wasting the best years of a players then Crapattoni is well and truly guilty.
So from a stupid manager to a new manager and the obvious question: how will Wes fair under Hughton? If memory serves me well Newcastle played some nice stuff under Chris and his win to lose ratio for both Newcastle and Birmingham is impressive. And unusually for such a successful manager he’s a man that’s been popular with both fans and players alike and I think that’ll be right up Wessi’s street. Will we see the end of the diamond; a system that allowed Hooly to flourish? It’s possible, but then under our previous manager we adjusted formations with greater frequency than a British downpour so I can’t see that being a problem for Wes. After all he adjusted to the Premier League, which was probably his biggest career challenge to date, so this will be just another obstacle for the diminutive Dubliner to straddle.
When all is said and done, Wesslington doesn’t need to let his towel slip in the changing room to display his enormous talent. No, he’ll do what he always does and quietly and assuredly go out and produce his special kind of beguiling sorcery on the pitch. If this new season is anything like the last then we’ll all be in for a treat.