What next for Wes Hoolahan and Norwich City?
22:07 21 January 2014
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In hindsight, there was a certain inevitability about Wes Hoolahan’s transfer request.
He’s 31, he isn’t playing regular first team football and he knows that there were will other managers out there who hold him in much higher regard than Chris Hughton does.
If that sort of logic isn’t going to trouble Sherlock Holmes, then neither is City’s response, which was to reject the request.
You can see where both sides are coming from and, I suspect, understand them both.
Hoolahan may believe he has one decent contract left in his career but playing guess the crowd from the subs’ bench is not doing his stock any good whatsoever. He might also be looking and thinking, ‘how the hell can’t I get a place in a team that desperately needs what I can offer?’
The Irishman has started just five Premier League games this season which, depending on your viewpoint, is either a criminally low number, or a reflection of what City need to survive in the blood and thunder of top-flight football.
Hoolahan is the longest serving member of the squad, having been bought for a couple of hundred grand by Glenn Roeder in June, 2008. At one stage or another all his managers have consigned him to a watching brief, the conclusion being that he is “a bit of a luxury”. Hoolahan is all left foot but he is no left winger. His best position is either at the tip of a diamond, where he was used so effectively by Paul Lambert, or just off a lone front man.
Hughton’s reluctance to use Hoolahan is more noticeable than that of Roeder, Lambert or Bryan Gunn. You sense Hoolahan has nowhere to go.
So why reject his transfer request?
Despite not using him, Hughton wants him there just in case he needs him. One look at the list of players who have been injured this season is enough to convince anyone that you do not want to reduce your stocks.
Besides, he may not be able to replace him.
Lambert was rebuffed recently when he tried to take Hoolahan to Villa Park. First of all, the price wasn’t good enough – £750,000 cash, or a bit more in instalments.
Then there is the Lambert effect - apart from the fact that it isn’t the done thing to sell an asset to one of your closest rivals, it is unlikely City would want to sell to their former manager, given the nature of his departure for Villa.
Whether Hoolahan’s request was designed to force City’s hand or alert other clubs to his dissatisfaction is unknown; you doubt anyone will be granted a pre-match press interview with the man himself anytime soon.
The unfortunate thing is that City now have a clearly unsettled player on their hands, and that isn’t a good thing, whether he is playing or not.
Play him and he may decide to stay. Don’t play him and it’s hard to see him changing his mind.
So, should they let Hoolahan go or make him stay?