I’ll raise a glass to Ireland’s finest export – Wes Hoolahan

PUBLISHED: 07:56 04 March 2017

Raise a glass to Wes Hoolahan. Picture: Paul Chesterton

Raise a glass to Wes Hoolahan. Picture: Paul Chesterton

©Focus Images Limited +447814 482222

Question: Who was the first player to get a full international cap whilst playing for Norwich City?

Wes Hoolahan opens the scoring against Rotherham. Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus ImagesWes Hoolahan opens the scoring against Rotherham. Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images

(Answer at bottom of page)

Today, while Norwich City travel to the Steel City of Sheffield to take on Wednesday, I will be elsewhere.

Instead of watchinf City, I’ll be having a weekend in Dublin. Hopefully, while I’m supping on a Guinness, we will be getting our first win at Hillsborough since we stuffed them 5-0 in 2001.

When most people think of Dublin, they more often than not think of a pitn of the black stuff or Molly Malone. Me, I think of the greatest thing to come out of the city: Wesley Hoolahan. Followed by Guinness.

This season, we have been privileged to witness great moments from the little Irishman, like his goals against Rotherham United and Nottingham Forest – both were nothing short of magical.

I’m not going to get into an argument about which was the best this season. All I’ll say is I prefer Jonny Howson’s goal against Forest. The reason I chose Howson’s goal is that it looked more difficult technically.

But what I will say about Wes’ goal is that it just sums up the talent Norwich fans have seen over the years – the vision and quick thinking on the ball was just typical of Wes.

It’s strange that the Norwich manager I dislike most is the one us Norwich fans have to be grateful to for bringing us the talents of Wes. It was Glenn Roeder who signed him and apart from mastering a win over Ipswich was probably the only decent thing he did for the club.

Roeder actually said after releasing Darren Huckerby that Norwich would be replacing him with a similar talent. I didn’t think that was possible.

We signed Wes from Blackpool and I was livid at the time. Just as good as Hucks? Really? No disrespect, but he had played for Shelbourne, Livingston and Blackpool plus, after Roeder’s other master class moments, it didn’t really fill me with confidence that Wes would be able to replace Hucks.

Oddly enough, Wes never scored a goal while Roeder was manager at Norwich. He scored his first goal for City in Bryan Gunn’s first game as manager. Sadly it was a season to forget for Wes – two goals in 35 games before injury ended his season early before we were relegated.

The following season we saw Paul Lambert arrive. We then saw what Roeder was talking about. In the three seasons under Lambert, Wes scored a lot of important goals.

What’s amazed most Norwich fans is Wes’ absence from the Republic of Ireland team. Before November 2012, when he 30, Wes had made only one appearance for his country. I knew most Irish people wanted Wes in the team, but manager Giovanni Trapattoni had other ideas. Fortunately, Martin O’Neil had seen what Norwich fans had known for a while and has regularly included Wes in the Republic of Ireland team.

When Ireland met Moldova last October, Wes won his 36th international cap and became the most capped Canary whilst at the club, surpassing Mark Bowen’s 35 caps for Wales whilst at Norwich.

Under the management of Chris Hughton, Neil Adams and now Alex Neil, Wes has matured like a fine wine. I know in every game there is a possible mistake from him in trying to win the ball, but I know for sure that in every game he plays there is always going to be that bit of magic in him.

One thing that has amazed me is that Wes has not won the Barry Butler Player of the Season award. It is strange to think there are names like Andy Marshall and Lee Croft on the trophy but not his. Hopefully either this season or next he will finally get his name on it.

Wes will be 35 in May and I’m sure next year, in what will be his testimonial season at the club, will probably be his last. I was wondering if we could persuade him to follow in Stanley Matthews footsteps and play until he’s 50.

Hucks tweeted last month praising Wes and stating, ‘enjoy Wes while you can’.

So let’s enjoy the little Irish magician and see more magic moments like we have this season.

Answer: Mick O’Brien (Republic of Ireland) v Belgium 1930.

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