Only way is up for Wes after ‘rant’

“If my thought-dreams could be seen, they’d probably put my head in a guillotine...”

In fairness, I think ol’ Bob was onto something here, this being one of those Dylan lines which will resonate with pretty much everyone, bar the irredeemably saintly. We’ve all thought things which we’re only too happy to keep locked up in the privacy of our own minds. And a lot of us have said things in private too which we’d never dream of saying in public.

So a big measure of sympathy is surely in order for Wes Hoolahan, who wasn’t the first employee and certainly won’t be the last to say something uncomplimentary about his employers. The problem for the Norwich midfielder is that what we can only presume he thought was a private response to an off air question from a television reporter ended up going public in a big way.

In the incident, which occurred at the club’s training ground last Thursday — the eve of transfer deadline day — a reporter jokingly asked the want-away player if he was going to be clearing out his locker, to which the Irish international is said to have replied: “I hope so. This is a fucking shithouse club.”

And that, one suspects, would have been that, if the exchange hadn’t subsequently leaked into the media, to be written up in many quarters as “a foul-mouthed rant”.

But no matter that it might well have been one of the shortest ‘rants’ on record — or, more to the point, off it — Hoolahan’s two little words, which were clearly born out of his frustration at (a) not being picked at Norwich and (b) having a move to Aston Villa blocked, were deemed explosive enough to make his bad situation at the club a whole lot worse.

Not the least of the ironies in all this is that, as Irish football journalists know well, Hoolahan is one of those who has always preferred to let his feet do the talking.

At least until the current controversy, the Dubliner was such a fan favourite at Norwich that the faithful took to calling him ‘Wessi’.

It was only late in Giovanni Trapattoni’s reign that Hoolahan began to get the opportunity to show his stuff in the green shirt, making him something of a cause celebre for critics of the Italian’s rigid approach. The onset of the new Martin O’Neill era should, in theory, afford Hoolahan more opportunities to make his mark, except that the player’s troubles at Carrow Road have happened to coincide with a swashbuckling return to form for Andy Reid, another creative playmaker of the kind who got short shrift under Trap. And unlike Hoolahan, Reid is not just a regular performer for his club Nottingham Forest but a serial man-of-the-match winner who could hardly be in better form as O’Neill prepares to select his first squad for the friendly against Serbia in March.

At Norwich, by contrast, Hoolahan’s quality has been sacrificed in a decision to play two up front, leaving him stuck on the bench even as the Canaries have struggled to lift themselves clear of the relegation zone.

Hoolahan’s frustration then is understandable, but he can only hope now that Chris Hughton will be true to his latest words about the whole unhappy saga. “He’s a good player,” said Hughton. “We know what Wes brings us. I would very much expect him to knuckle down. He’s a good professional and a line has been drawn under it.”

Which suggests that just maybe things can still get a little better for Wes Hoolahan at Carrow Road. But then they could hardly get any worse.


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