What we all expected has now come to pass: Wes Hoolahan will leave Norwich City at the end of this season after 10 eventful years in yellow and green. One glance at the nicknames he has acquired over his Canary tenure (“Wessi”, “The Magician”, “The Irish Messi”) reflects the impact that his performances have had on supporters, and their affection for him. He embodied hope for many Norwich fans as a glimmer of consistent promise throughout an unpredictable period of City’s history.
Arriving from Blackpool in 2008, Wes found himself surrounded by incompetence as a dreadful 2008-09 campaign landed City in the Championship relegation zone come the end of the season. Unperturbed and determined to show his worth to new boss Paul Lambert, Wes was allowed a starring role in the Canaries’ well-documented change in fortunes. His 24 goals and countless assists in the two promotion-winning seasons that followed can only in part reflect the magnitude of the attacking partnership that he and Grant Holt shared. Together, they provided wonderful football to watch and became Norwich City legends in the process.
Such was Wes’ impact in City’s surge toward the Premier League, a shiny new contract offer and a Norwich City ‘Hall of Fame’ induction quickly followed. One question remained: would Wes’ twinkling toes be flattened by top flight defences? They would not: Wes played a key role in two nervy seasons in the top flight, continuing to chip in with goals and forcing strong Premier League sides to shift their defensive strategies. However, Wes was to fall victim to Chris Hughton’s own defensive play in the following season, and a fall in appearances soon attracted a swarm of eager admirers (most notably, Aston Villa).
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The messy fallout of the Villa debacle, combined with City’s relegation from the Premier League in 2013-14, marked a Canary low for Wes. The past was to repeat itself however, as Wes helped to rally his beloved City side through a thrilling first season back in the Championship. A spot in the Football League Team of the Decade was the icing on the play-off winning cake for Wes, but he remained stubbornly focused as the dizzy lights of the Premier League beckoned once again. A hard-fought Premier League campaign followed under Alex Neil: although Wes’ spark flickered throughout the season, it couldn’t quite ignite another escape – nor could it spur City towards promotion in the following Championship season.
Nevertheless, Wes’ legend status rightly guaranteed him immunity to Stuart Webber’s regime, as his fellow veterans were sent packing. Now aged 35, Wes finally faces the City exit. Many feel it is his ‘time to go’, but as we know, the faithful City fans will preserve his career as they re-tell his appearances, goals and assists for years to come. A faithful servant to City throughout ups and downs, Wes Hoolahan will always be remembered fondly as a true City hero.