Ireland awaits Norwich City’s Wes Hoolahan’s Republic return
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England may be playing in Sweden Wednesday night but the eyes of Norwich City supporters will be trained on Lansdowne Road and their mercurial Irish wizard Wes Hoolahan.
Four years since the 30-year-old earned his one Republic of Ireland cap against Columbia, Hoolahan has been promised 45 minutes of action by manager Giovanni Trapattoni in their friendly with Greece.
Hoolahan has not been included in the under-fire Italian’s starting XI but is expected to come on at half-time for an appearance keenly anticipated not only by City fans, but the Irish too.
Since a turgid Euro 2012 in the summer, Trapattoni has found favour in short supply – not helped by a stuttering qualifying campaign for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
That continues to spread, with the Football Association of Ireland anticipating the Aviva Arena to be only half full for the Greeks’ visit.
However, after months spent questioning the wisdom of Hoolahan’s absence, Ireland fans will finally get to see the Norwich forward in national colours – and hopefully see a more attacking light shed on previously uninspiring outings.
Hoolahan took part in a light training session in Malahide on Monday and while Shane Long and Simon Cox have been given starting berths, Trapattoni confirmed Ireland – like City in recent matches – will operate with Hoolahan behind a lone striker, once he comes on.
“He deserves this opportunity,” Trapattoni told the Irish Independent. “We choose two strikers because I think our team needs this to score goals, but it’s right to give him this chance. We can play the game with this situation.”
First hope for all City fans will be to see their number 14 return to Colney safe, sound and ready for the visit of Premier League leaders Manchester United to Carrow Road on Saturday evening.
But after that it will be all about seeing the Irishman reproduce on the international stage the form that has made him a favourite at City and one of Chris Hughton’s key men.
On Hoolahan’s initial inclusion, the City boss – an Ireland regular as a player – said: “It’s great for Wes.
“I think perhaps with the style or rather the shape that Trapattoni has played, it is a question of where he fits into that shape.
“But regarding Wes’ ability, there is no doubt on that score and I am delighted for him.”