May 22 2013 Latest news:
Friday, May 11, 2012
Wes Hoolahan may not think so right now but Giovanni Trapattoni has done him a favour.
City’s midfield magician could well have to fall back on his previous pledge to watch the European Championships across Poland and the Ukraine this summer from the back of a camper van with some of his Dublin muckers.
Hoolahan’s imprint on the Canaries’ successful Premier League tilt has been such that the Republic’s distinguished Italian manager now actually acknowledges the Norwich City Hall of Famer’s existence.
The 29-year-old appeared to have dropped a long way off the radar since earning a solitary ‘B’ cap for his country against Colombia back in May 2008.
‘Trap’ spent nearly five minutes of his convoluted press conference on Monday to announce his 23-man squad for the Euros explaining to the assembled media the reasons for Hoolahan’s omission. The gist of which centred on his adherence to a solid midfield four system, populated in central areas by the sturdier types of Keith Andrews and Glen Whelan. With two wingers either side in the shape of a Damien Duff, Aiden McGeady or the one leftfield choice who has appeared to made a successful late run for inclusion in Sunderland’s James McClean.
Trapattoni does not have much call right now for the creative link player who can operate at the point of a midfield diamond or supply quality service to the likes of Republic skipper Robbie Keane. The Italian has more than earned the right to choose whoever he wants and deploy them in whatever system he desires after guiding the Republic to the finals of a major tournament for the first time since the 2002 World Cup.
Paul Lambert knows the value of his Irishman; so too the legions who cherish Hoolahan for his key role in the club’s renaissance. The former Shelbourne playmaker is also fully appreciated by his Norwich pals. Anthony Pilkington – another who earlier in the season was causing a minor ripple or two in Irish circles given his paternal qualification and impressive Premier League form – is on record as saying Hoolahan is one of the best he has played with. Zak Whitbread took to his personal Twitter account to question the midfielder’s absence from the squad.
But all those with a vested interest in the Canaries owe ‘Trap’ a debt of gratitude. They should also be praying new England boss Roy Hodgson resists voluminous calls from many a quarter to elevate John Ruddy or Grant Holt to the cause of their country.
No good can come from any of Lambert’s squad boarding planes to head off to Eastern Europe; or anywhere else in the world this summer. Russell Martin may have to trek to America for a Scotland friendly later on in May. Simeon Jackson looks set to be involved in World Cup qualifiers for Canada during the early part of June.
Lambert represented his country with distinction, but you can guarantee he wants those under his command to recuperate, to rest after this most gruelling of introductions to Premier League life. To ensure they are ready to go again when the squad re-convene barely a month or so after the final whistle against Aston Villa on Sunday.
Norwich conjured a rousing response to the widespread suggestion they had ‘hit the wall’ over recent games at Arsenal. City, with Hoolahan a major influence at the Emirates, looked as fresh as they did on the opening day at Wigan, where the midfielder’s artistry helped salvage a draw. But the sheer mental and physical demands of facing the best on a weekly basis must take a collective toll. Bookending a ten month league campaign with a tour of international duty has to carry unwanted repercussions further down the line. Say, for argument’s sake, a few months into next season when that unbroken cycle of playing and training catches up with even the most finely-tuned athlete.
The club could have access to the finest sports science minds around, but proper rest is the only way to guard against the negative impact of an oppressive workload and the inherent dangers of fatigue on high performance levels.
International recognition is a fantastic achievement for any Norwich player. Why wouldn’t Hoolahan or Ruddy or Holt want to be part of the European Championships? To play for your country at such a prestigious tournament for mere mortals like the rest of us must be viewed as the absolute pinnacle.
To pull on your national colours is about pride and passion and a tangible reward for all the sacrifices you and your family will have made along that journey. But to go from club commitments to the international arena in one seamless bound carries potential downsides. And it is the Canaries who could feel the net effect.