Norwich City boss Chris Hughton delighted with Wes Hoolahan’s first international goal
PUBLISHED: 11:15 08 February 2013 | UPDATED: 11:15 08 February 2013
Norwich City boss Chris Hughton insists Wes Hoolahan’s elevation to the international scene is long overdue.
The Canaries’ midfielder scored his first senior goal for the Republic of Ireland in Wednesday’s 2-0 friendly win over Poland in Dublin.
Hoolahan had to wait five years to add to his solitary cap under current Irish boss Giovanni Trapattoni when he featured against Greece in December before following that up with late starring cameo against the Poles.
Hughton feels it is not too late for the 30-year-old to play a leading role for the Republic ahead of crucial World Cup qualifiers next month.
“I was delighted for Wes because he has certainly been one who had to wait a while and someone who was on the radar for quite some time,” said Hughton.
“I do think Wes has been unlucky. As for the reasons why, I don’t know. Whether it was that they didn’t see him in that advanced midfield role maybe and of course he is in a position that Robbie Keane had nailed down for the past ten years. I am surprised he has not been involved earlier. It can be difficult for players outside the Premier League to make a case although Wes was very involved last season and it wasn’t like he played a bit part, so they must have been aware of him. It just comes down to choices. With Trapattoni over the last few years he generally has not made too many changes. He has gone with his core squad and kept to that. Maybe that is the reason, but at least Wes is in the frame now and hopefully he stays there.”
Hughton believes the Canaries could reap the benefits of Hoolahan’s landmark goal for his country following on from the recent strike against Tottenham.
“It is always a special moment to make your debut but then if you’re an offensive player to get that first goal. He’ll be on a little bit of a high and rightly so,” he said. “I think generally in the period of time I have been here he has been used as a player who can operate off the front and what pleases me is he is getting goals at the minute. With anybody who does plays a little further forward you also want them to add goals to their repertoire.
“Can he add some more goals to his game? Yes, I think he can with the positions he gets himself into, but we all know the biggest facet of his game is his creativity and how well he keeps he ball for us. From my point of view the fact he participated and didn’t get an injury was good. You are always mindful if a player goes away and maybe plays 90 minutes during the week and then the travelling as well it can be an issue, but we don’t have that problem now.”
Hughton confirmed Hoolahan, along with Scottish duo Russell Martin and Robert Snodgrass, have returned to Norfolk with a clean bill of health after international duty.
“All the boys who were away are fine and have reported in for training. They are all fit and available,” he said. “I am always delighted when they go, but there is a slight nervousness. If the games are on a Tuesday then you are able to have that recovery day on a Wednesday and then they are able to work towards the end of the week.”
Midfield duo Anthony Pilkington (hamstring) and Alex Tettey (knee) had to withdraw from international squads at the start of this week and Hughton revealed both are ‘touch and go’ for Fulham’s Premier League visit. England U21 defender Ryan Bennett (hamstring) did train yesterday after he also pulled out of Stuart Pearce’s set-up for the midweek 4-0 win over Sweden’s U21s, and Bennett was joined on the training pitches by new US loan signing Kei Kamara. Hughton is keeping an open mind on whether to draft the Sporting Kansas City striker into his plans for the Cottagers’ test.
“We’ll assess it over the next few days. We have to make the right decisions,” he said. “We have not brought him for one or two games, but to make an impact for the rest of the season. We could perhaps throw him in but on the other side we have to do the right thing.
“Ryan’s injury was the lesser of the three, and he was able to do some training. Pilkington didn’t train (on Thursday) and neither did Alex Tettey. At this stage we certainly haven’t ruled them out for the weekend. Both will be touch and go.”