City legend opts not to join Cambridge after trial spell as overseas opportunity emerges

Norwich City legend Wes Hoolahan in action for Cambridge during a 0-0 friendly draw with Ipswich on

Norwich City legend Wes Hoolahan in action for Cambridge during a 0-0 friendly draw with Ipswich on Saturday Picture Pagepix

Cambridge United have been left disappointed but have wished Wes Hoolahan well after the Norwich City legend opted to pursue an opportunity to play overseas rather than sign for the League Two club.

Former Canaries assistant manager Colin Calderwood managed to persuade Hoolahan to train with his team during pre-season and it looked likely the 37-year-old was going to sign after regular friendly appearances.

However, ahead of the U's opening League Two game at Bradford on Saturday the plug has been pulled on any potential deal, with Cambridge suggesting a chance to play overseas had emerged.

Calderwood explained: "Unfortunately Wes is not going to sign for us, he told me yesterday (Monda). There's going to be a nice opportunity for him and because of that - we have no hold on him - and it just suits him entirely, and his family in a nice way.

"So we wish him all the best, it's a blow for us because we had real hopes and the indication was that he was going to be a very important factor in helping us to achieve what it is we hope to achieve this season.

"But what we have to do is take the moments that he has been here and he has really left it improved from when he's been here in that short period, standard of training and showing the rest of the lads the different qualities that are required, from someone who has played at the very top.

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"So of course it's a blow and it's one we have to absorb and will absorb, and it different ways it creates opportunities. Obviously the money assigned for Wes is back in the budget and we will have to recruit in the best way possible.

"Wes in the group definitely changed my ideas on formation, certainly a couple of times, so we go back to what was really planned before.

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"Wes contacted me to see if we could get something done but it's never signed, the Is are never dotted and the Ts are never crossed until they are, and because of the situation, absolutely no complaints, really enjoyed having him around again in the environment where he has definitely helped everyone, not just the senior pros.

"He's been a great professional and person with everybody, from the youngest to the oldest within the group."

The Irish playmaker scored 54 goals in 352 games for Norwich between 2008 and 2018, when his contract expired. He spent much of last season on the fringes at West Brom and was again a free agent this summer.

Hoolahan had played the opening 56 minutes of a 0-0 home draw against Ipswich on Saturday, which brought him up against his former City manager Paul Lambert, and also enjoyed a reunion with former Canaries protegee James Maddison during a 3-0 friendly loss to Leicester City.

Calderwood, speaking to his club's official website, added: "I think there's something in the pipeline which has obviously changed the situation with ourselves. So as big a blow as it is, I can't disguise that i would have loved to have had him here - and the players would certainly have loved to have had him around as well, they certainly enjoyed him being here.

"But we have to be aware that Wes might not be fit on some occasions and may not have played, so it's how we play without a Wes Hoolahan.

"But the qualities that he has only reinforce my beliefs about what is right for any team that wants to be successful."

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