Hoolahan helped youngster during 'very stressful' time after City release

Harrogate Town's William Hondermarck (right) and Cheltenham Town's Callum Wright (left) battle for t

William Hondermarck in League Two loan action for Harrogate Town last season - Credit: PA

Making a Championship debut for Barnsley felt a long way off for William Hondermarck during the ‘very stressful’ spell after his release from Norwich City. 

The 20-year-old midfielder has made two senior appearances for the Tykes so far this season though and has thanked the Canaries for their role in his development – as well as City legend Wes Hoolahan for his mentorship. 

Born in France but raised in the Republic of Ireland, Hondermarck was signed from Drogheda United in January 2019 having made 11 senior appearances as a teenager, when Drogheda were in the second tier. 

After initial involvement with the under-18s, he became a regular for City’s under-23s and earned a loan in January to League Two side Harrogate Town, knowing that his contract was due to expire this summer. 

That only brought three appearances and didn’t persuade Norwich to extend terms, resulting in Hondermarck signing a contract with Barnsley after a successful trial during pre-season. 

“They really, really helped me,” the youngster said of Norwich, speaking to the Not The Top 20 podcast. “Going from training twice a week to every day was a big step for me and Norwich really did it well. 

“They never rushed me. The first year was really tough and they understood that, I did a lot of extra fitness and gym work to get myself up to standard. 

“I didn’t know there were kids training every day from the age of six but I had team-mates who were ex-Arsenal and ex-Liverpool players, who had been doing that. 

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“So I needed to get to a better standard and that was a big push at Norwich. They didn’t rush me, they took care of me and pushed me to my limits every day. 

“I got through that and then my second season I was really doing well and then I managed to get my loan, so it was credit to the staff. 

“That’s something that a lot of clubs might not have done. Not a lot of clubs would have had the patience to say ‘Will isn’t there fitness-wise but we’ll get him there’ and it took a while for me because I’m a big lad. 

“It’s not easy for me because with running you’re carrying more weight but they still took their time and the coaches and staff were all patient with explaining stuff. 

“They knew that I was a very raw talent and hadn’t been in an academy. 

“Being where I am now, I know I wouldn’t be here without that first year of induction training and covering those basics of elite football and getting them sorted first.” 

Hondermarck had joined Harrogate knowing he was unlikely to be staying with City but spoke about his struggles to adjust to the dynamics of a first-team dressing room. 

His penultimate appearance was memorable though, playing the full match as Harrogate won 5-4 at home to keep Cambridge United’s promotion celebrations on hold – when he was playing against Canaries legend Hoolahan. 

“I was really happy that I’ve been able to come into contact with Wes Hoolahan,” he explained. 

“There were no hard feelings after the game, we talked and exchanged numbers, and especially during that period he was really helpful for me because he’s been through more transfer windows – at his age – than most players. 

“I talked to my ex-Norwich coach as well and they both told me to relax and that there was no point stressing because they had been through stuff where they were in the last days waiting and there’s nothing you can do. 

“You can stay proactive and stay on the phone, contact your agent and do what you can to help yourself to get the contract. 

“I’d never been through that before, having 20 days left and wondering if I’m going to get one, if they’re going to say yes, so it was definitely at the start very stressful. 

“Then the stress got taken out of it as I adapted but it was still nerve-wracking a little bit, but then as the talks finalised and I got in touch with Barnsley and Notts County and could see things panning out, I could see that they were right and there was no point stressing.” 

Having initially appeared for Notts County on trial during pre-season before the Barnsley opportunity arose, Hondermarck decided to be ambitious. 

“I ended up having to sit down and say that I could try and get a contract at Notts, at a National League team where I’ve got more chance of getting minutes, or just give it my everything and try to get a Championship team,” he added. 

“I ended up deciding that I know how good I can be if I just get my head down, so I said I want to try at Barnsley, came here, got myself a contract and within a week I’d been told I was with the first team now, playing games with the 23s but full-time first team.” 

He dreams of becoming a full-established professional and that started last month when coming on in the 79th minute of a 1-1 Championship draw at Stoke, which was followed by a half-time introduction during a 0-0 home draw with Blackburn. 

“I always remember one vivid moment, when I was about 12 or 13,” Hondermarck explains. “I wasn’t allowed to watch Match of the Day at night so I had to record it and watch the next morning. 

“I said to myself that I would love to be on Match of the Day one day and be one of those players that plays in front of 20, 30 or 40 thousand people, that trains every day on the best pitches. 

“That was as a child and that has never changed.” 

- You can listen to the conversation in full in the audio player above, with Hondermarck's interview starting at around 50 minutes into the latest Not The Top 20 episode

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