Hoolahan - We can live with the pressure
Wes Hoolahan is not worried by the pressure of an East Anglian derby and a hot Portman Road reception this evening – all on top of Norwich City’s automatic promotion push.
The Canaries take on their arch rivals Ipswich Town tonight (7.45pm) aiming to steal a march on their promotion rivals, who play later this weekend. But despite fans feeling the intensity of battle as the season reaches its climax, there remains a calm air around Paul Lambert’s City squad.
“There has been pressure on us all season, but we just take it with a pinch of salt and hopefully we go into this game and win,” said Hoolahan, hoping for a start having scored after coming on from the bench in Norwich’s 4-1 win over Town at Carrow Road in November.
In November City dispatched Roy Keane’s 10 men – following Damien Delaney’s first half dismissal – with relative ease, but this time will face a Paul Jewell outfit with four wins from their last five outings.
“We’re looking forward to it,” added Hoolahan. “It’s always nice to play in a derby game. Last time we played them we got a good result, but we know this one is going to be a lot different and the atmosphere will be amazing, so I think we are going into it brimming with confidence.
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“They have got a different manager in there and he has brought a few players in, so it’s going to be a lot different and they are playing well at the moment, so it will be a tough game but we are going there to win.
“With it being a derby and we’re going for promotion, it is probably the biggest of the derbies so far, so we can sense the atmosphere.
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“All the fans love it and you get the bragging rights over each other, and now it’s a bigger match than normal. But you have got to be calm, and you’ve got to be that on the pitch as well – and we are confident too.”
City fans’ relief was tangible after Hoolahan was only absent for the trips to Swansea and Watford following a hamstring injury, suffered in the 6-0 home win over Scunthorpe, that threatened to curtail the Irishman’s season for the third year in succession.
But Hoolahan was back – continuing from where he left off – in Norwich’s 2-1 win over Nottingham Forest six days ago.
“I’ve missed the run-in the last two seasons, so it did come into my head (it could happen again),” said Hoolahan. “But the physios have been great here in getting me back fit. Going for the Premier League and the boys are flying, it would have been a real disappointment (to miss out).
“It’s nice to be back playing. After missing the last two games before that it was nice to get back and get 80 minutes into me against Forest. It’s not easy watching after playing a big part in the season so far, the boys have been doing tremendously so it was nice just to be back.”
Norwich will lay down their marker in Suffolk tonight, with fourth place Reading – on a run of eight successive wins – travelling to Leeds United tomorrow evening before Cardiff, in second, host runaway leaders Queens Park Rangers on Saturday lunchtime.
All three sides will be back in action on Easter Monday, after which only two rounds of fixtures remain in the regular season.
Hoolahan, named alongside City captain Grant Holt in the Professional Footballers’ Association Championship team of the season this week, added: “It’s nice to get voted by your fellow players, and Grant as well.
“I’m delighted with this season and hopefully it’s not ended yet and we can keep going and get over the finish line. Obviously second is what we are aiming for and hopefully we can get there.”