Michael Bailey: Norwich City aiming to win political battle over Wes Hoolahan

Norwich City manager Chris Hughton watches as Wes Hoolahan runs with the ball during his first pre-s

Norwich City manager Chris Hughton watches as Wes Hoolahan runs with the ball during his first pre-season in the job. - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

We live in the midst of a curious case of football politics. We don’t yet know who wins, and it’s pretty clear that even among the Canaries’ support, opinion is split in a way that only fractures relations further. But that’s where we are – a place where only the strong survive.

Many football clubs search for a new manager with a carefully crafted agenda of factors, skills and job requirements they want to recruit – yet one saying tends to sum up the whole fraught profession best: It’s better to be a lucky manager than a good one.

And in truth whatever your feelings on Chris Hughton’s strengths and weaknesses, it feels like he has rarely had the luck.

That was what struck me this week – once the deja-vu had settled down of a second midweek night in January where Wes Hoolahan and a transfer request dominated what was supposed to be a quiet evening.

Hughton’s faith in his side was repaid again with that result – if not entirely performance – against Hull on Saturday. So much so, one look of the Premier League table and forthcoming fixtures may have you wondering, yet again, whether City do have it in them to kick on and kick away from the perils below. Yet no sooner had the pressure been eased and things looks palatable after a wretched five days, than City fans were left lamenting Hoolahan’s desire to leave Norwich behind.


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Back was the stick to beat Hughton – yet I’m not convinced more involvement would simply solve Wes’ issues. Sometimes a new challenge just feels more exciting than repeating the last one.

Some things are straight forward. The player wants out and he wants in at Aston Villa. And with all that’s happened this month, it seems he really wants to make it happen.

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City may well complain about how it has all come about, but the fact is tapping up has effectively become an accepted means of dealing in football. It’s no longer banished – it’s merely where agents and representatives do business.

Yet the political game hasn’t ended there – it moved on to reiterating Paul Lambert had aimed to sell Grant Holt had he stayed at Carrow Road. I wonder if that would’ve been with Christian Benteke in his place?

The sparring originally threatened to take City’s unity issues back to the square marked pre-Hull – but some of the noise since saw things take a diplomatic turn, to almost leave Wes out of the equation and allow the friction to channel through those who are yellow and green, and those who are Villains.

Maybe that’s the political game – but it’s also a pretty good survival plan for Norwich.

You’d struggle to find a City fan who wouldn’t love Hoolahan to stay – and as I’ve written before, once the January window closes, it could well be the only option to him anyway.

Or maybe City could persuade Lewis Holtby and Spurs that a few months here in lovely Norfolk would be a good idea – that would probably help ease the current situation.

And that’s the point. At this juncture – and every other one in future – it is only ever the football club as a whole that matters.

You’re either for the club, or against it. And at the moment, the man so many want to stay needs to be careful he’s not seen as the only one pushing against it.

• Now seems as good a time as any for a shameless plug – Norwich is soon to get its own freeview TV channel, and we’re going to make sure Norwich City fans get all the comment, analysis, news and interaction they want to supplement what we do here in our papers.

I know we’ve chucked out a host of videos already over the past year, but hopefully you will see things taking shape for real over the coming weeks. And if you are yet to see what we have done to date, then take a look over at mustardtv.co.uk

One more point – we want your involvement, questions and comments as often as you can give them. That means, make sure you’re on Twitter and you get using #3upfront

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