independent

Saturday 19 April 2014

Norwich vow to keep senior stars

Norwich chief executive David McNally says the club have not received any transfer requests

Norwich chief executive David McNally insists the club have not received any transfer requests following claims that Wes Hoolahan is seeking a move to Aston Villa.

The Irish playmaker has seen his first-team opportunities limited under manager Chris Hughton, who took charge at Carrow Road following Paul Lambert's departure in the summer of 2012.

Hoolahan was a key member of Lambert's squad which secured back-to-back promotions from League One to the Barclays Premier League, and there had been reports Lambert was keen to bring the 31-year-old to Villa Park in a bid to rejuvenate his team's season.

Despite newspaper reports claiming that Hoolahan has asked for a transfer, McNally insists no player has lodged a formal request to leave.

He told the club's official website, www.canaries.co.uk: "The club's focus is on improving the squad during this transfer window.

"As we have always said, no players will be sold against our will.

"We have received no transfer requests this season and have no intention of releasing any of our senior players.

"Our focus this January, as with every transfer window, is very much on improving the squad."

Forward Luciano Becchio is another player who is understood to be keen for a fresh start away from Carrow Road, with former club Leeds one potential destination while Sky Bet Championship rivals Blackburn and Derby are also said to be monitoring the situation.

Hughton is, however, keen to further bolster his squad, with out-of-favour Everton defender John Heitinga one reported target after a potential move to West Ham fell through.

Norwich head to Merseyside on Saturday looking to maintain safe distance between themselves and the bottom three.

Key to the Canaries' hopes of avoiding being dragged into a battle for survival over the second half of what has been a stop-start campaign could be the return of club-record signing Ricky van Wolfswinkel from a toe injury.

The Dutch forward completed his first full match in three months during the 1-1 FA Cup third-round draw against Fulham and could now link up with Gary Hooper to give the Norwich attack a fresh impetus after seeing a couple of goal-bound efforts saved.

"It didn't happen for him in front of goal (against Fulham) and maybe there were one or two occasions when he could have got across the keeper, but it was really important for him to get 90 minutes under his belt," said Hughton.

"We know he has missed some three months, which is a fair time to be out and it is disappointing for him after such a good start with a fine goal on the first day."

Norwich head to Goodison Park in 15th place on 20 points, a lower total than at the same stage last season.

Centre-back Ryan Bennett, though, is confident Hughton's squad - boosted by some £20million-plus summer investment - have what it takes to stay clear of trouble ahead of what will be a testing run-in against the likes of Liverpool, Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal.

"We had a few more points this time last year and I think our form from January until the end of last season wasn't great - and we know that. But we have got games coming up now every month that we can win, and that's something we're going to have to do to stay in the league," Bennett said, quoted in the Norwich Evening News.

"I think everyone in the dressing room is in a positive mood and we can easily do it. You have got to be positive in every game.

"Obviously Everton have been in good form this year, they have only lost two games so it will be a hard place to go to, but hopefully we can go there and put in a positive and good performance, like we did against Fulham on Saturday, and beat them."

Midfielder Leroy Fer will be available again following his one-match suspension, while Jonny Howson could make a welcome return having been sidelined since December 15 with a back problem.

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