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Georgia on Wes's mind

IF IT'S good enough for what's called the best league in the world, it's good enough for the Irish international team.

And Wes Hoolahan hopes that he has shown with his form in the English top-flight in the Norwich City shirt that he can deliver the goods without question marks being applied to his name.

It's simply astonishing to think that a player with Hoolahan's talents, who was called into the Ireland senior squad for the first time 11 years ago, has only four caps on his CV – all of those appearances as substitute and just one in a competitive game.

It was also strange that Hoolahan was left seated on the bench for all of Wednesday's friendly against England at Wembley, Giovanni Trapattoni using only four of the permitted six subs.

As befits the manner and the character of the man from Portland Row, Hoolahan has not moaned or groaned about the cold shoulder he receives at international level. Instead, he just stresses that, should he be given the opportunity in the next week against Georgia and the Faroe Islands, he would not let anyone down.

"Of course you'd like to get on the pitch and show what you can do, the same as everyone in the squad, but that's just the way it is," says Hoolahan of his lack of game time at Wembley.

"It looks like the manager will make changes. We have a big squad and hopefully I will get a chance to get on the pitch.

"I have been playing well in the Premier League for the last two years so people know what I can do, and hopefully I can bring that form from my club career into the Ireland set-up. I'd like to hope that if I get a chance against Georgia and do well, I'd have a chance in the team after that. You can only take each game as it comes, you try to impress and do well in every game, but so does every other player in the squad," he added.

It's a constant moan for a large section of the Irish support that the team manager cannot accommodate Hoolahan into his formation for the starting XI, but the 31-year-old hopes that his displays for Norwich in the club season just gone can showcase what he can do.

"It's up to the manager to pick the formation with Ireland," said Hoolahan.

"At Norwich, I generally play in the hole, behind the striker. When we play against the likes of Manchester City and Manchester United we play what's more or less a 4-5-1, so I get to roam around and get on the ball as much as I can, but also help out the lads defensively when we don't have the ball.

"It's a position where you basically go and float. I can play on the left or just in the middle as well but that free role is one I really enjoy. I have played well there at Premier League level and I think I could do well there at international level.

"It is different with Ireland as we generally play 4-4-2. It's the manager's call to make. But if the manager did play a 4-5-1 with me in the hole, I think I'd do well. I have been doing that for the last four or five years at a high level.

"You play against top-class defenders in the Premier League every week, to me it's the best league in the world."

There have been only two no-shows from the original 28-man squad for this series of games, and while his club-mate at Norwich, Anthony Pilkington, missed out on the England game due to injury, surely his wedding today would have forced him to also miss the Georgia game.

"The wedding is on today so I think I am the only Norwich player not at the wedding. I am disappointed to miss that but it was important for me to be here and show up for my country," said Hoolahan.

"I know he really wanted to play against England, but he has been struggling with his knee in the last few weeks of the season.

"We fit in well together at Norwich and I'd like to see us do the same with Ireland. In the last few games of the season, especially against Manchester City, we linked up well together and I got an assist for his goal against City.

"We have played together for the last two years and train with each other week in, week out. We know each other as players and I'd love to see how well we'd do with Ireland."

Pilkington missed out but Hoolahan made sure he turned up for duty.

"Everyone wanted to be here, everyone in this squad wants to play for their country and the fact that we have a squad of 27 players training shows that. It's a great turn-out," he says.


"So many people in the world want to play for their country and don't get the opportunity, so I was happy to be here even though there's no guarantee of playing, it's an honour to be called up and you have to keep doing what you do and then get the opportunity to play."

Hoolahan has played against Georgia before, playing out two 1-1 draws at U21 level and he hopes tomorrow will be entertaining.

"I'm looking forward to the game. Georgia are managed by Temuri Ketsbaia and I remember him as a class player from a few years back so I'd expect a good game.

"I played against Georgia for the U21s and they were decent games, they gave Ireland's seniors a couple of hard games in the qualifiers a while back, but if we go out with the right attitude we'll get the result we want," he says.

"I think I can add something to the team if I come in. I like getting in the box, scoring goals, creating goals for other players, that's how I see my job. I am a player who likes to get forward and hopefully that's what I can bring to the team."