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Pilkington: Class Wes is the type of player Ireland can build team around

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NORWICH CITY almost lost one of their Irish stars to a rival club in the last transfer window with Wes Hoolahan's aborted move to Aston Villa.

And Ireland almost lost patience with one of their current internationals as Anthony Pilkington's path to the squad was riddled with delays, problems and no-shows before he made his debut against Sweden last year.

But the pair are now working off the same page with club and country, the man they call Weso staking a claim for a permanent place in the starting XI with his impressive display against Serbia on Wednesday on a night when fellow Canary Pilkington staked his claim with a decent outing as a 60th-minute sub for Hoolahan.

Ireland finished on the losing side, but it was Hoolahan's display which gave most cause for optimism as the Dubliner prodded and poked at Serbia to create a couple of tasty chances for Shane Long.

Pilkington, who came off the bench to claim his third cap, sees Hoolahan as potentially a key figure for the national side.

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"I have played with Wes week in, week out for a few years now. I always knew what he could do but he is finally now getting a chance to show at international level what he is capable of," Pilkington told the Herald.

"He did really well in the Serbia game the other night, he got the man of the match award and he deserved it. Hopefully he can keep up that good form in the next few weeks and months for Norwich and then kick on again with Ireland when we come back in May.

"Wes makes a massive difference to any team when he gets a chance and it's great to see that he is showing that with Ireland now, he is a player they can build a team around," Pilkington added.

While Hoolahan has had his frustrations at international level – with a four-and-a-half year gap between his first and second caps – Pilkington has also been a slow starter.

Giovanni Trapattoni first tried to call him up against Serbia in 2012 but an injury robbed him of his chance.

He was named in squads for matches against Poland, Sweden, Austria, a four-game series of matches in May and June of last year and a friendly against Wales before he finally made his debut as a sub away to Sweden.

"It has been a very frustrating time for me with Ireland since I first came into the squad. I love meeting up with the squad every chance I get, every time I am in a squad is a chance for me to get my face in there and then try to get onto the pitch and show what I can do."

At times in the past Ireland were crying out for wingers but at the moment Martin O'Neill has something of an embarrassment of riches.

James McClean and Aiden McGeady are the men in possession but Robbie Brady has to come back into the frame when he recovers from injury. Pilkington is a live option there while Jon Walters, Anthony Stokes, Simon Cox, Daryl Murphy and Andy Keogh have all played out wide in the recent past while Stephen Hunt still harbours hopes of playing for his country again.

"There is a lot of competition for the wide places at the moment, it's probably one of the hardest positions in the team in terms of breaking in," says Pilkington.

"Hopefully I can get a series of 90-minute games under my belt for Norwich and have a strong finish to the season, and then be in a strong position with Ireland in May."


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