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Wes Hoolahan in full flight with the Canaries as he's desperate to sample life in Premier League again


Wes Hoolahan

Wes Hoolahan

Wes Hoolahan

LAST Christmas, Wes Hoolahan had a big occasion to plan for once the turkey and stuffing were out of the way. His job, on St Stephen's Day, was to play for his club against Manchester United in the Premier League.

The fare on offer for Christmas 2014 is more humble, Championship games planned over the coming days against Millwall and Reading as well as an FA Cup meeting with Preston in the New Year.

But it's that spell in the Premier League with Norwich, and that steady diet of games against the big clubs, that is driving Hoolahan and his side this season, the Canaries eager to eat at the top table again.


"I got a feel for it over the last three years and you get a taste for it, going to these places, Anfield and Old Trafford," Hoolahan told The Herald, the Dubliner only just back in action with his club after an eight-week absence due to injury, a lay-off which forced him to miss key games for his club and also Ireland's vital Euro 2016 qualifier in Scotland.

"It's a special experience to play away to United or Liverpool, as a kid you dream of playing in the Premier League in England.

"We've had a few months of Championship football now and I am more determined than ever to get back into the Premier, play in those big games again, against the top teams and the top players."

Hoolahan's side are very much in the race to win promotion back to the Premier League, and the Ireland man's return to action after a two-month absence due to a serious injury has coincided with a decent run of form - Hoolahan made his comeback in a 5-0 win against Huddersfield and also came off the bench to feature on Saturday when Norwich came from behind to get a hard-earned, and important, point away to Derby.

Hoolahan speaks of his determination to get back to the top flight and his drive is evident in the fact that he's playing now, the 32-year-old returning ahead of schedule.

Norwich boss Neil Adams jokingly chastised Hoolahan for his eagerness to return, claiming that the Dubliner had effectively sneaked into training and "nicked someone's bib" because the club's medical staff wanted more time before he was back in full training.

"I was just desperate to get back," Hoolahan admits, having suffered his injury against Fulham in October.

"I was told it would be 8-10 weeks before I could even train but after five weeks I felt good and felt confident so I wanted to get back into things. I was there kicking balls on the training ground even when they didn't want me to, I just kept pushing myself as I wanted to get back out there, I wanted to play, help the team and help the club, but the physois did great work to get me right again

"It was a nasty injury, ruptured ligaments. I was in a protective boot for three weeks, once I took it off it was a matter of walking, then jogging but within five weeks I was back out on the training round.

"I'm not a great spectator. Some times I went to see the games but it was difficult so I basically took two weeks off, which was great for me, I went back home to Dublin for a bit, recharged the batteries."

He's an important part of the Norwich set-up, and he was missed in his absence, City winning just two of the eight games played while Hoolahan was missing.

But things have taken an upturn of late, that impressive win over Huddersfield where a fit-again Hoolahan came off the bench, and Saturday's draw with Derby.

"We have a good squad, we have just hit a bit of a bad run but we're still only a few points off the top. Derby was a hard game, I know some of their lads from the Irish squad and they're a good side so that was an important game for us," he says.


"We had been doing ok but then we hit a bad patch, part of it was when I was out. The confidence was down but the boys are flying now, I think the heads are up again and I think we can kick on in the league now, make a real push for promotion."

The injury also forced Hoolhan to miss the game at Parkhead - a match he was desperate to play in as Scotland was his first home in British football, from his time with Livingston after he moved from Shelbourne.

Whether he would have made the team for the Scotland tie we won't know as Martin O'Neill didn't start the playmaker in Germany, though Hoolahan showed his value when he played a part in John O'Shea's equalising goal.

"It was hard to miss the Scotland game, it would have been great to play at Parkhead, that was unfortunate. I saw the Scotland match and there was nothing in it, they won it with a set piece which killed us, that game was always going to be a 1-0, it was just a case of who got it," he explains.

"I have no idea if I would have played in the game but I have to hope and I hope I can play a role in the rest of the campaign. I want to start like everyone else but I will go with the manager's decision

"We have a big squad and everyone can play a part, if that's a case of coming off the bench for 10 minutes then so be it, sometimes it can be more important to do something as a sub than in a starting role."

While Norwich have a lot to occupy their minds in the coming weeks and months, Hoolahan's eyes have already turned to the 2015 international year and that visit of Poland to Dublin in March.

"We've two massive home games next, Poland and Scotland, if we can get points there we've a great chance of qualifying," he says.


"March is a long way away. For me, it's a matter of getting myself fully fit, back into the Norwich team and playing well again and the goal is to get the team back into the Premier League."

That ambition, promotion, remains key for the player, though Norwich - like all clubs in the division - know how hard that league can be.

"If someone was able to go on a good run they'd be hard to catch but there are no easy games in the Championship, it really is a hard league to play in," he says.

"You see shock results all the time, someone in the bottom three beating the league leaders, stuff you don't really get in the Premier League a lot.

"We have a few big games ahead of us, we have Millwall at home on St Stephen's Day - that should be a good one for us and it will be nice to pay against Fordey - and we have Preston in the third round of the FA Cup in January, I'm looking forward to that one as well as I know their manager Simon Grayson, he was good for me when we were at Blackpool.

"But promotion has to be the aim, we don't want to be still in this division next year and we have to work hard to make that happen for us."