Tuesday 20 February 2018

Canaries a cause for Irish concern

'O'Neill will want his creative performers to arrive in France flushed with confidence' Photo: David Maher / SPORTSFILE...ABC
'O'Neill will want his creative performers to arrive in France flushed with confidence' Photo: David Maher / SPORTSFILE...ABC

Independent.ie newsdesk

It could be argued that Wes Hoolahan and Robbie Brady are the two most inventive players at Martin O'Neill's disposal.

They will be vitally important in France this summer and O'Neill will want his creative performers to arrive flushed with confidence.

Unfortunately, they are both part of a Norwich group that has taken just one point from their last nine Premier League games. That disastrous run has put them in the relegation zone. Already, it looks like a four team race to avoid the three dreaded finishing positions with Aston Villa behaving like they are doomed. It places Norwich in a fight with North-East duo Newcastle and Sunderland.

With all due respect to Rob Elliot and John O'Shea, it would be better from an Irish perspective if Norwich escaped the trap door.

It's not just about the French angle. After all, the euphoria of being involved should provide a morale boost to every member of the group regardless of their individual situations. And Hoolahan is old enough to shrug off most disappointments.

Brady is the concern. This is a huge year for the Dubliner, who made a statement of intent last summer by showing the ambition to move from Hull when they were relegated. He has avoided injury at Norwich so, in reality, he is in the middle of his first full season as a regular Premier League performer.

It would be a disastrous outcome if he found himself back in the same position again. His international colleagues believe he has the quality to operate in the top half of the table but he would find it hard to secure another transfer after signing a deal with Norwich which still has two seasons remaining.

On these pages before, it has been stressed that Brady is of huge importance for the long term seeing as he's the only homegrown Irishman under the age of 25 that has lined out at the highest level this season.

The failure of his peers to really progress has placed a lot of pressure on his shoulders and it's imperative that he remains in that company.

Norwich followers will be hoping that the worst is over now but Man City's weekend visit doesn't necessarily jump off the page as the ideal opportunity to get back on track.

Newcastle and Sunderland are both due at Carrow Road in April. They are the games in which Brady and Hoolahan will have to take their future into their own hands.

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