Date:Wednesday December 5 2007
Wes Hoolahan - A luxury that we can't afford? - AbelBFC
Football is a fickle game. Football is a game that takes no prisoners. One week you can be a hero, having the fans chanting your name and throwing themselves at your feet just to give you a compliment. The next, you can be a villain; booed by your own fans and deemed to be surplus to requirements by those who were heralding you as the messiah just a week before, but now saying that you're not the messiah and in fact 'a very naughty boy'.
On the messageboard over the previous week a very interesting debate ensued: could it be that Wes Hoolahan, the Irish magician with more tricks than Paul Daniels, a player so key to our promotion last season that we've gone all the way to FIFA to ensure that he remains in a tangerine shirt, is now deemed a luxury that we can't afford?
Last season Wes mesmerised the Bloomfield Road faithful with his ability to writhe, twist and turn away from opposition defenders before laying chances on a proverbial plate for our (then) prolific strike force, or planting the ball in the back of the net himself. On the opening day of this season, he got a huge cheer when he was unexpectantly named in the side and had a storming game despite his lack of pre-season. So what's changed since then?
Well, for a start, unlike last season where we were carving teams apart like a Sunday luncheon meat, we find ourselves near the bottom of the table, scrapping away for points. As such, some have said that we require a team of fighters, a team of battlers, a team of players made from the same mould as Ian Evatt. Whilst Wes doesn't strike you immediately as being a battler, there is no doubt that he is; he wears his heart on his sleeve and gives 110 per cent every week come rain or shine. Admittedly the wee man is not at his superlative best at present, but he's as passionate as the rest of the side - you could see he was visibly gutted on Tuesday night, and as such, refused to pick up his man of the match reward.
Furthermore, week in week out, Wes seems to think that it's his duty to carry the team, and as a result, ends up giving away the ball too frequently for everyone's liking. Often he'll try and beat that extra man instead of playing the simple ball. At this level, giving the ball away sloppily results in you getting punished, more so than you would in League One, or indeed in a court of law. This is where I'm inclined to agree with others; Wes definitely needs to work on this aspect of his game. He needs to keep the opposition guessing: is he going to play the simple ball or take them on? He also needs to learn when and when not to play the killer pass as every time he gets the ball he's not going to be able to unlock the opposition's defence.
Saying that, there is little doubt that Wes remains one of our best players and indeed one of the best players in the division. It is also interesting to consider just how much Wes' apparent shortcomings this season are down to the rest of the team, and indeed Larry.
Grayson has taken to playing Wes on the right, when it is clear that he's much more effective starting on the left (just look at how much his performance on Saturday improved after Taylor-Fletcher came on and they switched flanks). Change flanks during the game if you're not having any luck, but Wes needs to start games on the left if we`re to see him at his dazzling best.
Secondly, whereas as last season our strikers were scoring for fun per se, they're most certainly not this season, missing chance after chance. Perhaps if the chances that Wes is creating for them were going in, people wouldn't be judging Wes in the way that they are?
Finally, the rest of the side need to be prepared to grab games by the scruff of the neck themselves. They seem all too happy to simply give the ball to Wes and let him attempt to run proceedings. The likes of Fox need to be prepared to play the type of passes that saw us score v Wolves on a regular basis, rather than just relying on Wes.
Part of me wonders whether this debate would have actually arisen had Wes scored his penalty on Tuesday night or had his shot not hit the post and had in fact gone in, but there in lies the 'beauty' of football - we'll never know.
What is for certain is that Wes is the best player to have graced our presences' for many a year, and long may that remain the case!
Date:Wednesday December 5 2007
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