Monday 24 October 2016

John Giles: Norwich attempt to block Wes Hoolahan playing for Ireland was dreadful

Once-proud clubs are now so focused on cash that they are losing their soul

Wes Hoolahan, Republic of Ireland, celebrates with team-mate Robbie Keane after scoring his side's seventh goal
Wes Hoolahan, Republic of Ireland, celebrates with team-mate Robbie Keane after scoring his side's seventh goal
Martin O'Neill speaks to the players in training

TUCKED into a corner of Martin O'Neill's comments about Wes Hoolahan's fitness for the games against England and Scotland, I read some words which made me wonder if we are fighting a losing battle.

You might have thought that in a week in which Sepp Blatter resigned and a never-ending series of revelations is emerging about corruption in football that I would be more than satisfied with the way events are progressing.

I was glad to see Blatter go but then I read that Norwich City would have preferred that Hoolahan would give the two internationals a miss so that he could get himself right for next season.

This is Norwich City we are talking about, remember. This is a club which was always known to have the best traditions of the game at heart and should be well-disposed towards one of their own lads getting international recognition.


Add to that the fact that Hoolahan is a long-time and very loyal servant of the club and that he is coming to the end of his career and is desperately trying to establish himself as a first choice international starter.

You would imagine that a club like Norwich would appreciate that fact that wave Hoolahan off with good luck wishes.

That's what would have happened even ten years ago but not now. That day is gone and will never return.

I would suggest that this small little item is potentially more significant to international football in the long run than any number of corrupt FIFA officials.

Blatter's departure creates a huge vacuum and who knows where the investigation might spin from now on. It could be that many who might have seen themselves as candidates will take a step back out of the limelight.

Control of football globally will be retained by FIFA come what may and the rules on the release of international players and the attempt to regularise the football calendar will still stand as two very good things which have been done by the world governing body.

But when you see Norwich driven to such contempt for international football by the commercial demands of playing in the Premier League, it is obvious that clubs will push harder and harder for control of their players and a weak FIFA might find that hard to resist.

FIFA is now in chaos and whoever emerges as the next President could well be a compromise candidate and in the way of things, that will be no more than a holding operation until the full scale of the damage to the organisation is revealed.

Into that gap will come the clubs. They have one imperative and that is to maximise revenue from the players they employ.

It was deeply ironic to see Spurs involved in ludicrous post-season games in Malaysia. They kicked up a fuss about Harry Kane's involvement in the European Under 21 finals, claiming burnout.

Almost all the Premier League clubs have been playing games in the last few weeks and that makes a complete nonsense of any request they might make to any international manager for leeway.

It's a big weekend for football and tomorrow's Champions League final is a pretty substantial appetiser for the game against England and then Scotland a week later.

I reckon Barcelona will be crowned champions in Berlin and mainly because of their three marvellous frontmen. Messi, Suarez and Neymar, are all capable of winning a game on their own.

I don't think this will be anything but close because Juventus have Tevez and they will not fear Barcelona. Maybe even extra-time but I don't see penalty shoot-out.

Martin O'Neill will get a chance to put out his best team against England and have a proper dress rehearsal for Scotland but I'm not so sure he will.


It is a perfect preparation game but only if the lads who will be playing against Scotland get to play in it.

By now, O'Neill should know at least nine of his best XI and there is nothing to be gained from hiding that from Gordon Strachan.

Scotland already learned all they needed when they beat us last November.

If Hoolahan is fit and by the way, credit to him for standing up to Norwich and making himself available for these games, he should start in both.

He is Ireland's most creative player by a mile and we need him badly.

In terms of the broader context and the significance of England turning up at Lansdowne Road for a friendly, I would say that everything is very different now and while we should never forget what happened, let's focus on the football.

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