City winger Anthony Pilkington hailed team-mate Wes Hoolahan as ‘the best player that I have played with’ as the two, together inspired Norwich to their fifth, straight home league win with yesterday’s 2-1 success against strugglers Wigan.
Pilkington struck first off a Hoolahan assist, before returning the favour after the break for the 30-year-old Dubliner to grab his first goal of the season – and a header, to boot.
Given that it all came on the day that Hoolahan signed a new, improved three-year deal to tie him to Carrow Road until at least the summer of 2012 and the result itself lifted the Canaries to seventh in the Premier League table, the season of joy and goodwill to all men was in full flow in Norfolk this weekend.
“It’s a massive boost,” said the 24-year-old winger, echoing a sentiment that will be widely shared amongst the Canary faithful.
Since arriving from Blackpool in the summer of 2008, Hoolahan has all-too often been the one to oil the wheels of Canary motion. And whilst his forward-line partnership with skipper Grant Holt might not have yielded goal after goal this term, the pair’s sheer endeavour on and off the ball has been one of the mainstays of City’s remarkable unbeaten league run of late.
This weekend’s victory made it 22 points from the last available 30 – an extraordinary tally for a side that the bookies had down as odds-on for the drop.
And somewhere near its beating heart has been Hoolahan; the one player that, more than any, tends to make Norwich tick.
“He’s a great player; probably the best player that I have played with when you see his footwork and how good he is with the ball,” added Pilkington, as he spoke to BBC Radio Norfolk afterwards.
“So it’s massive for this football club for him to be here for the next three to four years. It’s great for him – and great for the football club.”
Pilkington has played his own part in Norwich’s rise to such dizzying heights. And with games against the reigning champions of both the Champions League and the English Premier League now visible on the horizon, he was well aware of how important it was for Norwich to get more big points on the board against one of the league’s lesser lights.
“It’s a massive win going into a tough period now – but it was a great win for the fans and a great way to bounce back from Tuesday,” said Pilkington, as that 4-1 cup exit was brushed beneath the nearest piece of carpet.
His 15th minute strike was his third in three, successive home games. The young man has a finish on him and remains very direct in his approach to the opposition goal.
“I’m enjoying it – the fans really get behind us and, yes, it’s now three goals from the last three games here now. But like I say the three points for us is massive,” he said, before paying tribute to the role Hoolahan played in both City’s goals.
“Wes did really well for the first goal; he’s persisted and put a good tackle in and slipped the ball in, so I thought it was only right to do that [back] in the second-half,” said Pilkington, whose hanging, 64th minute cross was perfect for one of the smallest players on the park to head emphatically home.
With a stuttering West Bromwich Albion next on the agenda, the Canaries have another great chance to push themselves further up the table – and ever further away from the danger zone.
“We’ve picked up a lot of points in the last couple of months and we’re sitting nicely going into a tough Christmas period, so we’re delighted with that,” said Pilkington, only denied a second strike by a fabulous, one-handed save from Latics’ keeper Ali Al Habsi.
“Their keeper has pulled off some good saves, but we looked quite comfortable enough throughout the game,” said Pilkington.
“We could have had a couple more goals, but its three points at the end of the day – and they’re tough points to come across in this league, so we’re delighted.”