MyFootballWriter columnist Mick Dennis tonight confirmed what most of a City persuasion had long feared – that Paul Lambert would, indeed, return for the mercurial services of Wes Hoolahan.
Writing for his day job with the Daily Express, Mick revealed that the Canaries had rejected a ‘derisory’ £750,000 bid for the 31-year-old Dubliner. A figure that, alternatively, could rise to £1 million if payment were in instalments.
The piece also stressed that should Hoolahan himself seek to speed up his own exit by slapping in a transfer request, that too would be rejected.
‘Privately, Norwich insiders regard the Hoolahan bid as almost insulting and have no wish to do business with either Lambert or Villa because of bad blood over the way the Scot manager left them after lifting them 54 places in three seasons,’ Mick wrote.
‘Hoolahan would welcome the chance to join Villa, because they are offering a longer deal than his current Norwich contract, which has 18 months to run.’
Norwich, you sensed, were determined to be seen to be drawing a very firm line in the sand with regard to the future whereabouts of their much-loved playmaker who, in that little hole off three-time Player of the Season Grant Holt, came to embody much about those three seasons on the up, up, up under Lambert.
The fact that he was a ‘player’, who liked nothing better than to have the ball at his feet, has long endeared him to City supporters; he sees a pass few others do. Something Chris Hughton himself admitted as Hoolahan rolled back the years in the opening hour against Manchester United recently.
Given time and space, he can unlock the meanest of defences. It is how much time and space the English Premier League ever grants someone of his athletic stature that is the age-old dilemma for managers – be they old or new.
Tonight’s revelations will also only serve to stir a previously poisonous pot between the two clubs that harks back to Lambert’s difficult and acrimonious exit from Carrow Road for the Midlands after three, extraordinary seasons at the
helm. One that could be stirred again as that transfer tribunal sits to decide a fee for England Youth keeper Steer.
Accusations came thick and fast as Lambert packed his bags for pastures new that bitter summer; City will be all too aware of the potential repercussions among the supporters if one of the club’s more prized ‘entertainers’ is allowed to follow Lambert up the A14 and help lift spirits among the Villa faithful after a turgid and all-too often goalless run of games at Villa Park capped by the 1-0 home defeat by Crystal Palace.
The 2-1 home defeat by Sheffield United in this weekend’s FA Cup third round tie hardly helped the mood. Hence, in part, Lambert’s desire to put a smile back on the face of the natives with the Dubliner’s dancing feet.
It is the effect it will have on the Norfolk natives – should Hoolahan exit – that will be taxing the minds of the Canary board tonight.
Though that will be far from the only consideration.
With 18 months left on his City contract, now might be the time to cash in.
More importantly still will be Hoolahan’s own attitude towards the quickening transfer talk.
He will be all-too well aware that in every likelihood a longer and more lucrative deal awaits at Villa.
And at 31, this might be the last time such an offer will be made.
And, equally, he knows Lambert from way back when – from their days at Livingston together when both were just cutting their teeth in terms of their respective playing and managerial careers.
There is history between the two. And that may well play its part.
More history than Hoolahan enjoys with current City boss Chris Hughton, who has used him sparingly this season as he tries to make the attacking chemistry work between his big money summer arrivals – Gary Hooper, Ricky van Wolfswinkel,
Nathan Redmond and Johan Elmander.
Hughton may yet have his sights on a further, fresh attacking face in this transfer window – something, or someone, to sweeten the pill of a potential Hoolahan exit.
Because the story is unlikely to end with tonight’s public rejection.
More likely it is just the first shot in an ever-more protracted transfer saga that – should the player and his agent start to make waves to go – will run and run till the eleventh hour.
Certainly City chief executive David McNally won’t be in any hurry to do Lambert any favours. Club chairman Alan Bowkett can be equally strong-willed in the face of any devious manoeuvres from the wily Scot.
This is but the start…