Norwich City have complained formally to Aston Villa about their pursuit of Wes Hoolahan – and have received a curt reply.
The exchange of letters between the two clubs demonstrates the deterioration of relations between them and explains why Norwich, who have rejected a transfer request from Hoolahan, are especially determined not to sell him to Villa.
Norwich wrote complaining that Villa manager Paul Lambert had publicly extolled Hoolahan’s ability, despite the Norfolk club saying he is not for sale. Villa wrote back merely acknowledging the receipt of the Norwich letter and “noting its contents”.
The acrimony between the two clubs stems from events after Lambert left Norwich for Villa 19 months ago. There was an escalating series of bad-tempered exchanges between Lambert, people representing him, and Norwich chief executive David McNally and chairman Alan Bowkett.
There was more bad blood when reserve goalkeeper Jed Steer followed Lambert to Villa Park last summer.
Then Villa bid £750,000 for Hoolahan at about the time the 31-year-old Republic of Ireland midfielder reported that he had picked up an injury and could not play in the FA Cup third round tie against Fulham. Hoolahan also told Norwich staff, verbally, that he wanted to join Villa.
Norwich manager Chris Hughton told the Norwich board he wants to keep Hoolahan, who had just forced his way into the first team. So Norwich told the player they had no intention of selling him and refused at first to even talk with Villa about the bid until after a tribunal hearing about goalkeeper Steer. Once that tribunal had made its ruling – that Villa must pay £450,000 immediately and, in theory could hand over up to £1.75m – Norwich rejected the offer for Hoolahan.
The popular midfielder – the only survivor from the era before Lambert lifted Norwich 54 places in three seasons – reported that he was fit but “not in the right frame of mind” to play. Despite that, Hughton has continued to select him as a sub.
This week Hoolahan submitted a written transfer request, but insisted: “There has not been any big row or anything.”
Norwich rejected the request and have told him again that they do not intend to sell him. That remains the position privately as well as publicly. I understand that the only circumstances in which they might be prepared to part with Hoolahan in this transfer window is if they could sign someone better at his sort of role – operating centrally just behind the main striker. Even then they would want at least £3m for Hoolahan and would still not want Villa to be his destination. They regard Villa as direct rivals in their attempt to secure a fourth successive season in the Premier League.
In 2009, soon after he had arrived at Norwich , Lambert tried to sell Hoolahan. And, if the Scot had remained in charge at Carrow Road for the summer in which he moved to Villa, he would have sold Grant Holt – the striker with whom he has now been reunited.
Lambert’s list of players he wanted to move on had already been presented to the Norwich board when he decamped to Villa. Holt was on that list.
In the event, however, Lambert left and new Norwich manager Chris Hughton gave Holt a new contract. The striker stayed for one season under Hughton in the Premier League before joining Wigan for £2m last summer. After scoring just twice in 19 appearances for Wigan he accepted a loan move to Villa for the rest of the season.
John Lovejoy says
Very interesting stuff Mick. Thanks for sharing it.
Yes, but all these facts to one side, why is Hughton so keen to get rid of our best players?
Seriously, I think it says volumes about Lambert’s struggles at Villa that he wants to reunite a Norwich forward line that reaped dividends in the Championship three years ago, but which petered out in the Premier League. Wes doesn’t look like scoring anywhere near enough goals at this level to play in that role, for all that he offers.
However, I’d suggest – and hope – that we ask Wes to stay until the end of the season, but then agree to let him move on then, as I think we did with Holt last season.
Mick – Thanks, Some very interesting facts which puts everything in a slightly different light. However, Lamberts intentions, past or present towards Hoolahan seem irrelevant to me as is the relationship between Villa and Norwich. This whole situation has been brought about by Hughtons refusal to play Hoolahan, which given recent performances is difficult for me to understand, I wonder what your views are?
SteveJ (no relation)you ask “why is Hughton so keen to get rid of our best players?”
Which part of the sentence “Norwich manager Chris Hughton told the Norwich board he wants to keep Hoolahan.” drew you to that conclusion?
Possibly your idea of putting “all these facts to one side.”
You were wrong about the transfer request. Think I’ll be trusting Mat Kendrick this time around.
SteveJ. I think I missed your irony, apologies. Re-reading it makes sense now.
I think a little too much is being placed on the history between Norwich and Villa rather than just looking at them as a direct rival to us. Why would we want to sell a player to a team be it Villa, Cardiff, Swansea, Palace who are vying with us for PL safety? Especially without a direct replacement. If I was Hughton or the board I would say to Villa you can have him, providing you give us Weimann.
I do have sympathy with Hoolahan who isn’t getting as much game time as he would like, but the whole situation with Villa stinks of a tap up. Little disappointed with Holt talking about it today in the press as well.
Also SteveJ – unsure who Hughton is trying to get rid of, we actually in hindseit got a great deal for Holt who was unable to produce in the Championship and we got his high wages off the bill. Do you put Ayala and Fox in that mould?
Andy S says
This isn’t a popular view, but Wes has the best of his career behind him now. On his day he can work magic, but can’t offer Premier League quality on a regular basis.
While Elmander isn’t the answer, I think Chris Hughton is right to look for higher quality in that position. I just hope Wes’ fantastic service to the club isn’t soured too much during this saga…
Dave B says
I was always proud of Norwich for doing their business behind closed doors. This article makes for very sad reading. Not because of the content, but the manner in which information is being leaked. I thought we had more class than that.
Just one note on Wes’ form. I’ve seen people saying Wes lost it in the Prem. An interesting comparison of the old guard vs. the new stars makes me wonder why he’s not being played:
0.12 goals per game started
0.07 goals per game started
0.14 goals per game started
Note – RVW isn’t close to Wes (0.07)
0.09 goals per shot
0.02 goals per shot
0.09 goals per shot
0.19 assists per game started
0.21 assists per game started
0.04 assists per game started
Two things occur here, firstly, Wes was more than happy to sign a contract extension just over a year ago, so there’s certain irony in his bleetings that the club won’t let him now move on. Secondly, fans have got to decide, do they want Wes in the team and just one up top, or do they want two up front and no Wes?
Mike C says
Oh dear, Dave B, you seem to have a lot of spare time on your hand and really love your statistics. Not a banker by any chance?
Wes should be compared to Johnny Howson, not an out and out winger and driving midfielder. He certainly costs us goals at times.
Best days behind him but useful backup.
Yellow in Enfield says
For me the problem is that Wes was fantastic at the tip of the midfield diamond that served us well in League one and the Championship but he is awkward to play otherwise. We know it doesn’t work with him on the wing (feel free to disagree)so do you play him behind a lone striker?
So finish the season and if he wants to move (to Villa or anywhere else) then let him go with our thanks for some great memories.
Fox in the box says
Ben(3) – Hughton hasn’t exactly ‘refused’ to play Wes..he’s chosen not to pick him for the majority of matches as is the prerogative of the man paid to make such decisions. I think it shows desperation on Lambert’s part that he has to resort to the old guard from a previous club.
Holty should keep his sticky beak out of it and concentrate on getting fit and not impersonating a slowly turning oil tanker.
Dave B(9) – fascinating stats as always but a bit mischievous. You can’t really compare the on-pitch facts of someone with nigh on 200 games under his belt with those who have had less than 20. But if you insist, the assists per game shows Redmond is better and Fer likewise for goals per game! Surely that is support for Hughton’s decisions?
it is totally disingenuous – or balls for another word, to claim that Hughton doesn’t want to sell Wes. His pig-headed refusal to use Hoolahan is close to constructive dismissal.
james d says
None of them play in Wes’ position but even so those stats are very cherry picked. Goals per shot? Which season is that from because it’s not this season.
Wes has 1 assist in the league this season (1 every 418 min) no goals, Elmander has 4 (1 every 227 min) no goals, Redmond has 3 (1 every 439 min) and 1 goal every 1317. Pilkington has 1 assist in 550 minutes but has a goal too.
The big difference comes in goals conceded. We conceded more when Wes plays than almost every other midfielder/striker.
Murphy 1 goal conceed every 23 min
Pilkington 1 every 37 min
Hoolahan 1 every 42 min
Howson 1 every 48
Johnson 1 every 50
Hooper 1 every 56
Redmond 1 every 60
Fer 1 every 69
Tettey 1 every 75
Elmander 1 every 76
RVW 1 every 83
Snodgrass 1 every 90
Hoolahan is probably fighting for a place with Elmander, RVW and Hooper. There’s an argument for him being a head of RVW but when you’ve spend 8.5 mil you don’t expect him to be on the bench. Would you drop Hooper (top goal scorer) for him, no. Even Elmander has a better assist rate this season and offers more defensively.
Simply Hoolahan hasn’t done enough when he has played this season. He got 33 league games under Hughton last season (the same as Lambert the year before). He has 3 assists last year (1 every 11 games). Bennett, Pilkingon & Holt all had 3, Snodgrass had 6. Even Johnson and Bassong has 2 each.
Goals + assists last season (all comps) reads:
Snodgrass 6 + 6
Holt 8 + 3
Pilkington 5 + 3
Hoolahan 3 + 3
Bassong 3 + 2
Bennett 1 + 3
Turner & Martin 3 + 0
Hoolahan makes us more vunerable at the back and hasn’t offered enough going forward. That’s why he’s not in the fist 11. The strangest thing is that his 1 assist this season come when he played on the wing.
chris b says
As a villa fan we dont have a rivalry with Norwich and are not interested in having one. All ex managers go back to their old clubs, we have had it with O’Neill signing a few of ours, but we dont have a rivalry with sunderland.
As far as the manager thing is concerned Villa took form Norwich just as Norwich did to colchester and if Lambert ever becomes a great manager (which i seriously doubt) a bigger club will take him from Villa. If Chris H had played Hoolahan then this whole transfer thing woukldnt exist. Of course he wants to play football at 31..
Dave B says
Should have said that stats for Wes are only for his period in the Prem.
Realistically, there’s very little in the stats but one difference is that Wes always gives everything. I’ve never seen Wes give up like I have Fer. It makes me wonder if players are being picked on results and work rate, or price tag.
I didn’t include Howson as I was comparing the (almost always first choice) new signings.
Not a banker (or statistician).
Mick Dennis says
I wasn’t wrong about Wes’s request. Others said he had ‘handed in a request’. He hadn’t and didn’t want to. That’s a very big step and very different from what the position was when I wrote about it first. Others said Villa had bid £1m. They didn’t. Goodness knows I’ve been wrong about lots in my four decades of making public utterances — but I’ve been bang on about this one. And, for the record, I adore Wessi.
Jim Jocelyn says
Howson… An attacking midfielder with zero assists…
Dave B says
You’re going to have to explain to me if goals conceded is such an important stat, why does everyone moan about our injuries? Clearly we wouldn’t play Pilks anyway and Howson is very comparable.
Villa fan in peace. Have seen a bit of Hoolahan and think he looks a decent player but I don’t see how you can compare him with Redmond who is an out and out winger. I think he would do a job for us in certain circumstances i.e. when playing lower positioned teams that are more defensively minded, particularly at home. However, I would envisage him either playing at the tip of a diamond behind Tekkers and either Gabby or Weimann or playing behind a front three of Gabby, Tekkers and Andi. Where I think he would really work at Villa Park is that we have a young Irishman coming through – Caruthers who is currently on loan at MK Dons – who I have high hopes for as our future playmaker and think it would be great for him to have a season behind Hoolahan at Villa Park. Anyway, I wish you well for the rest of the season – here’s hoping the bottom three comes from London sides or Sunderland.
Brian Jefferis says
What’s the problem. If Villa want him, ask for £5 million and they can have him. That will show how serious they are or is it just troublemaking.
james d says
Goals conceded matter because they’re is no point selecting a player who scores or sets up goals if all it does is change a team losing 1 nil to a team losing 3-1.
To accommodate wes we have to play a different system which is fine if he offers enough attacking wise to compensate for the defensive issues he brings. This season he hasn’t come close.
james d says
Howson does have 2 goals though. I wouldn’t call him an attacking midfielder. Howson, Johnson and Fer all have similar goals to minutes ratios and usually have 2 strikers or one plus hoolahan ahead of them.
I don’t see howson as Hoolahans rival in the team. They could play together. I don’t see a how we get enough of our best players playing if you play a diamond.
Russell S. says
All these stats have made me dizzy. It’s simple for me – Wes isn’t consistent enough and doesn’t have the physique to survive in the PL. Even your skilled MFs now such as Barklay have to be tough enough to survive playing regularly (Barklay’s out injured ironically).
I’m with (23) – if Villa want him, then simply double the asking price and call their bluff.
What happened to Lambert’s initial ‘philosophy’ when he left for Villa of building success through youth?
Dave B says
I understand what the stat shows, my point is, if you’re going to suggest we wouldn’t play Wes because it makes us more vulnerable, then Pilkington and Howson wouldn’t get in the team either.
Really, if Hughton doesn’t want to play Wes, that’s up to him, but then let him go. If he’s going to start him in games like the Palace one then Hughton clearly has no idea what to do with him.
Green Villan says
Villa fans don’t want your 3rd rate players, hell you can have Lambert back, he is bloody useless. You think you’ll get Weimann, pmsl don’t make me laugh, you can have Hutton for free.
Chris W says
I agree with those who point out that Wes signed a contract extension and disagree with the view that if he’s neither starting or coming off the bench he has almost been “constructively dismissed”.
Even though some footballers may not be terribly bright, I have no doubt that they can all count to 25 and therefore sign contracts in the full knowledge that they may not start, or even be in the matchday squad.
We can all see for ourselves how easily Wes is pushed off the ball when faced with the 6 foot plus athletic players increasingly adorning the premier league, so the matches when he features will be when he can make an impact, and that’s isn’t very often.
If we’re honest we have been frustrated at times both last season and this, when he has run into blind alleys or lost the ball too cheaply. On top of that his goal threat has become almost non existent. We should keep him unless we can replace him and in this window that seems highly unlikely.
james d says
I think he’s only played recently because injuries (and as a result some player tiredness) has left him with few options. I have no issue will him being sold but 750k is simply not good enough. If a decent offer comes in and we get cover in then let him go. He’s been a great servant but it’s probably right for both him and club to move on.
I’m not sure Howson is the answer. Pilkington offers a goal or assist nearly twice as regularly as Hoolahan but they’re not after the same position, I think Redmond has offered more assists on the right too. Howson, Fer and Pilkington all had their goals conceded inflated by the Man City game which Hoolahan was lucky not play a part in.
The surprise for me is how much Elmander has actually contributed, more assists than anyone and far better defensive record when he’s on the pitch despite featuring away at Man City and Liverpool. The negativity directed at him seems a bit harsh.
How small time are we coming across here?. Hampering the career of Wes when that idiot Hughton won’t even play him?. Let him go and better himself and let’s all just move on
@28 Well you were all chanting his name and telling us how you were going to get him at the last game of the 11/12 season, you got what you wanted-so now you have to live with it! But who do you think you’d get instead?
@GreenVillan – the point about Weimann was tongue in cheek. I know you don’t want to get rid of him but with all due respect, why would we sell a player to a rival without having a replacement? That is what happens in the January window and it is why so much business happens in the final few days.
@Sebsty we are not coming across as small time, that would be yes of course you can have our players. We are showing a strong stance in what is obviously a sly move whilst denied of course there have been talks between Hoolahan & Lambert.
Dave B says
I don’t like what’s happening to our club. Six months ago we were in a great position. Coming into a season with all new stars, very optimistic, our CEO was on Twitter, the poster boy for media transparency, and our business was done professionally and efficiently behind closed doors.
Now McNally has quit Twitter when the going got tough, fan favourite Wes wants to leave, we’ve bought Becchio who we won’t play or even loan out, our signings are (generally) underperforming, we have Mick spreading news/gossip to make old managers look bad (has Mick sat on this info or is he being fed it?), we have a petty feud going on with another club for daring to poach a manager (pot, kettle), and our football barely passes as entertainment.
And why? Is this helping the club’s image? Our performances? Is it good for the fans?
@34 Dave B
Its difficult to argue with a lot of what you say.
For those suggesting Hoolahan is a liability, too lightweight, doesn’t score, responsible for goals conceded etc then we should sell him to Villa immediately, let him weaken their side and look forward to a guaranteed 3 points come March 1st.
Couldn’t agree more. It’s great to read revealing articles like Mick’s, but this as much about PR as it is journalism. It suited the club to have that information out in the public domain. I’m not being critical about this as it’s what I do for a living, but as a reflection on the current state of the football club we love it’s all pretty depressing.
GB Shaw says
34 – are you an Ipswich mole mascarading as a City man? Such grumbling would make Ebeneezer Scrooge wince.
As if quitting twitter is a heinous crime! My respect went up for him when he did that. Wes isn’t every fan’s favourite – past glories shouldn’t let your brain get fogged. Thank you Wes but time to move on.
We’re 12th for flip’s sake! I’d say Southampton are in a bigger ‘mess’ than we are right now with issues over owner/chairman/injuries/brawling players.