As Wes Hoolahan's time with Norwich City draws to a close, Senior Club Journalist James Baldwin reflects on a magnificent decade for the Irishman at Carrow Road.
Wes Hoolahan. Where to start? To say it's the end of an era at Norwich City would be an understatement in the extreme, given his heavy involvement in times which were so spectacular they need not even be directly referred to (*inserts image to jog memories just in case).
For years, I've felt it was important to really enjoy what you were witnessing every time Wes took to the pitch. An absolute master of his craft, it needed to be appreciated and to do anything less would be a gross disservice to a supremely talented individual. That feeling began to take on extra significance this season however, as with each passing game the likelihood of this campaign being his last in Norfolk seemed to grow.
To have watched him play for a decade is one thing, but to have spent four seasons working at the same club as him was another. His dogged avoidance of media could prove challenging professionally, but it was always cheeky, never obstinate. The line 'no cameras' was heard on more than one occasion, and heard again last week just before we sat down to discuss his departure. That time, though, you knew he understood the significance of what was about to happen and that the comment was made entirely in jest as he prepared himself to deliver one final message to an adoring public. He delivered it perfectly.
While seeing Wes bow out will be extremely sad, at this stage of his career it would be a waste of still unquestionable ability if he were to remain here in an increasingly peripheral role. He deserves the opportunity to make the most of his remaining years as a player, and that’s why this decision makes sense, as difficult as it is to remove the sentimental element. That it's been confirmed before the end of the season is best for everyone too; it's an understandably emotive topic and to leave all involved unsure of the future amid a state of flux would be unfair and disrespectful to someone who is deserving of clarity after giving so much to the club for so long.
The way things have been handled ensures there won't a repeat of Darren Huckerby’s wrongfully messy exit of yesteryear, instead guaranteeing Wes gets the send-off he so richly deserves – something more akin to the one Iwan Roberts received against Preston back in 2004. And rightly so.
Saturday will be a strange, surreal day but it’s one to be cherished as we say goodbye to a truly phenomenal footballer who will always be synonymous with Norwich City. Enjoy it. And enjoy him, one last time.