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Can Newcastle Jets soar to A-League summit with the Irish Messi?

Monday 16th September 2019
Wes Hoolahan Newcastle Jets A League Ios Adam Cattell

Wes Hoolahan spent a decade at Norwich City where it's safe to say he's a club legend. With no hard feelings, the 37-year-old decided to get as far from East Anglia as possible and still play professional football. He signed a one-year deal with the A-League's Newcastle Jets.

His signature attracted less fanfare in New South Wales than Emile Heskey's. The former England striker generated so much excitement, broadcasters invented the 'Heskey-cam' so viewers could track his every move during a match with Melbourne Victory.

Hoolahan joins the likes of Damien Duff, Andy Keogh and the late Liam Miller as former Republic of Ireland internationals to head Down Under. At his age, however, you have to wonder if the so-called 'Irish Messi' has anything in the tank to lift the Jets above last year's seventh-place finish.

The Messi comparisons may be slightly tongue in cheek but it's clear the former Shelbourne Junior has guile and creativity in spades. Newcastle coach Ernie Merrick bemoaned his side's decision-making in the final third last season. He hopes Hoolahan can be the supply line to the Jets' other major signing, striker Abdiel Arroyo. The Panama international joins on a season-long loan from parent club Arabe Unido.  

Hoolahan can also pass on a wealth of experience to his teammates. With 323 appearances and 47 goals in Canary yellow, his place in Carrow Road folklore is written in stone. He also boasts 43 caps for his native Ireland, not to mention three goals, one coming in Euro 2016 to earn Ireland a 1-1 draw versus Sweden. 

Midfield duo Jack Simmons and Angus Thurgate can also learn first hand from a man who has spent the bulk of his career in the EFL Championship and Premier League. 

Concerns raised about the Irish schemer's age were predictably shot down by the man himself upon his unveiling. Insisting he was in fine fettle, he fell back on the old adage that age is just a number. The underlying message? His isn't up.

Unlike a Championship season's arduous nature, the A-league is more forgiving. The 2019/20  season comprises 26 games for each club with three rest weeks. Hoolahan believes he can manage his game accordingly. 

Sporting the No.8 jersey, he got off the mark with a goal in the Jets' routine 5-1 FFA Cup win against part-timers Edgeworth Eagles three weeks ago. Adelaide United will provide a stiffer test in the quarterfinal clash on Tuesday evening or just as you lot in the UK are fumbling for the Tuesday morning snooze button.

Never a player heavily reliant on pace and power, he will be granted the time and space for his quality to shine through. With Arroyo and fellow attackers Dimi Petratos and Nick Fitzgerald in tow, the Jets are an interesting proposition this year. They can be confident of a top-six finish. 

Despite his advancing years, it should be entertaining to see 'Wessi' show the A-League what he is all about. Who knows? If the mercurial Irishman can continue to bamboozle defences, the telly might grace us with a Hoola-cam. 

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Adam Cattell

I fell in love with this game as a child during Italia 90, Gazzas tears, Roger Milla etc. Darlington FC fan now exiled in Brisbane, Australia. Once played at Wembley. Shared a shower with Ray Parlour- lovely fella.


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