Norwich v Leeds had an emotional side that virtually overshadowed the football.
It was, of course, Wes Hoolahan’s 352nd and final appearance in his ten-year reign as the King of Carrow road.
It has to be said that if Wes had written the script himself, it could not have gone better for him.
The first objective was to win the game and for six minutes, it looked as though someone had not read the script. Kalvin Phillips, man bun and all, opened the scoring on 39 minutes with a very good hooked opener after an initial shot had been sliced by Ronaldo Vieira before falling kindly to the man bun.
The jeers for that slice were still coming out of my mouth when Phillips hooked the ball home – D’oh!
However, the atmosphere was as good as it’s been all season and arguably better, as every single member of the Canary nation willed Wes to make something special of his last outing in yellow and green.
On the stroke of half-time, Wes picked up a loose ball just inside the Leeds half and strode forwards. When he reached about 25 yards out and was about to be closed down by Pontus Jansson, he struck a shot that took a deflection off Jansson’s boot and flew towards the top corner.
The ball struck the left post as the despairing Leeds keeper missed it, flew across the goal and struck the right post before rolling back into the net.
Carrow Road erupted with noise and emotion.
Wes was mobbed by his teammates before looking up to the sky when it all finally subsided and he walked back to his own half.
Onel Hernandez later posted a picture of him and Wes with the text “God’s Plan.”
City went into the break all smiles, we had our Wessi goal.
The second half was only going to end one way as City strained every sinew to get Wes the win we all wanted and somehow knew he needed to make the day complete. A win for either side generally would’ve meant very little for the two mid-table protagonists, although there is still the “Pride of Anglia” at stake.
Bailey Peacock-Farrell, in the Leeds goal, was able to produce some very good saves in the second half as City started banging on the door. The best was a one-handed, close-range save from James Maddison, who did as much as anyone to try to get the winner.
A goal was coming though.
On 69 minutes, it was fitting that Hoolahan should be at the heart of it as he got his final assist. He found Josh Murphy just inside the box and Josh lashed a powerful shot into the goal, a shot that seemed to go straight through Peacock-Farrell, such was its power.
That was pretty much it. In the 85th minute, Wes made an emotional exit for the returning Tom Trybull. An exit that saw him shake plenty of hands, with hugs all round and tears from the little man.
The heartless Leeds fans weren’t too impressed and jeered and motioned for Wes to get off the field. It looked as though their side’s tepid performance had just about tipped them over the edge in terms of patience for the Wes Hoolahan appreciation society.
City saw out the game and Wes was named man of the match, which was of course mandatory.
That award, even though it might have been decided sometime last Thursday, was wholly merited for the final act of a ten-year performance of excellence. The player who was named in the Championship team of the decade had played his final game.
After the game, I was lucky enough to be in the Gunn Club with my family and we got to have a photo with the little magician. He signed my lad’s “Hoolahan” shirt and smiled a lot. I managed to shake his hand and thank him for his “Brilliant ten years” and he thanked me for my kind words.
I watched him shaking the hands of others and smiling, no, he was beaming, throughout as he put his arms around strangers’ shoulders for the PR stuff.
It’s sad to think we won’t see him play in anger at Carrow Road again but this was a terrific day, it was Wes’ day.
From the moment he walked out to a guard of honour from both sets of players, with yellow and green cards spelling “Wes” in the South Stand, to his final PR responsibilities in the Gunn Club, this was his day and I think it’s fair to say, he made the most of it.
Thank you, Wes.