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Hoolahan likes Lambert - see article

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Blackpool Gazette

March 14, 2008

Hoolahan: PNE my favourite moment

LENGTH: 854 words

A SKETCH on a BBC comedy called Early Doors involves two characters talking in a pub.

"Do you know that Neil Armstrong fella, " says one. "If he was sat here now and you were having a conversation with him how long do you think you could go without mentioning the moon?"

Wes Hoolahan can understand the sentiment.

The Irishman can''t go out in Blackpool these days without someone mentioning Deepdale and that goal.

For those not in the know, or with particularly short memories, Hoolahan converted Blackpool''s winner from the penalty spot in the reverse fixture with North End.

But it wasn''t just any old penalty. He didn''t run up and smash the ball more in hope than conviction.

No. In Blackpool''s first game against their arch-rivals in eight years, Hoolahan chipped his penalty down the middle of the goal as casually as you like.

It was a supreme act of cockiness and skill, the mark of a player who knows he is something special and has the ability and confidence to follow it through.

Even before that moment, Hoolahan, recently voted the 14th best player outside the Premiership, was idolised by Blackpool fans.


Since then, however, his popularity rating has gone through the roof.

It''s led to many a man, woman and child stopping him on the street and asking him to talk them through that penalty one more time, but Hoolahan wouldn''t change it for the world.

"It''s my favourite game and my favourite moment since I came to Blackpool," says the 25-year-old, quite a statement given that he helped the Seasiders win promotion at Wembley last May.

"Not only did we win 1-0 against one of our rivals but the cheeky chipped penalty down the middle capped it off.

"I had actually missed a penalty the last time out (against Norwich the previous week) but I told my mate the night before what I had planned to do if we got one.

"I had to hold my nerve but it was a great feeling when it went in."

For such a good player, Hoolahan has taken a while to make a mark in football.

It wasn''t until 2006, aged 24, that he left his native Ireland and Shelbourne and joined Livingston in the Scottish Premier League.

But even there he struggled to get selected and only when he came to Blackpool at the start of last season, Pool''s play-off winning campaign, did he finally start to get the recognition his precious talent deserves.

"I played for Shelbourne early in my career and we won the Irish Premier League three times," recalls the man himself.

"We also went on a good run in the qualifying stages of the Champions League and held La Coruna to a draw in our national stadium, which got us a lot of publicity.

"I was voted the best young player in Ireland in 2000 but time was moving on and I thought a move was never going to happen - then Livingston came in for me and I jumped at the chance.

"Things started off OK when Paul Lambert was manager but once he went I didn''t really get a look in and was left wondering if I had done the right thing."

Then, in summer 2006, Blackpool signed left back Paul Tierney from Livingston.

The clubs struck up a good rapport and the Scottish side, looking to trim their wage bill after relegation from the top flight, asked the Seasiders if they''d like to take a look at their left winger.

Despite knowing hardly anything about it, Pool agreed - even if they didn''t seem to be prepared for his arrival.

"I had been told Blackpool were interested but when I turned up they weren''t expecting me," reports Hoolahan, rather startlingly.

"Fortunately they let me train for a week before signing me on loan for the rest of the season.

"When I didn''t start the first five games I wondered if I had made another wrong move. Then one of the players got injured and I got my chance and have never really looked back."

Quite amazingly the player Hoolahan refers to as getting injured was Rory Prendergast.


Prendergast was a lovely fella but it''s incredible to think now that he was keeping Hoolahan out of the side.

With hindsight, it was never going to be the case for long and so it has proved.

Hoolahan played a huge part in winning promotion and has been a key figure in this season''s Championship campaign.

Many would suggest that he had an average patch over Christmas but then again he is a flair player and flair players can''t be on song every single time they step on the pitch.

For his part, Hoolahan is quite content with how things have gone. "I think I''ve done OK," he adds.

"But I always knew I could perform at this level if I was playing with good players.

"Making the step up has been hard at times and I have had to work on my fitness and all round game but the lift you get from playing in front of big crowds at the likes of Ipswich, Charlton, West Brom and Wolves ... well you would much rather be performing at those places than in front of 10,000 or less like we were last season."

Ironically enough, there will be fewer than 10,000 inside Bloomfield Road on Saturday when Pool take on PNE in the big one.

That won''t phase Hoolahan. He says he is well up for the game.

What will happen if the Seasiders win a penalty? He''s not saying but knowing Wes, expect something unconventional and extra special.

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