Wes Hoolahan joins West Bromwich Albion on free transfer
West Bromwich Albion is a club on a mission. The Baggies are planning to regain Premier League status. Recovering from a poor season last time out, they aim to shoot straight back to England's top division. To aid in their quest, Wes Hoolahan was signed on a free transfer four days ago.
The former Republic of Ireland international was released by Norwich City after ten years at Carrow Road. His contribution to the Canaries will almost certainly never be forgotten, but manager Daniel Farke didn't see a future for him. Having made 354 appearances and scored 53 goals for the club, Hoolahan's departure has perhaps left fans feeling a little deflated.
West Brom snatched up the 36-year-old on a deal which runs until the season's end. That means there's no time for messing about. Hoolahan must prove himself deserving of a longer contract. If not, his spell at the Hawthorns will be short-lived.
The Dublin-born midfielder will be determined to break into the Baggies' starting eleven. It's a tough ask, though. Harvey Barnes currently holds the creative role. The 20-year-old won't step aside willingly. Hoolahan has work to do.
West Brom boss Darren Moore will be content with how the campaign has started. But not overly satisfied. After seven games, his side sit eighth on 11 points. Despite suffering only two defeats, they can do better.
The Baggies' most notable performance so far was the 7-1 thrashing of Queens Park Rangers. That scoreline proved their potential. However, the recent 1-1 draw against local rivals Birmingham City brought them back down to earth.
West Brom's next match is at home to Bristol City on Tuesday night. The Robins are in great spirit. They currently occupy third place in the Championship. Searching for their fifth consecutive victory, Lee Johnson's men have lost just once, conceding only six times.
If Hoolahan is introduced against Bristol City, he must be at best. Whether deployed in his favoured position as an attacking midfielder or adapting to roles on both the left and right, he is no doubt technically gifted. The Irishman is adept at passing, dribbling, crossing, as well as set pieces. His main weakness is aerial duels, but winning the ball back on the ground is no such problem.
This season, West Brom's average pass accuracy is at 78.2%, the Championship's third highest. They are averaging 14 shots per game, the division's joint-third best, while also scoring almost 2.3 goals per match, a stat bettered by no other second-tier team. This is tasty reading for Hoolahan, whose style of play will fit right in.
Quality players such as Dwight Gayle, Jay Rodriguez, Oliver Burke and Matt Phillips should mean that Hoolahan finds top gear at the Hawthorns. After perhaps thinking his career was coming to an end, he now has another opportunity to shine. Expect some accomplished performances from West Brom's new arrival, in a side equipped to push for promotion.