Yoga not golf keeping the magic coming for Wes Hoolahan

WES HOOLAHAN is enjoying being the brunt of the joke after Cambridge United’s extraordinary giant-killing exploits in last month’s FA Cup third round.

Following his pivotal role in securing the EFL League One side’s away win against the newly-minted Newcastle United, Hoolahan’s golfing regime has been hot gossip in English football.

On BBC Radio 5 Live’s Monday Night Club, following Cambridge’s 0-1 victory, Chris Sutton and Mark Chapman interviewed teammate Harrison Dunk who joked that Wes had a special contract clause, which allowed him to skip training and play golf instead.

“He’s a magician, he’s just unbelievable. He’s coming up to 40 now and some of the touches he does,” explained Brunt.

“To be honest you don’t see him until a Thursday anyway, he doesn’t get off the golf course until (then) and then he just sprinkles his gold dust on a matchday.

“He’s just unbelievable, he’s so far ahead of us, but he just carries us along nicely.”

In an interview with the Irish Examiner, Hoolahan, who is just three months off his 40th birthday, laughs and admits that there’s a ring of truth around Dunk’s comments, “apart from the golf bit”.

“He’s right though, I don’t actually train with the players until Thursday, and I don’t touch a football until then either,” explains the 39-year-old who still lives in Norwich, where he spent a decade of his career.

“At the beginning of the week I train on my own – on Monday I’ll do some yoga, a lot of stretching, and on a Tuesday I’ll go to the gym and do some work there, while Wednesday’s a day off.

“I finally get to Cambridge, which is a 50-minute drive, on a Thursday – so I don’t have all the back and forward travel which helps as well.

“There is training with the team on Thursday, but it’s mainly a bit of shape work and set pieces, and a moderately paced 11v11 game.”

Wes Hoolahan’s resurrection under Cambridge United manager Mark Bonner has been extraordinary, having returned from Australia’s Newcastle Jets in 2020, with an injury and seemingly finished in the game.

Bonner, who immediately saw an opportunity asked Wes what his plans were and if he’s interested in helping Cambridge United gain promotion to League One, offering the player a one-year deal.

‘The U’s’ were promoted last season, with Wes picking up an EFL League Two Player of the Month award for January, before being offered another year-long contract last summer.

Cambridge are currently sitting comfortably in the top half of League One this season, with the highlight coming against the Saudi-owned Newcastle on January 8, a game which featured a debut for England and La Liga star Kieran Trippier.

Hoolahan was immediately brought on after striker Joe Ironside’s 56th-minute goal, with simple instructions from Bonner: ‘Keep the ball.’

“The manager just said to me to get on the ball see if we can slow the play down and see if we can keep a good shape, and stop them from scoring,” recalled Hoolahan, who scored that epic goal for Ireland v Sweden in the Euro’s at the age of 34.

“As you know we managed to hold on, and the atmosphere at the final whistle was just electric.

“I think going into a game where we had nothing to lose with so much to gain, we knew we just had to give it our best shot and we did, in front of 50,000 Newcastle fans.

“On the day we were outstanding, particularly how we kept our shape – and it was an amazing achievement away from home.”

Cambridge’s now famous Cup win now sees them take on Luton Town of the EFL Championship this weekend.

Hoolahan is expected to play a significant part in the game most likely from the bench, around the hour mark.

As someone whose conditioning is managed on a “game by game” basis he understandably doesn’t look too far ahead and on his future.

A rumored return to Shelbourne does not appear to be in the plans, but he is excited about the club’s ambitions.

“Obviously there’s a great affinity with Shelbourne, ‘playing there for four years and winning leagues and playing in the champions league – they’ve got a great coach in Damien Duff so I’ll go watch a game when I get home in the summer “, he explained.

And as a player with who has packed so much into the back end of his career – he won the first of his 43 international caps when he was 30 – a complete break from the game may be most likely, with little interest in coaching.

“I don’t think so, I don’t see myself going down that route, but you never know what my next adventure will be,” he added.

“For now I’ll just keep my head down and keep going.”

Cambridge United play Luton Town in the Fourth Round of the Emirates FA Cup at 5.30pm Saturday.