Express & Star

Ally Robertson: Wes Hoolahan will help Harvey Barnes in busy times

Signing a 36-year-old free agent may raise eyebrows among some, but Darren Moore has to build a deep squad for the Championship.

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Wes Hoolahan. Photo: WBA/AMA

Just look at the fixture list for the next three weeks – Albion have midweek fixtures in all of them. That’s six games in the space of 19 days.

Harvey Barnes has been brilliant so far this season but he’s only 20 years old, so expecting him to keep up this level of performance in an important position throughout such a congested schedule is unfair.

Overworking him could also lead to injury; he needs both competition and cover.

Wes Hoolahan is a canny operator who knows the Championship inside out, and he offers a bit of experience behind the strikers.

It makes economic sense too. He’s obviously being brought in as a direct replacement for Nacer Chadli, who was sold to Monaco for £10million.

Albion have got Chadli’s hefty wage packet off their bill and replaced him with someone who will be on a lot less, so it’s great in that aspect.

Financial security may not be sexy to the fans, but it is the necessary reality of relegation.

There is a valid argument that Hoolahan’s arrival could block the pathway of some of Albion’s talented youngsters – such as Kyle Edwards and Jonathan Leko – who have both impressed just behind the striker in the Carabao Cup.

It’s crucial those two and others like Sam Field play games to continue their development because nobody ever became a great player sitting on the bench.

But having Hoolahan’s experience on the training ground will contribute to those players’ development.

When I was breaking into the team back in the early 1970s, I was taking over from John Kaye, who was my hero.

Even though we were competing for the same spot, I used to listen to every word he said to me.

I noted that Barnes recently said he watched Gareth Barry in training. Well I’m sure plenty of Albion’s youngsters will be watching Hoolahan too.

And with two games a week for the foreseeable future, there will probably still be opportunities for those academy products to get those all-important minutes.

However, Moore has to build a squad he believes is strong enough to win promotion, and if he wants Hoolahan, we should get behind the idea.