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Hoilett’s wonder goal punctuates a breakthrough season

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“Concentrating on playing for Rovers at the moment and nothing else, top priority for us is staying in the Premier League.”

Junior Hoilett made that Tweet on March 21, and hasn’t updated his account since.

And, as Hoilett continues to elevate his game in the English Premier League, that statement haunts Canadian soccer fans, who know that their national side — which struggles to score — could get the massive injection of magic and skill that it so badly needs from Blackburn’s resident Brampton, Ont. star.

No, it’s not too much to call Hoilett a “star.” The fact is, Hoilett has played so well for Blackburn this season, he’s proven he’s national-team worthy, no matter the passport. He has now scored seven times in the world’s best league (I will get to that later, for you La Liga fans), after Saturday’s wonder strike against Norwich City.

For those who missed it, Hoilett scored the second goal as Rovers beat Norwich City 2-0, a vital victory that got Blackburn to within three points of Wigan, which holds 17th place and is the last team out of the relegation zone with three matches to go. Hoilett, who is out of contract this summer, strolled in from the left wing, got to the top of the penalty area, and curled a right-footed drive inside of the far post. It was highlight-reel stuff.

Hoilett is simply Blackburn’s best player. If Rovers do get relegated, his name will be at the top of the list of players to move on. Heck, because he is out of contract, he will be at the top of the list of players to move on even if Rovers escape the drop.

And, Hoilett’s Blackburn squad is prime example of why the EPL remains the world’s best league. Yes, on Saturday we had a Barca-Real Madrid match that was at the centre of the football world. We can point to the success of La Liga teams in the Champions’ League and the Europa League, where they have two and three semifinalists, respectively. But you can’t judge the strength of a league by looking at the top. You have to look at the whole picture. And the truth is, from 10th place, England is far, far stronger than the like-for-like Spanish teams. Blackburn has got results against the top teams in England; you can’t say the same about Racing Santander or Real Zaragoza. If the relegation-threatened teams in England had a tournament against the relegation-threatened teams in Spain, it wouldn’t be a contest.

So, yes, being the key man on an 18th-place EPL team is a big deal. And, yes, Hoilett deserves a heck of a lot more headlines in Canada. In an Olympic year, it’s a pipe dream to expect that he’d get votes for something like the Lou Marsh Trophy, but, whether he plays for Canada or not, his work needs to be better publicized in this country. In fact, it might help sway him to change that Tweet.

 

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