Roy Keane described Glenn Whelan’s performance in Stoke’s win over Arsenal last weekend as ‘outstanding,’ and he would know. The player who came in for a lot of criticism during Giovanni Trapattoni’s reign, could be set for a new lease of life under the guidance of Ireland’s former midfield general.
Speaking ahead of the friendly international with Serbia at Lansdowne Road, Keane said he’d being closely following Whelan’s career and is a fan of the Dubliner.
“I know people have been criticising Glenn Whelan. I’ve watched Glenn since he was at Sheffield Wednesday and I’ve always liked him – a really good player, a good pro,” Keane told the Irish Independent this week.
“When you’re in the trenches, they’re the people you want with you.”
The Irish assistant was in the Britannia Stadium last week to watch Stoke’s Irish contingent dish out a shock defeat to Arsenal.
“I watched three players on Saturday and if you want a short-term view they were outstanding,”
“They (Stoke players) have been criticised in the last few years for Ireland, but they’re really good players.”
Far from nearing the end of his Irish career, Keane sees a big future for Whelan in the Republic’s plans.
“I think these players will have a massive part to play for Ireland over the next number of years.”
Whelan has been a virtual ever-present in the Stoke team this season. The 30-year-old former Manchester City man has made 32 appearances for Mark Hughes’ side.
RTE pundit Eamon Dunphy was highly critical of Whelan in the aftermath of Ireland’s failure to qualify for the World Cup in Brazil, but the veteran broadcaster later voiced regret at his remarks.
In the past, the combative midfielder was vocal about the restrictions placed by Giovanni Trapattoni on Ireland’s central players.
“We have taken a lot of stick, but what can we do? We are told by the manager to go out and play like this. It’s not for me then to go, ‘Hang on a minute, I’m not,” Whelan said following Ireland’s demolition at the hands of Germany in the World Cup qualifiers.
“He’s the manager, he’s the boss and you do what he says because if you don’t, you are not going to get picked.”
Whelan also spoke of his family shielding him from criticism in the aftermath of Euro 2012.
“I felt a little bit embarrassed when I came back. I was hard to be around, not only because of the pressure of being to a tournament for the first time in 10 years.”
“I think it’s the letting down the family and letting down friends and people who have supported you. That’s what it felt like to me and it was hard to take.”
Whelan’s emotional reaction to scoring the lead goal against Italy in Croke Park back in 2009 demonstrated to many just how committed he is to the Irish cause. Already in Martin O’Neill’s first two games in charge, there’s been signs of the former Cherry Orchard schoolboy getting into more advanced positions.
With Roy Keane backing him for big things ahead, Whelan may yet become the driving force in an Irish engine room that repeatedly stalled under the old regime.
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