His team-mate John O’Shea has called him an ‘unsung hero’ and while his partners in the Irish midfield have fallen in and out of favour, Glenn Whelan remains at the heart of Giovanni Trapattoni’s quest to reach the World Cup next summer. The Dubliner earns his 50th cap in Wales tonight.
Much of the criticism of Giovanni Trapttoni’s tenure as Irish boss focussed on a cumbersome, unattractive style, where midfield play either lacked creativity or was bypassed with long balls. Whelan, along with long-term central side-kick Keith Andrews, bore the brunt of much of this ire. But whereas, the likes of Darron Gibson, Andrews, and Paul Green have threatened to become mainstays in the past, it’s the Stoke City player who has held down the role in the Irish engine-room.
Whelan started out at Manchester City having signed from renowned Dublin nursery Cherry Orchard. Loan spells at Bury followed before a move to Sheffield Wednesday where he spent four years.
An under-age international. Whelan made his senior Irish début against Serbia back in 2008 and scored his first goal in the win over Georgia in Mainz, Germany. He’s been an ever-present in the team since and remains Trapattoni’s first choice in midfield.
With James McCarthy and Wes Hoolahan now pushing hard for inclusion, Trapattoni has shown his faith in Whelan by anchoring him to that defensive role. Some have called for McCarthy and Hoolahan to be paired together in the centre but we know Trapattoni well enough now that he favours a disrupting influence in the middle of the park and has consistently favoured Whelan.
In the aftermath of Euro 2012, Trapattoni has gone about evolving the Irish playing style, with full-backs Coleman and Wilson now given license to move forward while McCarthy and Hoolahan offer a more creative spark. In the past, Whelan has referenced the manager as not allowing him to get forward but with new Stoke boss Mark Hughes also deploying the 29-year-old in a more advanced role in pre-season, the player who signed a three-and-a-half year deal last year and played 34 times last season, is looking to get on the score-sheet more often.
With just two international goal to his names, finding the net in the green jersey will do his chances of adding considerably to his 50 caps no harm at all.