Glenn Whelan: 'I've no say in who's manager'
NOBODY has ever doubted Giovanni Trapattoni's feelings towards Glenn Whelan, but there have been times when the Stoke midfielder has spoken in a manner which suggests they aren't completely reciprocated. Last night provided another example.
Upon his appointment, the 73-year-old was instantly drawn to Whelan and made him a fixture in his first-choice starting XI.
Nevertheless, the 28-year-old has never shied away from expressing concerns about the manager's system, particularly as it has left him exposed to an abundance of opposition midfielders and the grief that has accompanied the subsequent struggles.
Whelan is a single-minded character who shirks the obvious temptation of diplomacy.
So while Marco Tardelli had earlier hailed 2012 as a success, the player sung from a different hymn sheet, confessing that he is still hurting from the disappointment of Poland and is unsure if a line has been truly drawn under the tumultuous events of last month.
He has been around long enough to know that another poor result and performance against Greece will bring Trapattoni's future back to the top of the agenda.
So he opted against kicking for touch when presented with a straightforward question which asked if it was nice to have the manager's standing cleared up in the aftermath of the win over the Faroes.
"If we lose against Greece and the performance is not right, I'm sure it'll be brought back up again and things will be said," he replied,
"And, on that part, we've got a couple of points to prove. It's up to us, not just as individuals, but as a team, to try and kick on and get much better then of late."
Was he worried that the manager would go after the thrashing at the hands of the Germans?
"We weren't worried," he says, "He's the manager of the national team. There'll be managers after him, and there were managers (before him). It's a big thing because results haven't been right of late but it's nice for the FAI to back him and hopefully get on with the job."
Happy to see him stay then?
"My point of view... either or," he responds, somewhat ambivalently. "I've no real say in who the manager is going to be or if he should stay or not. He's the manager now and if I'm told to do something I'll try and do it. It's obviously difficult because we're going through a bit of a sticky patch and people's heads are on the line."
The reference to following instructions brings us back to a familiar theme.
In October 2010, Whelan expressed reservations about the rigid 4-4-2 after Ireland were comprehensively outplayed by Russia. He is sick and tired of being the whipping boy for reasons that he clearly feels are beyond his control, and therefore welcomes the experiment with an extra body in the centre of the park.
"I've said it for a long time," he asserts. "If it's been me and Keith, or me and whoever, we've been over exposed in there, because I can't remember the last team I played against when it was a proper 4-4-2.
"And we're getting overpowered, they've got more players and yet we're still taking the stick and nothing is being said about it. Nobody has ever given us any praise because the two in there are playing against three at times. The manager has changed it around a little bit and if he sticks to it, it'll probably benefit us because we'll be more able to adapt."
While he later warns against believing that the grass is always greener on the other side – referencing how an experimental side toiled against Germany in a match he missed through a hamstring problem – he welcomes the promotion of Wes Hoolahan to the party.
It is possible that he could provide support to the likely pairing of Whelan and James McCarthy in the Greece encounter. "I think without a shadow of a doubt (he can step up)", continued Whelan. "Wes is a top player and has been for quite a few years. If you look back at what he's done in previous years, he's done really well so hopefully he can stay fit and get in.
What about Darron Gibson? "I room with him when he's in and I'm good pals with him," he stresses. "Personally, I think he's made the wrong decision. I think he felt he should have had a better look-in over the Euros and that's showing his disappointment, but I think show it in a different way – come in and play and train as well as you can, do it that way. That's what I would have done."
Whelan, it must be remembered, got married before the Polish adventure. He acknowledges that, for his wife, the first few months of matrimony weren't exactly a bundle of laughs.
"It's hard to take. Hard to forget about it. I do dwell on it. It was a massive thing for me and my family and because the results didn't go well I felt disappointed and embarrassed at times, because of people's expectations of what we were and weren't going to do," he adds, agreeing that it spilled over in the opening World Cup qualifiers.
"Something like that you can't just put out of your mind. People are still talking about it now. It's hit us really hard."
You suspect there's still some time to go in his recovery process.