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A dream come true for Whelan as training puts the smile back on Kelly's face

STEPHEN KELLY has added his voice to the chorus of Irish players praising the methods of Giovanni Trapattoni -- but admitted there were one or two communication hiccups in the first few days.

The Birmingham full back is currently recovering from the setback of relegation after playing every single minute of the Premier League season just concluded, but has at least been cheered up by being around the camp with Ireland's charismatic new boss, whose enthusiasm and health for a 69-year-old has astounded the Dubliner.

"It has been excellent, really good and it's something totally new for me," says Kelly. "You can tell it is hard for him some times because he has so much he wants to say but can't say it all yet.

"The first day was fun, you could tell he wanted to get his point across and tell us stuff but the words weren't coming out.

"But he has a presence about him and he is a big character and you can see that from his training and jumping around and waving his hat.

"At the start there was a bit of a communication barrier but as he says football speaks one language and once you get on the training pitch he tells us what to do."

Marco Tardelli and Liam Brady have been helping as well, with Kelly stating that the latter has been doing more than just interpreting duties.

"Liam has been interpreting, but he has been coaching too and influencing training sessions as well."

Kelly is aware that his international place is potentially under pressure if Steve Finnan returns, as is expected, from retirement but says that he would welcome the return of any experienced players for a World Cup qualification tilt.

Playing in the Championship would not help his claims, but he is happy at Birmingham after two years there.

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"I didn't think it was going to happen but we have to bounce back from it," he states. "I'm happy to stay at Birmingham, I have really enjoyed it but we'll see what happens."

Going the opposite direction to Kelly is Glenn Whelan, who is relishing the prospect of Premier League football with Stoke City and believes performing well there could cement his place in Trapattoni's plans.

Whelan will win his first cap against Serbia this evening.

"It's definitely a dream of mine from when I was a little boy to get a chance to play for Ireland, to put the jersey on. It will be unbelievable now that I have that chance," says the central midfielder, who is chuffed to have chosen the right club when he had numerous options in January.

"I always said that if I was not playing well for Stoke then I wouldn't get a chance with the Ireland team. Obviously, you have to worry about that first and foremost but getting promoted with Stoke has been a bonus. Fingers crossed it will help me next year too being in the Premier League.

"The manager has said that everyone is starting at the same level with him," explains the 24-year-old.

"It's a clean slate. Every player that is in the squad, or is not in the squad, has to be happy with that.

"I think I was unfortunate not to be named in a few squads over the last couple of years but you can't worry about them.

"You have to keep your head down and keep working but I do think going to Stoke and getting promoted has helped.''

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