Euro 2012: 'We haven't achieved anything yet', says Glenn Whelan
GLENN WHELAN has a personality that is suited to the daunting challenges facing Ireland in Poland. He likes proving people wrong. It motivates him.
That's always been his way, a recurring theme of his career, right from the moment he left Manchester City to drop two divisions with Sheffield Wednesday.
There were question marks then, and further doubters when he earned a move to Stoke. Some wondered if a cut-price January transfer window purchase could cope with the rise to the Premier League.
And that scepticism is nothing compared to what the Dubliner encountered when Giovanni Trapattoni promoted him to the Ireland set-up.
In tandem with his new partner, Keith Andrews, the midfield pair were often derided, while other causes were championed. Stephen Ireland and Andy Reid were among them, even though they operate in different positions to what Trapattoni asks of his engine-room men.
Whelan was aware of the critics, and decided to let his football do the talking. He was ever-present on the road to Euro 2012 and recently signed a lucrative new contract at Stoke to mark his secure status in the Premier League.
It prompted Tony Pulis to say that the player delighted in silencing his detractors. "Yeah, definitely, I've always had to do it," agreed Whelan, who was in Dublin yesterday to promote the new Predator Lethal Zones football boots.
"I am not a player who will do tricks and beat players and score 20 goals a season. That is not me.
"If it's proving managers, players, or press wrong, then I will work as hard as I can to change these people's minds. I know what I am good at, and I will keep trying to improve that.
"It's something that I've always done. The stuff that I do is not the pretty stuff. The teams I'm playing for now, Ireland and Stoke, I know my role. It's a role I hope I do well and that's obviously what both managers see in me."
Whelan is known for his impatience. He was close to leaving Stoke in January of last year after a run out of the team. "I was bashing down the manager's door and he kept telling me to go away, and there was talk of some clubs interested, but I don't think it ever got that far," he said.
And it worked out for the best.
"Yeah, over the last 12 months, with the way things have gone, getting into the play-offs, beating Estonia, the new contract, it's good. But it's down to the hard work I have been putting in.
"No matter what team or what age, if you are not playing it's hard to take and it doesn't matter how much money you are earning or things like that for me.
"Even now, if I didn't have a chance of playing I would go and speak to the manager and see if there was any chance I could leave. If you are not playing on Saturday, in the stands or on the bench and not coming on, it is hard to take."
Whelan's views on the Euros are forthright. For all that he was delighted to make the finals, he does not want people to be satisfied with just that.
"I don't think we've achieved anything yet," he stressed. "Obviously qualifying is great, but qualifying and being disappointing over there is not what we want. It's to give ourselves the best chance of getting out of the group."
So, the questions about Spain are batted away politely. His logic is that Croatia is the most important game. If Ireland get a positive result there, then it means they'll still be in the shake-up going into the final clash with Italy, whatever happens. Anything from Spain would be a bonus.
Still, you sense that this bunch are happier to slip in under the radar. In that context, the hype surrounding James McClean is something that Whelan is keen to puncture.
He doesn't believe it's particularly fair, although it's pointed out that Trapattoni has thrown the Sunderland winger into sentences next to such stellar names as Alessandro del Piero.
"Ah you know Trap, he comes out with a few things now and again," Whelan smiled. "James doesn't need the pressure of being compared to this player and that player because if it doesn't work out for him, then people will want to forget about him and say, 'oh look, there's someone else'.
"The big thing for James was getting in the squad, so what does he want to do now? Does he just want to stay in the squad or get in the team? That's what he has to look at.
"I don't think anybody, especially us as players and people of the press, should be putting the pressure on him."
He'd rather not build his young colleague up for a fall. Instead, he'd prefer to bring next month's opponents crashing down to earth.
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