'I just had Real Madrid on the phone' - Glenn Whelan bears no ill will after being released by Aston Villa
GLENN Whelan says he holds no grudges with Aston Villa over the club's decision to release him just days after promotion to the Premier League was secured.
Whelan, back in the Ireland squad this month for a second time after he had effectively been nudged into retirement by Martin O'Neill, joked that he is "unemployed for the first time in 20 years" as Villa took the decision to include the 35-year-old among a list of eight players released, just after their Wembley success in the promotion playoff final.
"I want to play on, I just had Real Madrid on the phone," Whelan joked when speaking at a press conference before a closed training session with the Ireland squad this morning.
"I want to play as long as I can, as high as I can, I want to make an impact wherever I go, I don't just want to be a cheerleader, I am willing to fight for a spot, as long as it's a fair fight. We will see what happens after these two games with Ireland as my focus is on those two matches. I won't hang around like a bad smell but as long as I can contribute I will play a role.
"A foreign move is on the backburner as the manager [Mick McCarthy] says he wants his players to be playing close to home and at a high level."
Whelan says he was proud of his role in Villa's success in getting promotion.
"I signed there for two years to get them back to the Premier League and it was mission accomplished," he said.
"It wasn't a surprise to get released, the stage I am at in my career and where Aston Villa want to go so I am proud of what I have done. I think I missed one game for Villa all season, I hurt my shoulder once and was out but I was available for every other game and training session.
"I didn't know it [playoff] would be my last game, we had quite a few players out of contract, no one wanted to talk about it.
"The only disappointment for me was that I went away on the Tuesday with the family for a few days, when I landed I had two missed calls, one from a journalist and one from the manager, that was disappointing.
"I spoke to him then, we congratulated each other, wished each other the best, I have been in the game too long to hold grudges."
Whelan is prepared for the task of managing Danish star Christian Eriksen on Friday but he says Ireland have to focus on their own strengths. "We have to worry about ourselves and what we can do," he says. "We have had a good start to the qualifying campaign but we need to keep that up now with two big games. We have got off to a good start and let's keep that going."