Monday 17 June 2019

Irish ambitions to shape Whelan plans after latest club departure

Glenn Whelan. Photo: Sportsfile
Glenn Whelan. Photo: Sportsfile
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

There are professional footballers in Glenn Whelan's age bracket that are already in summer-holiday mode with their families.

He wouldn't be allowed to get away with that in his house.

The Dubliner is back on Ireland duty this week after his second coming under Mick McCarthy.

His preparations for Friday's date with Denmark have been unsettled somewhat by the announcement that he was being released from Aston Villa.

McCarthy suggested earlier this week that Whelan saw it coming, but the veteran admits to feeling some disappointment at how it was handled.

He came back from a holiday in Dubai to a missed call from manager Dean Smith and a journalist seeking comment on his exit.

Guaranteed

Whelan understands that he would better off at a club where he is guaranteed more game-time, and he is happy that his stint at Villa finished on a high -winning respect from fans for his contribution to their late charge that ended in Wembley joy.

Yet he still had a job to explain developments to his nine-year-old son Jack.

"He wants me to keep playing until he becomes a professional footballer," he laughs.

"That's his thing. Even with the Villa thing, not being kept on, he is asking am I retiring. I'm like, 'No'. And he says, 'You can't, you're not allowed.'"

Telling Jack was one of the best parts of Whelan's international comeback under McCarthy after Martin O'Neill effectively tried to retire him by favouring other options.

"To tell him that I've got a chance to put the jersey on again, he couldn't believe it," said Whelan yesterday.

"He was delighted."

He was never going to refuse the opportunity. "This is my dream," he says, when asked if he would prefer to have the feet up this week.

"It's what every kid dreams of - playing for your country. I don't know if it's in my blood now but it's what I want. Even the wife and kids are on to me. 'Are you really going to go?' and I'm like 'Yeah, it's what I want.'

"I want to do it for as long as I can and it probably got taken away from me a little bit with the last manager. This is like a second bite of the cherry now."

The Irish factor will determine Whelan's next move. His phone has been ringing non-stop for the last few days, which is another reason why he would have preferred a delayed announcement, in order to concentrate on Denmark.

A chat with McCarthy made it clear that he would prefer if Whelan kept operating at the highest level possible. Packing his bags to play in sunnier climes, therefore is not a realistic scenario. The body is telling him he's got a lot to offer in England.

"I had one or two foreign options but when I spoke to the manager (McCarthy), it was about playing as high as I can so for me to go to a different league, which is probably not as competitive as the Premier League or the Championship, well if I do that, I think my options would be limited (with Ireland)," he continued.

"I've missed one game this year out of 50-odd. I've trained every day, I'm fit and healthy, I've not gone in and asked any manager for a rest or a break. In two seasons at Villa I've played 70-odd games. The stage I'm at in my career, I can't be looking years down the line.

"It's game by game. I want to have a chance of playing and not just being a cheerleader."

As a proud Dub, the chance of playing in Euro 2020 in his home town is a major attraction. But he's wary of getting dragged into talk about that when there are pressing matters to address, starting off with Christian Eriksen and company in Copenhagen.

Whelan is likely to have a big role in the attempts to stifle the Spurs playmaker, and mentions that he has fared reasonably well in that regard on club duty.

Frustrated

O'Neill left him out for both of the play-off games in November 2017, so he had to watch on frustrated in the 5-1 drubbing in Dublin.

"I've played against him quite a few times and done OK, so if I get the nod, and he's the man I look after, then hopefully I'll let him know that he's in for a game," he asserts.

"I think Mick's way of playing is about wanting to be on the front foot and not letting the teams we play have too much of the ball.

"We know it's going to be tough but we can't just go and sit there and let them be good. We need to try and make them be mediocre or poor on the night."

"In the Georgia game, people were happy with how we've played but let's not just be happy with that. Let's try and improve on it."

Standing still is off his agenda for now.

Irish Independent

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