View Full Version : FAI: The Guardian Who We Took For Granted

14/11/2018, 6:40 PM

Too often throughout his career there was talk of what*Whelan should have been rather than what he was. Perhaps there are more than a few of us guilty of not fully appreciating what certain managers saw in the Dubliner. After all, someone doesn't clock up close to 300 appearances over eight successive seasons in the English Premier League without consistently delivering something of note.
Whelan is a complicated case study for most Ireland supporters, but he shouldn't be. Ever since he earned a move to*Manchester City's academy and started to represent Ireland at underage level, he did one thing really well: pass the ball. Okay, he wasn't regularly slicing defences open with penetrative balls through but he ensured that his team got moving.
To use the Premier League again as an example, Whelan recorded 11,241 successful passes during his time with Stoke City. That tops the charts of any Irish player but also eclipses Manchester City's Fernandinho, Manchester United's Juan Mata, and, even, Chelsea's Eden Hazard. Not bad going for a kid from Palmerstown, Dublin.
A guardian of the defence, a gatekeeper to transition play, and a hoarder of*possession, Whelan was the midfielder that Ireland so desperately needed when Giovanni Trapattoni was appointed as manager in 2008. He was the perfect partner for Keith Andrews, who had a more attacking streak in his game, and he was comfortable operating within a confined*radius on the pitch.
Critics will still try to suggest that previous occupants of the same position offered more, such as John Sheridan's long-range passing or Andy Townsend's lung-bursting runs, but football had moved on and Whelan needed to be disciplined rather than expressive. Sure, he could strike a ball - check out his goals against Georgia and Italy - but that wasn't his modus operandi. The team needed him to hang back, link play and stop the opposition.
Every modern team needs a player like Whelan. Sometimes they are anchored between the defence and midfield and sometimes they are deployed in a two or three-man midfield. Whatever their starting*position*is, the key to success is how they complete the task of getting the ball moving for their team and stopping it from exposing their defence and goalkeeper. There have been some masters of this in the modern game, such as Claude Makelele and Sergio Busquets. They are the cog in the machine around which all cylinders are enabled to fire at maximum speed.
Whelan, who now plays his club football for Aston Villa, has also been unfairly overlooked for his knack of breaking down opposition attacks. More often than not, he finds himself in the right place to nick the ball out from the feet of an attacker or make an important tackle that disrupts the rhythm of their play.
Without having someone like that in the midfield, a team can be exposed for its fragility. Whelan does it really well and helped Ireland to achieve some big results by doing the little things that most people would not take notice of. Maybe that is his calling card: getting business done without making much of a fuss.
Still, on Thursday, we get an opportunity to show our appreciation for a player who has given everything for the green jersey. On his 85th senior cap, it feels an apt time to say thank you!
By Gareth Maher

Ireland Category:
Senior Men (https://foot.ie/ireland/teams/senior-men)

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Sometimes we don't truly appreciate something until it's gone. And that's how it feels as we prepare to see Glenn Whelan pull on the Republic of Ireland jersey for what might be the final time.

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