A former no-nonsense midfielder can certainly appreciate a no-nonsense midfielder…
Ireland face into a gargantuan week that could well decide their fate in World Cup qualification. Currently second in Group D, the Boys in Green head to Tbilisi to take on the perpetual potential banana skin that is Georgia, before hosting leaders Serbia in the Aviva Stadium on Tuesday.
Martin O’Neill’s side head into the week heavily depleted in the midfield, as James McCarthy and Jeff Hendrick miss out due to injury. While it is an area that they are well covered, with Wes Hoolahan, David Meyler, Harry Arter, Glenn Whelan, Robbie Brady, Conor Hourihane, James McClean and Jon Walters all in contention for what will likely be five midfield starting berths, the duo are nonetheless major losses.
Whelan’s significance rises this week, after settling into life at Villa Park. The former Stoke City star has often divided opinion amongst the Green Army, as he is widely lauded for his defensive grit and general work-rate, but is equally condemned for his lack of spark going forward.
Speaking at a press conference ahead of the two key games, Ireland assistant manager Roy Keane was full of praise for the 33-year-old.
“The likes of Glenn, they are not pretty on the eye and a lot of people like to follow the crowd.
“Glenn doesn’t fall into the media spin, doesn’t wear fancy-coloured boots, and people pick up on all that sort of thing.
“But if you analyse what a footballer does week in, week out, the first thing for any footballer is to be fit and available. Surely they should be and I wish they were all like that but, if they are, it’s a big plus.
“Glenn Whelan is always here and available for selection. We turn up here a lot of times with lads who aren’t here or lads who are carrying knocks.
“I don’t ever remember Glenn Whelan sitting here and saying is he not fit or carrying a knock.” Quote via eirSport.
It’s likely that Whelan will have a key role to play over the coming week, as Ireland aim to put themselves in the Group D driving seat, sneaking ahead of Serbia and putting themselves out of sight of Wales and Austria.