Glenn Whelan enjoying the challenge under new regime
Midfielder welcomes fresh boost provided by the new manager and his staff
Ireland’s Paul Green and Jakub Blaszczykowski of Poland during last night’s game in Poznan. Photograph: Donall Farmer/Inpho
Few players might be considered to have more to lose under the new manager than Glenn Whelan. The Dubliner was the most regular of regulars under Giovanni Trapattoni and the 29-year-old has never been slow to acknowledge the debt he owed the Italian who handed him the first of his 55 caps back at the start of the reign.
Whelan, though, insists he is relishing the challenge laid down by Trapattoni’s successor for the players to go back to their clubs and show they are worth their places in the squad between now and the game against Serbia in March.
“It’s up to the lads now to put themselves in the shop window,” he said after last night’s scoreless draw in Poznan, “because we know now that all the staff are going to be looking for the lads in form and to get back in for March. He’s told us that it’s in our own hands now: to go back to our clubs and get back into the squad.”
The midfielder was just one of the many Irish players leaving the ground last night to cite the poor quality of the pitch as being to blame for the visiting side’s inability to build on Friday’s far more fluid performance against Latvia.
State of the pitch
“Obviously it was difficult to play because of the state of the pitch,” he said, “but I think the lads went out and dug in. People might say that it wasn’t a great performance but if you look at the state of the pitch, it was hard to play.
“It was terrible,” he continued, “we came in last night and it looked as though they’d had the tractors on it, the cows were eating off it because when you put your foot on it and tried to take off the pitch was going and moving so, like I say, it wasn’t a pitch for the best football.”
Despite that, he reckoned the Irish coped well enough with what was thrown on them, especially late on when the home side were pushing for a winner. Yeah, in the last 10 or 15 minutes they were getting on top a little bit and pushing us back a bit but I think to be fair to the lads, the defence and the keeper, they didn’t really have too much to do so you take the draw and move on.”
Moving on, he admits, is critically important after what has been a bitter let down of a year. “It’s been disappointing,” he says with a shrug. “We went out to qualify for the World Cup and it didn’t happen. Obviously people will say about the games that we lost but for us I think the big kick in the teeth was the 2-2 draw at home to Austria when we conceded in the last minute and I think the lads were deflated after that.
“But we’ve got a new management now that’s come in and pushed us on and we need to up our game to get into the squad so I think overall I think it’s probably the best decision that’s been made.
“I don’t want to show too much disrespect to the old manager and what he’s done, because he was great for myself but I think it comes to a time when change is probably best and fresh ideas and new ideas give the lads a boost. I think we’ve seen that over the last 10 days, it’s been different. The game on Friday night, we could see the difference that we’re hopefully going to play and do but it’s about going back now to the clubs and getting in a shift to get into the manager’s minds.”