Martin O’Neill will give Glenn Whelan every chance to make Scotland game
Stoke midfielder named in 36-man extended squad for Parkhead qualifier
Republic of Ireland midfielder Glenn Whelan grimaces in pain after fracturing a leg in the Euro 2016 qualifier against Germany in Gelsenkirchen. Photograph: Matthias Hangst/Bongarts/Getty Images
O’Neill named the Stoke City player in a provisional 36-man squad for the game against Gordon Strachan’s side and the friendly against the United States at the Aviva Stadium on November 18th despite Whelan having fractured a leg in the second-half of the 1-1 draw away to Germany.
Stoke City boss Mark Hughes said last week that it could be six weeks before Whelan would back playing again, but, crucially, the player’s leg was not put in a cast in a bid to get him back playing as soon as possible.
O’Neill has been in contact with Whelan in recent days and decided to name him in the extended squad on the strength of those conversations.
“Initially I thought he was going to be out for quite some time, until December, perhaps around Christmas but I spoke with him over the last couple of days and that’s certainly not what he’s saying,” said O’Neill at yesterday’s squad announcement at FAI headquarters in Abbotstown .
“He says he’s getting better every day, the leg still isn’t weightbearing which is significant but he’s certainly not ruling himself out so it makes sense to include him in the squad at this moment. I did think he was going to be out longer but that’s not the message coming back from him.”
One player O’Neill is planning without is Norwich playmaker Wes Hoolihan, who suffered ankle ligament damage in a recent game against Fulham.
“He’s definitely out,” admitted O’Neill. “He’s going to be out for eight to 12 weeks; it’s a blow for his club and country.”
Hull City full back Brian Lenihan remains in the squad after his call-up as squad cover for the injured Séamus Coleman for October’s games.
O’Neill is boosted by the return of Coleman and his Everton team-mate James McCarthy return for the Scotland game.
There is no place in the squad for Aston Villa starlet Jack Grealish, with O’Neill happy to give the 19-year-old midfielder the time and space to make a decision on his international future, with England also remaining an option.
O’Neill said: “I spoke with his father and asked if Jack wanted to come in and be involved in the Oman game but he said that he preferred to concentrate on the under-21s at that stage. I’ve left it at that, there has been no contact, I’m just going to leave it.
“There sometimes seems to be a lot of things going forwards and backwards, some that I’m not always aware of, but it’s not my job to pressure somebody into a decision that they might not entirely fancy somewhere further down the line. It’s preferable that the player makes the call when he’s happy to and that’s something that’s likely to work out better over the long term.”
With just over two weeks to the Scotland game, O’Neill praised Strachan’s work with the side since taking over at the start of 2013.
“They’re flying at the moment, Gordon Strachan’s got them playing very well. They’re into their stride while we’re still trying to get a bit of momentum going so we’ll respect them, that’s for sure but I don’t think we would fear them. After the Germany result, we’ll go there with a certain amount of confidence.”
Defenders: Richard Keogh (Derby County), Marc Wilson (Stoke City), Séamus Coleman (Everton), John O’Shea (Sunderland), Stephen Ward (Burnley), Alex Pearce (Reading), Brian Lenihan (Hull City), Stephen Kelly (Reading), Paul McShane (Hull City), Damien Delaney (Crystal Palace), Shane Duffy (Blackburn Rovers).
Midfielders: James McCarthy (Everton), Jeff Hendrick (Derby County), Ciaran Clark (Aston Villa), Glenn Whelan (Stoke City), Darron Gibson (Everton), Paul Green (Rotherham United), Aiden McGeady (Everton), Anthony Pilkington (Cardiff City), James McClean (Wigan Athletic), Robbie Brady (Hull City), Stephen Quinn (Hull City), David Meyler (Hull City).
Forwards: Robbie Keane (LA Galaxy), Shane Long (Southampton), Daryl Murphy (Ipswich Town), Jon Walters (Stoke City), Kevin Doyle (Crystal Palace), Anthony Stokes (Celtic), Simon Cox (Reading), Conor Sammon (Ipswich Town)