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Sunday 26 January 2020

Glenn is left Heart-broken by new boss

Axed from squad by WhatsApp and not allowed to train, Irish star Whelan opens up about his harsh exit from Hearts

Glenn Whelan taking on Denmark’s Jens Stryger back in November. Photo: Sportsfile
Glenn Whelan taking on Denmark’s Jens Stryger back in November. Photo: Sportsfile
Hearts manager Daniel Stendel was harsh in his assessment of Glenn Whelan

Way up in Edinburgh, 200 miles from his Manchester base, there is an apartment full of his things which Glenn Whelan needs to clear out.

The eight-hour round trip is the least of his worries right now as Whelan, probably Ireland's best player in 2019, is a man without a club.

He doesn't need a bed in the Scottish capital any more as his recent employers, Hearts, have decided they don't need Whelan.

The divorce came through yesterday, a 35-word statement from the SPL club confirming that Whelan had left "by mutual agreement", the player asking to be relieved of his contractual duties.

Devoting to him a mere two words for every game he played for the club says more than the last line of that statement: "The club wishes Glenn well in the future".

Whelan had high hopes for himself, and the club, when he joined Hearts in the summer from Aston Villa.

Offers from sunnier spots in the far east were rejected as Mick McCarthy had told Whelan he needed to be playing at a high level to stay in the Irish squad. Bali could wait.

But halfway through his one-year deal, his time is up, and Whelan is sore about how it all happened, his demise coming with the arrival last month of new manager Daniel Stendel.

Thrown

"I do feel let down. The way my name is out there now it feels like I have been thrown under a bus," he told The Herald.

"There are a lot of players at Hearts who have not been fit, I have tried my best with the quality that is around us and if that wasn't good enough, it was certainly not my fault."

Craig Levein, who signed Whelan in the summer, was sacked in October after a poor run left Hearts deep in relegation trouble.

A six-game run under a caretaker offered no relief and in mid-December Hearts brought in German coach Stendel.

And from the off, there was trouble for Whelan.

"When the new manager came in, the first person he spoke to was me. He was already having a bit of a go," he says.

"My reaction was, you have just walked in the door, you've not seen anything.

"In training, I think he did things to show the other players, especially the younger players, that he was the boss, he was nit-picking with things I was doing in training."

Whelan did start in the new manager's first game, at home to St Johnstone.

"We conceded a late set-piece and lost the game 1-0, but I think I did OK. And then he dropped me for the next game, Celtic at home," he recalls.

"I wasn't going around the place grumpy or banging down his door. I kept my head down and trained hard, I did all that was asked of me, I was professional.

"If you ask any Hearts fan who had seen our games, I'd like to think they'd say I was willing, trying.

"I played eight home games and got five man-of-the match awards.

"Results weren't great and form had dipped, some of the lads their heads dropped, but I don't think I played badly.

"We played Celtic at home, we were 2-0 down at half-time when he brought me on. After the game he had a pop at me. We were 2-0 down when I came on and we lost 2-0, how can that be my fault?" Whelan asked his boss.

Within days, Stendel had a pop at Whelan in the media. He said the experienced players such as Whelan "cannot handle the situation at the moment".

Asked if Whelan had leadership qualities, he said: "A real leader in the centre of the pitch? Sorry. Maybe I missed it." Ouch.

On Christmas Day, eve of their derby with Hibs, Whelan was hit with a real blow.

Message

"At 9.10pm on Christmas night there was a message in the players' group chat, that they only wanted 18 players in the squad for the next day. And I wasn't in it, that was the first I knew," he says.

"So they played Hibs on St Stephen's Day and I wasn't involved. I had the kids up there with me, I was more than happy to go and be part of the game.

"Things were being said about me, that I didn't fancy it, I was laying down the tools.

"No way was that the case on my part. I don't think he was watching the games if the manager felt like that.

"My form was good for the last few months but the manager came in and wanted to show his power, show the other players that he's the boss, he's the main man."

Worse was to come on the day after the derby.

"I went in to train on the 27th, there were two groups: a recovery group of the lads who had played and another group of players who hadn't played and those not in the squad. I wasn't in either group. My name wasn't even on the sheet," he says.

"I went to the manager to try and have a word.

"He was watching videos of the Hibs game and said he didn't have time to speak to me.

"I went to the gym, did a bit of work on my own, got showered and went back to my apartment. That was the last of it for me at Hearts."

His treatment by the manager hurt.

"I can't accept him coming out and questioning my leadership skills or saying I didn't do the job, I did the job he asked," he says.

But, whatever about being dropped, Whelan feels let down by how the club treated an employee in the days after.

"They call themselves a professional football club, but I never heard anything from anyone at Hearts," he says.

"On Monday night, I got an email from someone at the club with the contract details, asking me to sign so we could go our separate ways.

"I didn't ask for any money, I was happy to just go. But it was all very amateurish from their side.

"When I left Villa, they went on to the Premier League and I class that as a success, I'd class my time at Stoke as a success.

"New managers can come in with new ideas, that's football, but to be let down the way I was and be treated the way I was, with no one at Hearts having the decency to speak to me or give me a call: that's disappointing."

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