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Whelan's courage sends out a message

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Glenn Whelan has urged Ireland to finish the qualifying campaign on a high

Glenn Whelan has urged Ireland to finish the qualifying campaign on a high

Glenn Whelan has urged Ireland to finish the qualifying campaign on a high

SAY what you like about Glenn Whelan but he's got courage and commitment to burn. Fractured leg? No worries.

Whelan will give it a go this week. He trained with Stoke yesterday and obviously felt and looked good enough to convince his club manager, Mark Hughes, that he wasn't sending his player away to a fate unknown.

There is no certainty that he will be fit in time to enter the Celtic Park bear-pit and the odds would still seem to be against him, but his willingness to try should be applauded.

Hughes deserves a pat on the back as well. He probably had enough X-rays and reports to make a strong case against Whelan travelling but there is no indication that he did.

No doubt Martin O'Neill appreciates the approach Hughes has taken, which effectively leaves the decision to the player.

Quibble

Whelan has taken plenty of abuse over the span of his international career but while pundits quibble, managers - both club and international - have no such reservations about what he brings to the table.

His pride in playing for his country is more than obvious and actually didn't need this latest evidence to confirm it. Whelan is one for when the bullets are flying and you need strong men to hold.

He's the second Ireland international to show courage above and beyond in the last few days. James McClean's remarkable open letter explaining his reluctance to wear the poppy displayed eloquence, thoughtfulness and a depth of character which few people in England could have imagined.

He has been caricatured in the English media for his first refusal to wear the badge and tagged a terrorist thug by the more extreme elements in football and British nationalism.

For that reason, it was very satisfying indeed to watch people of all political, religious and footballing persuasions queue up in the digital arena to support his decision and his right to make it.

McClean took some stick but mostly from people that have already made up their minds about him and, of course, the nutters were out.

That will be a theme this week as we build towards a huge night in Glasgow and one which, unfortunately, Gordon McQueen chose to ignite with more loose words.

Gordon Strachan began the little campaign against James McCarthy and Aiden McGeady last week when he said he had no problem with abuse aimed at the two converts as long as it was 'pantomime' stuff.

Irresponsible

That was irresponsible but only a minor sin when placed alongside the McQueen's intemperate commentary.

He didn't mince his words at all and handed the sectarian fringe within Scotland's support licence to dig deep into their book of bitter old songs that no longer have any relevance in the real world.

He wants a "horrible reception" for the two lads in Parkhead and then managed to contradict himself spectacularly when asked why.

"Will it be hard for them coming back here with Ireland? I really hope so.

"I hope they get a horrible reception because they deserve it. I'm sure somebody must have asked them to play or Scotland at some stage."

"You're either Scottish or you're not Scottish and you should know that by the time you're 12 years of age. I played alongside the likes of Bob Wilson and Bruce Rioch, who were born in England but they always considered themselves Scottish."

It hardy needs to be said but clearly McQueen believes that it is all right to be born outside Scotland and still have the right credentials to play for the national team but Ireland does not deserve, to borrow a phrase from somewhere, parity of esteem.

Pantomime

Some have suggested that a bit of pantomime booing is neither here nor there and if it was as simple as that, most football fans would agree.

Nobody is worried about terrace banter. If that's all this was about, there would be no problem.

It's the people who send bullets in the post that we have to be concerned about and there's a few of them knocking around still.


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