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Wednesday 13 December 2017

Whelan's rapid rise a superb story from Trapattoni tenure

It's a measure of Glenn Whelan's progress under Giovanni Trapattoni that he will begin tonight's friendly against Brazil as the Republic of Ireland's pre-eminent midfielder.

That, in itself, is a sentence which requires further reflection given the fact that Whelan is playing in a Premier League also frequented by lads such as Stephen Ireland and Andy Reid. But his progress in the past few years has been one of the real good news stories of Trapattoni's time in charge.

Ask those who watched Whelan grow up in football and they will all talk about his quiet influence and presence around squads and the fact that he had all the requirements necessary to be a team leader.

Yesterday, while he fielded questions on a range of subjects -- and most notably Aaron Ramsey -- it was easy to forget how much Ireland's self-effacing midfield general has grown in just a few short years.

Now, he wears the weight of experience well and he will be one of the mainstays of the Euro 2012 campaign even if he still has lingering pangs about Paris and what might have been.

"It is a major disappointment and if we want to avoid going through something like that again we must make sure we get out of the group first time and not rely on play-offs. When we see the finals start and France in it, of course we will be disappointed," said Whelan.

He expressed confidence about the group draw for Euro 2012 but urged caution: "On paper it maybe would be a little bit easy, but there are no easy games. We have some tough places to go but we just have to worry about ourselves and get as many points as we can.

"No one gave us a chance of winning the group last time and it may be that expectations are higher now and we will be one of the favourites to come out of the group."

Whelan's role in the Ramsey/Shawcross incident has been widely praised and his practical reaction to what was an extraordinarily difficult and stomach-churning experience was a lesson to all.

"First and foremost everyone involved hopes the young lad gets back and to the standard he was at because he looked a terrific player. I was the next one in and when I saw what went on and the fact that the lad was trying to look down at his leg, I was just there holding his hand and trying to take his mind off it and telling him to think of something else. I have not seen it again but I don't think it was a dirty tackle.

"It was late but no more than that. You don't like to see these things but they happen and you have to get on with it. Ryan was devastated. There were tears as he came off so you know it has upset him.

"I don't think anyone looks to break a leg or injure a player deliberately. There is a fine line between being hard and being dirty. It was a hard tackle but they could do it again a hundred times and nobody would be injured.

"At the time, Mr Wenger probably felt upset because of how bad the injury was and it is not the first time. It has happened before with Eduardo, but when he has seen it again I hope he will change his view on it.

"Ryan is a 110 per cent player and he won't change that, but hopefully it was a one off and that was it.

"That was the first time I have seen something like that and touch wood it will never happen again. It was just because I was there," said Whelan, downplaying his role.

"If it had been on the other side of the pitch I would not have gone anywhere near it, but just because I was so near I went in to help him."

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