THE CHERRY BLOSSOMS: OUR TRIBUTE TO GLENN WHELAN

Tonight marks the end of Glenn Whelan’s international career. Here’s our piece from a recent issue paying homage to man who was with us throughout a golden decade in our history. An unassuming, totally professional footballer who represented our beloved Stoke City with pride and distinction. Well in, Whelo!

The summer of 2017: I sold an 09 plate saloon car. I won’t say what make it was – but it wasn’t something you’d turn your head for. 

I’m not into cars. Hell for me would to be bound, gagged, in a room with Lewis Hamilton, watching Top Gear on loop. Oh, with Miranda telling ‘jokes’. Oh, and Jack Wilshere being there, too. Give me a life in Hades over that, any day of the week.

But my car was steady for several years. I need a car to get us from A to B. Simple as that. I also don’t want it to cost me any more money than necessary, either. We hardly spent a penny on it, and did 92,000 miles. It never, ever let us down.

Stoke City also sold something in the summer of 2017……

Firstly, apologies to Glenn David Whelan for comparing Glenn David Whelan to a family saloon car. But I mean it as the ultimate compliment, Glenn. Promise! 

I’m sure Glenn Whelan would want to be a roaring Lambo or Ferrari; but whilst every race needs those cars in it, you also need that reliable motor in there, too. A car that guarantees you’ll actually get to the finish line. No fuss, nor mards, no breaking down; just solid reliability.

It’s no coincidence that Glenn was one of the first names on the Stoke team sheet over the past nine years. It’s also no coincidence that managers with diverse and contrasting ideologies as Tony Pulis and Mark Hughes saw Whelan as the glue to hold the Stoke City team together. Such a pity that some Stoke fans wouldn’t or couldn’t see exactly what Whelan offered to the team. “We need an upgrade on him”, was the call from some quarters ever since 20th January 2008. Well, that wasn’t too forthcoming, was it?

What did Glenn Whelan offer the team? You’d be better off asking the team that. They’d have plenty to say. For a start, what Glenn Whelan did do was allow a certain Mr N’Zonzi to be the best midfielder I’ve seen at Stoke in the last three decades. Glenn Whelan also made other players be better players. He made our back four a better back four and he allowed our flair players to show their flair.

He also seems to be like a professional footballer from back in the day. Train hard, play hard, do your job, go home to your family. Players I have always had a huge respect for. And above everything else, he was selfless. Putting others first, and the team first. That’s Whelan: It’s about the team and the dream. There’s no ‘i’ in selfless, but there is in selfish.

He came to us and Tony Pulis gave him the responsibility of keeping hold of the keys to our infamous ‘cage’. And since Mark Hughes has been here, no one has taken those keys off him until this summer. Let’s face it: you do not play 277 games in the Premier League for two contrasting managers if, a) you can’t play or b) you aren’t doing exactly what the manager wants and the team needs. That just doesn’t happen.

As stated before, what I loved about Whelan was that he always put the team first. He never, ever hid. His worst game for Stoke? For me, it was at Blackburn in the FA Cup in February 2015. Yes, THAT game. He couldn’t do much right that day, Glenn, but he went up so much in my estimation when he absolutely laid into the team on the pitch and in the media afterwards. It was superb stuff: he could have said nothing and hidden behind the disappointment of the result and his own performance. He didn’t. He showed selflessness and huge leadership qualities by putting the team before himself. He knew he’d get stick, but that wasn’t on his radar. He said what needed saying and had the guts to do so, despite knowing that the finger would be pointed at him.

“There’s Whelan, having a right go at others when he’s been garbage”.  I heard that in the away end at Ewood Park that day and over the next week on social media and websites, too. But that is exactly what I want from a Stoke City player or captain.

You never saw too many kids with Whelan 6 on their shirts, do you? And you never really heard kids going mad when they opened their Match Attax cards and Glenn’s face came into view. Shame that. But that’s probably because of the ‘glamour/name’ players we have had at the bet365, how modern football is, and because he never hunted the headlines, either. He’s simply been a bloody good footballer for Stoke City and one who was criminally underappreciated and underrated by quite a few……..

……But tellingly, not by his peers and managers. And that’s a massive clue as to why he’s been one of the best signings Tony Pulis ever made for us.

When you have a plethora of players capable of 9/10 performances – or at the same time 4/10 – you need that steady 7/10 player. A player who at 2-1 up in the last ten minutes throws himself at the ball to block a goalbound shot and then get the team going afterwards. You need a Glenn Whelan. I always hate to hear Stoke fans having a go at our players, never mind one who has sweated blood for the red and white stripes. Glenn Whelan was an intelligent, totally committed, crucial player for Stoke City.

When we’ve been truly dreadful over the last thirty years or so, we’ve been crying out for the likes of a Glenn Whelan. When we had one for almost a decade, and one that we got for an absolute steal at £500,000, did we really appreciate him as much as we should? I did. “Everybody needs a Whelan in the middle”, went the song. It was right.

Why cherry in the title? Well, Glenn originally played for Cherry Orchard FC in Dublin, before he started his career in England.

And like my car that/ like Glenn, was recently transferred – I really hope WHELAN 6 keeps on trucking and doing other people proud for some time to come!

ANTHONY BUNN