Martin O’Neill was full of praise for Glenn Whelan in a pre-match press conference for the Republic of Ireland, saying the Aston Villa midfielder has “been excellent” for the national team. Ireland face rivals Northern Ireland in a friendly on Thursday night before travelling to Aarhus to face Denmark on the Nations League on Monday, November 19.
The former Villa boss said to BBC Sport on Whelan: “He’s deserved (to captain) the national team (against). Despite the fact he’s a quiet lad, he’s led the team and was captain of this side too under me and had a really good time before that under (Giovanni Trapattoni). In my five years here, he’s really been excellent. Overall, I’ve got great respect for him.”
Whelan has made 84 caps for the Ireland team and could be making his final outing for his country against Northern Ireland. The 34-year-old’s career is winding down at club level too, with Whelan having made only four Championship appearances for Villa. He was more of a regular for Villa in his debut season, turning out 35 times in the league & playoffs, but has been back-up in 2018/19.
With Whelan’s contract expiring at the end of the season, it’s likely he will be leaving Villa. Dean Smith has used the experienced ball-winner in three of the club’s last four league games, but it’s clear that he’s further down the pecking order now. John McGinn, Birkir Bjarnason and Mile Jedinak are preferred to Whelan in the heart of the midfield.