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Dublin: 10 °C Saturday 8 August, 2020

Madden dismisses 'ridiculous' doubts over Ireland prospects of 'top-notch' Whelan

Glenn Whelan’s team-mate at Fleetwood Town says the veteran midfielder will be up to the task in Bratislava.

coventry-city-v-fleetwood-town-sky-bet-league-one-st-andrews-stadium Fleetwood Town's Paddy Madden is challenged by Fankaty Dabo of Coventry City. Source: Barrington Coombs

FLEETWOOD TOWN STRIKER Paddy Madden has hailed the contribution of veteran midfielder Glenn Whelan since his arrival at the League One club last month.

Having been a free agent following his departure from Scottish Premiership side Hearts, Whelan was snapped up by Fleetwood boss Joey Barton on a deal until the end of the season.

The experienced Republic of Ireland international has made an immediate impact at Highbury Stadium as his new club continue their bid for promotion to the Championship.

In the six games they’ve played since Whelan was signed, the Lancashire outfit have picked up two draws and four consecutive wins, the most recent of which came on Saturday when they got the better of fourth-placed Peterborough United.

During a period of upheaval for Whelan at club level, Fleetwood are his third employers since last season, at the end of which he was released by Aston Villa.

Despite making 36 Championship appearances to help Villa achieve promotion back to the Premier League, he was let go after a two-year spell with the club.

He then moved on to Hearts and played 17 times before falling out of favour when Craig Levein was replaced as manager of the Scottish strugglers by Daniel Stendel. 

glenn-whelan-and-christian-eriksen Glenn Whelan under pressure from Christian Eriksen during Ireland's draw with Denmark in November. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

“When I heard the boys saying that Glenn Whelan might be signing for us, I was a bit taken aback. ‘Bloody hell,’ I said,” Madden told The42 when asked about his fellow Dubliner.

“It wasn’t long ago that he was promoted to the Premier League. To get someone of Glenn’s quality is a massive boost for any League One team. He’s been top-notch.

“With his quality he should definitely still be playing in the Championship at least. It’s no coincidence that since he came in we haven’t been beaten. Long may it continue.”

Whelan, who hadn’t played a game in five weeks before joining Fleetwood, has come through six 90-minute outings in the space of three weeks. His performance in Saturday’s victory over a Peterborough side chasing their seventh consecutive win was recognised with the man-of-the-match award.

“Whelo is in great nick,” Madden said. “There’s a reason he’s been playing for this long. He’s looked after his body. He’s 36 now and on recovery days he still wants to be out and involved. His hunger for the game certainly hasn’t died.”

Madden is also adamant that dropping down to the third tier of English football shouldn’t raise any concerns over Whelan’s capability for Ireland’s crucial Euro 2020 play-off against Slovakia in Bratislava next month.

While it can be argued that several other Irish midfielders are currently playing at a higher level for their clubs, the 91-cap international has undoubtedly been one of Mick McCarthy’s better performers during the qualifying campaign to date.

fleetwood-town-v-coventry-city-sky-bet-league-one-highbury-stadium 'It's no coincidence that since he came in we haven't been beaten.' Source: Richard Sellers

“Some of the comments coming out are ridiculous, just because he’s playing for Fleetwood in League One,” said Madden. “Obviously Mick McCarthy wanted him to get fitness. There’s no better place to get fit because there are so many games in League One.

“His quality speaks for itself. You could see how good he was in the qualifiers. It just shows you how fickle football can be. He had a little stint where he wasn’t playing at a club, which can happen for many reasons, but Glenn didn’t let that affect him and he moved on.

“I’d love to see him in the play-off and I’m sure the majority of Irish fans would too. When you play with him and see what he can do on the pitch, it’s easy to judge him and to see how good he is.

“The best compliments you can get are the ones from your team-mates because they see you on a daily basis and what you bring to a team. I’ve no doubt that Glenn will play in the play-off and he’ll perform well, just as he’s always done.”

Madden’s own form is likely to have piqued the interest of McCarthy this season, although he isn’t counting on being handed an imminent opportunity to add to the sole cap he earned under Giovanni Trapattoni in a friendly against Wales in 2013.

With 15 goals to his name so far this season in League One, the 29-year-old is the division’s second-highest scorer. Just over two years since he joined Fleetwood from Scunthorpe United, he’s six goals shy of becoming the club’s leading scorer in the Football League. 

“Obviously it would be a dream to play for Ireland again but I haven’t really been getting a look-in,” he said. “It can be frustrating when players in the same league are being picked but I’ll keep plugging away and hopefully one day it’ll come. If not, I’ll just keep doing the business at club level.

Screen Shot 2020-02-18 at 19.07.06 Source: Twitter

“I’ve been scoring goals in League One for many years now and hopefully I’ll get a chance to do that in the Championship too. I’ll just keep contributing as well as I can to the team.”

Fleetwood, who now sit just two points outside the play-offs, will aim to give their promotion hopes another significant boost with a positive result against fellow Championship hopefuls Portsmouth on Saturday. 

Madden said: “I think this is the first time that we’ve won four in a row since the gaffer has come in so it’s been a good run of results. We just need to keep taking points off the teams above us to stay right in the mix, so hopefully we can do that.”

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Paul Dollery

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