Player Report: Glenn Whelan
For the first of our pre-season player reviews, we take a look at Glenn Whelan's progression in the Wednesday first team this season.
The Republic of Ireland U21 international has enjoyed a superb campaign for the Owls this season - despite being put on the transfer list at the start of the season by former boss Paul Sturrock.
Fast forward nine months and the Manchester City youth product is one of the key players in Brian Laws' squad, resulting in him picking up the Owls Player of the Season award, and the Wise Old Owls Player of the Season gong too.
So, its been some turnaround from the feisty midfielder, but did being placed on the transfer list make him a new player, or was it natural progression?
Certainly, the sale of Whelan now, or even the thought of putting him on the transfer list, would cause uproar among most Wednesdayites. But when Paul Sturrock made him available for a move away from S6 at the start of the season, it didn't raise too many eyebrows (despite Whelan showing glimpses of what he could do in the previous campaign).
The 23-year-old was a key part of the Owls promotion squad from League One, and even netted in the play-off final at Cardiff, but failed to adjust to the Championship at the first time of asking the following season - perhaps expected for just his second full season in professional football.
And although I saw the potential in Whelan in pre-season despite a relatively quiet start to life in the Championship, the majority were rather subdued when the news of him being transfer listed broke.
Nevertheless, Whelan was called upon for the first match of the season away at Preston, and he was arguably the player-of-the-match in a dull 0-0 opener.
He never looked back.
In fact, the midfielder played in all but two of the matches before Sturrock was sacked in mid-October, leading many to question whether Sturrock actually wanted him transfer-listed, or whether his hand was forced in order to build funds to attract new players.
Enter Brian Laws hot on the heels of Sean McAuley, and Whelan found himself on the bench and even out the squad for the first few games which drew mixed results against Ipswich Town, Coventry City and Cardiff City.
But the Irishman was back for the midweek victory over a lacklustre West Brom outfit, in which he scored, led the Owls to a superb 3-1 victory and put them on the way to a superb run of form which would eventually see them end up just a matter of points from the play-off spots come December.
Whelan kept his place in the side for the trip to Leicester City which saw Wednesday put in arguably their performance of the season to run out 4-1 winners at the Walkers Stadium, and which also saw Whelan bag one of the goals of the season in the Championship with a long-range piledriver.
His impressive performances saw Laws remove him from the transfer list and question why he was ever there in the first place - great move.
Whelan always had the Irish never-say-die spirit in the middle of the park from the minute he stepped through the doors at S6, but this season has seen him improve his passing no end, and has also seen him add goals to his tally - a sign of a good midfielder in anyone's books.
And no doubt Brian Laws will be working with Whelan to continue his development throughout the summer, and hopefully see more Player of the Season gongs picked up as he helps Wednesday to achieve a top-six finish.
Luckily for us Owls fans, Whelan's top notch performances have gone relatively un-noticed in comparison to the achievements of Chris Brunt and Frank Simek this season, so it's almost certain (fingers crossed) that we'll see him leading the midfield next season.
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