Keith Andrews feels Glenn Whelan often gets singled out "ridiculously" by critics

Ex-Ireland midfielder chats to Newstalk's Team 33 about his former team-mate

BY Raf Diallo 16:48 Thursday 17 November 2016, 16:48 17 Nov 2016

Former Republic of Ireland International Keith Andrews were on hand today to launch the SPAR FAI Primary School 5s Programme in Aviva Stadium.

Former Ireland midfielder Keith Andrews believes criticism of his former engine room colleague Glenn Whelan is ridiculous. 

The two partnered each other for the bulk of the Giovanni Trapattoni era, and Whelan still remains a key first team player under the management of Martin O'Neill.

However, as an international midfielder he has often faced criticism from pundits regarding what he offers on the ball, despite being fully trusted by his many club managers at Stoke City and Ireland bosses over the years. 

Speaking to Newstalk's Team 33 at the launch of the SPAR FAI Primary School 5s Programme in a chat that will be played out and podcasted in full in the next couple of weeks, Andrews leapt to the defence of his former midfield partner.

"You don't play that many Premier League games and that many international games without being a very good player. He obviously divides opinion in Ireland - ridiculously, I would say," he told me.

"He's never failed to turn up for a trip, always trusted. The things that fans and people out there, at times, may fail to consider is the tactics that you're under from a particular manager.

"For our [Ireland manager] reign, in terms of when myself and Glenn were playing together, if we had got ahead of the ball, we wouldn't have played. So it's very simple. You do it or you're not going to be playing. So we done it in the main. So I think [the criticism] is a bit silly personally, the whole debate."  

Ireland's recent 1-0 victory over Austria leaves the Boys in Green well placed in the race to qualify for the 2018 World Cup. But caution is part of the prevailing wind with the half-way stage of the campaign not even reached, although the fact that performances so far have not been brilliant means there is plenty of potential to be drawn from the squad. 

"We're in a very good place. We're ahead of maybe where we thought we might be, certainly with the result last week," said Andrews.  

"I still think there's more to come. We haven't played as well as what we can, certainly the key individuals like Robbie Brady, Jeff Hendrick in particular from the Euros haven't hit those heights and I still think there's more to come.

"I do think the squad at times is a little bit imbalanced in terms of options that Martin has in key areas out wide, up front. But there's genuine reason to be optimistic with realism. We're in a very, very good place. There's no reason why we can't. Will there be a few twists and turns? Undoubtedly, because we never do things the easy way but you've also got to respect the opposition."

He picked out an improving Serbia in particular as a dangerous opponent when they visit Dublin next year and a Wales side that got to the Euro 2016 semi-finals.   

In the full chat, Andrews speaks about how difficult it was for him when he left Dublin for Wolves as a youngster, his potential future in management and why he would love to see Paul Ince back in head coaching. 

Republic of Ireland Manager Martin O’Neill and former Republic of Ireland International Keith Andrews were on hand today to launch the SPAR FAI Primary School 5s Programme in Aviva Stadium. The five-a-side school blitzes are open to boys and girls from 4th, 5th and 6th class. Registration will close on February 17th. For further information or to register your school please see www.spar.ie or www.faischools.ie.

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