HEARTS striker Steven MacLean has lavished praise on ‘class’ Glenn Whelan and is adamant the way the veteran midfielder battled back from adversity should act as an inspiration to others.
MacLean and Whelan were teammates at Sheffield Wednesday more than a decade ago, with the latter told he was surplus to requirements by then Owls boss Paul Sturrock and told he was free to find a new club.
While many young players would wilt in those circumstances, Whelan joined Stoke City and proceeded to prove Wednesday wrong by playing more than 300 games for the Potters – the majority coming in the Premier League.
The 35-year-old also boasts 88 caps for Ireland – which he could add to after being named in the squad to face Georgia and Switzerland later this month – and MacLean reckons his old pall is already proving to be an almighty coup.
“I remember when we were at Sheffield Wednesday, Glenn was told he could go,” recalled MacLean. “He fought back – and look at his career now.
“It lets other players who are having a hard time know that, if you stick in when things aren’t going well, you can turn it around.
“I hadn’t seen Glenn up close for a while but you can tell he has class.
“I thought he was head and shoulders above everybody in the win against Hibs and again when we played Aberdeen last Wednesday.
“His use of the ball, his experience and his talking is brilliant.”
MacLean added: “Both of us are getting on in years! But you can see he still has great quality. He has brought a lot to the team and long may it continue.”
While Whelan’s pedigree was no secret, the impact made by Japanese winger Ryo Meshino has been altogether more surprising.
The 21-year-old, who joined the Jambos on loan from Manchester City on deadline day following his switch from Gamba Osaka to the English champions, has hit the ground running in Scottish football and shows no sign of teething problems despite his diminutive stature.
“You don’t know how a player is going to adjust at times – but he’s robust and he has a lot of quality,” said MacLean.
“In and around the box, he’s lightning and he has no back-lift in his shots so he gets them away quickly.
“He’s definitely got a bit of quality.”