Glenn Whelan is not ready to retire just yet – but he insists he will not hang around “like a bad smell”.
The 35-year-old was one of eight players released by Aston Villa just days after the club secured their return to the Premier League by winning the Sky Bet Championship play-off final.
He therefore met up with the Republic of Ireland squad, for Euro 2020 qualifiers against Denmark and Gibraltar, facing an uncertain future.
However, having witnessed Stuart Pearce play on to just a few days short of his 40th birthday during their time together at Manchester City, Whelan is convinced there is more left in his legs.
He said: “I’ve played with some lads who have gone on to play until they were 38, 39 – I was at Manchester City at the time that Stuart Pearce was there and I think he was still playing top level at 39 or 40.
“For some reason, you get to a certain age and a lot of people just think, ‘Bosh, that’s you done’, but that’s not for me.
“Listen, I won’t hang around. I won’t be like a bad smell, I’ll know that when I’m done, I’m done. But if I can make an impact, some sort of impact, then I am more than happy to stick around.
“I feel fit, I’ve been lucky with injuries – I’ve never been quick enough to get a hamstring. I’m OK on that side of things.”
Whelan’s exit from Villa Park came as no surprise, although he revealed he only learned of his release when he landed in Dublin to see two missed calls, one of them from manager Dean Smith, after there had been no time for a face-to-face meeting following the club’s big day at Wembley.
He said: “I went away on the Tuesday with the family and when I landed back in here on Tuesday, I had two missed calls, one from a journalist saying I’d been released and one from the manager to give him a call.
“From that point of view, it was disappointing, but something I expected, to be honest.”
Asked if the pair had eventually spoken, Whelan said: “Yes. We just congratulated each other, wished each other all the best and that was it. There were no hard feelings – I’ve been in the game too long to hold grudges.”
The Dubliner, who has also had spells at Sheffield Wednesday and Stoke, currently finds himself without a club and although there has been a deluge of enquiries, there is no offer currently on the table.
Whelan said with a smile: “I’ve just had Real Madrid on the phone there before I came in.”
He added: “I want to play as long as I can and as high as I can, I want to try to make an impact wherever I go. I don’t want to go anywhere and be a cheerleader, I want to go and have a chance of playing.”
In the meantime, he will concentrate on the task of fighting for a place in the Ireland starting line-up for Friday night’s game in Copenhagen, with new manager Mick McCarthy having revived his 86-cap international career after predecessor Martin O’Neill had appeared to draw a line under it.
Whelan said: “Mick asked the question, ‘Was I retired?’. I said I’d never retired, I was put into retirement. He asked, ‘Would you be available if needed?’.
“I said, ‘Yes, as long as I had a chance of playing’. As long as there’s a fair fight for the jersey, I’m willing to come back and fight.”
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