INTERVIEW: We're fighting for something

With 62 appearances for the Blues already chalked up since joining the club two summers ago defender Corey Whelan has gained a reputation for being one of the most professional players on the books, with his steady approach just one of the reasons he’s been nominated as club captain on 14 occasions so far.

Both of his United goals have come this season, as he adds being a menace in the opposition area to his repertoire, so we thought it was high time we sat down with him to discuss his current good form, and the start to the campaign that has taken the team into the upper reaches of the division.

Looking first at the Walsall game, he said: “That was very disappointing because the FA Cup is a competition that we wanted to go far in, but it wasn’t meant to be.

“The manner we lost the game wasn’t pleasing but it was just about a reaction. We knew that the game should have been done before the mistake happened and we’ve been pretty good at seeing other games out this season, but it didn’t happen that time.

“It was disappointing but it’s important you don’t carry it with you, you’ve got to move on because there’s still a lot of football to be played.

“We obviously want to win as many games as possible but we aren’t naïve enough to think that we will win every one of them.

“There will be games where you don’t get a result whether you play well or not, so the reaction is important. It was disappointing in the dressing room straight after the game but as soon as you’re back in on the Monday you’ve just got to forget about it and move on.”

Helping with that is the very close nature of a dressing room that really does pull together.

“We’re a tight group of lads, which I think is important, and we do talk about things and work through things together,” he explained. “Ability will take you so far but when you spend so much time together you’ve got to be a tight-knit group.

“When you have an off day I think those relationships can get you through games. We’ve won games this year when we haven’t played so well, but I think that comes from being a close group and pulling each other through.”

A whack in the first half against the Saddlers caused some swelling in his foot and, as luck would have it, it was made even worse when he was subsequently cleared out by his own keeper.

“When I first got the kick at Walsall I thought it was a bad one because it was right on the bone of my foot, and it was sore,” he told us. “I wouldn’t have come off otherwise.

“I was disappointed to come off but I felt like I wasn’t moving well because of it, and I didn’t want to make it worse.

“Ross and the rest of the staff made the decision to substitute me and I agreed with it. It settled down during the week, I stayed off it, then I was able to train properly on Friday which fortunately meant I was available last Saturday.

“I don’t think I’ll have any other issues with it, it’s totally settled down now. That took us into the Sutton game, which was a strange performance, and it’s a hard one to put your finger on why to be honest.

“We spoke about it as a group afterwards but we just never really got going. We know if we were at it we would have won the game, which is the most disappointing thing.

“No one wants to go out there on a Saturday and not perform so it was disappointing. It’s another game where you probably want to forget about it, and when we get into the last few games of the season I don’t think anyone will be talking about it.

“It’s another point on the board and it moved us in the right direction. We’ve got another opportunity on Saturday to try and get all three points at home again.”

“To concede just before half time is a horrible time to concede,” he agreed. “We probably didn’t play well in the first half but we played some alright football and got the goal.

“If we got into half time at 1-0 the second half might have been different after we’d had chance to reflect on it together.

“It was a bit of a cheap goal to give away and we haven’t really done that this season. We’ve been pretty good at limiting shots on our goal.

“Even without that goal before the break, there was still 45 minutes of the game to be played and we didn’t use that second half to the maximum on Saturday.

“We just let the game sort of fizzle out and pass us by, which is disappointing, but we can’t hold onto it for too long because no one wants it to happen like that and there will be other games like that this season.

“We’re talking like this but we are fifth in the table which definitely isn’t a bad place to be after 20 games of the season. I think if you’d said that to us at the start of the season we all would have taken it.

“We’ve got something to play for and we’re fighting for something. We know what it’s like when you’re down the other end of the table after last season, so the feeling we’ve got this year is nice and we’ve got to hold onto it.

“We don’t want to start letting games pass us by where we aren’t picking up as many points as we want to.

“We’re where we are and we’ve got an opportunity to go even higher on Saturday. We’ve just got to prepare right and go out there and give the best version of ourselves.”

And that Saturday game is, of course, one both sets of fans always look forward to.

“On a personal level it doesn’t really matter too much to me who we’re playing,” he said. “The fans will be right up for the game and it’s a big game for them, so we know there will be a good atmosphere.

“I’m sure they’ll bring a few but as a player I don’t think you can get too caught up in it. We want to get three points in every game we play but you also can’t hide the fact that it’s a big game.

“We’re looking forward to it and I’m sure the fans are as well. If we’re at it on the day then I think we’ll win the game, which is the most important thing.

“They’re just above us in the league at the moment and we’ve got a few games coming up against the teams around us in the table. It’s the Christmas period and everyone knows how hectic it can be.

“It’s a good challenge for us and if we want to do something this year we’ll have to compete with the teams around us in the table. We’ve just got to get back to what we do and be at our best.”

Chances are that he’ll have skipper duties once again this coming weekend, and he and the rest of the team will be met by one heck of a roar as they come out of the tunnel.

“I’m always proud to lead the boys out when Morgan isn’t available,” he told us. “We’ve got a lot of leaders out there and we’ve got experience in the dressing room.

“We all pull together as a group whoever wears the armband, but for me to wear it is nice for me because it’s recognition that I’m trusted and reliable and things like that.

“We’ve got loads of lads in there who are leaders and if something needs to be said they’ll say it. I think I’m happy being talked about in that way as well.

“I’m not one that likes being talked about, to be honest, it’s usually the attacking players that enjoy that sort of things anyway.

“My job as a defender is to just keep the ball out the back of our net and let the forward lads go and do what they do. It’s good to be trusted because you know there’s no hesitation if you need to be called upon.

“I’m trying to chip in with a couple of goals as well though. I’d like more and I think I could have had more. I’ve got two so far, but I’ve set targets in my own head so I know where I want to go with that. Hopefully I can get a few more.”

Read Time: 8 mins