Glenn Whelan’s class a major plus for Hearts says Steven MacLean

Ryotaro Meshino has introduced rice doughnuts, an infectiously bubbly personality and some onfield invention into the Hearts mix, according to his team-mates.

The class of Glenn Whelan, right, has been a major plus for Hearts says Steven MacLean. Picture: SNS.
The class of Glenn Whelan, right, has been a major plus for Hearts says Steven MacLean. Picture: SNS.

But, while the Japanese youngster has been a positive influence as the Gorgie side rediscovered some form in recent matches he has not been the only one. At the opposite end of the age range, midfielder Glenn Whelan, pictured, has brought class.

Striker Steven MacLean is far from surprised by that, though, having previously played alongside the Irishman at Sheffield Wednesday.

“I hadn’t seen him up close for a while but yeah, he has class.I thought he was head and shoulders above everybody against Hibs and again in the cup win over Aberdeen.

“Look at his use of the ball and his experience, his talking as well. 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.”

The 35-year-old midfielder joined the capital club in August having convinced manager Craig Levein he was far from winding down. With an eye on next summer’s Euros, he is as hungry as ever and in recent weeks has turned in performances that have again secured his place in the Republic of Ireland squad. If he plays against Georgia and Switzerland in the upcoming double-header he will surpass Tony Cascarino and move to eighth in the all-time list of Irish caps.

Which demonstrates his character as well as his ability, says MacLean, who witnessed his drive first hand at Hillsborough. “It just shows you. When we were at Sheffield Wednesday he was told he could go. But he fought back and look at his career now,” added MacLean. “It lets other players who are having a hard time know that if you do stick in when things aren’t going well you can turn things around.”

Following a troubled start to the season, Hearts have bounced back in two high-profile games and, unbeaten in three, have moved away from the foot of the league table and booked a trip to Hampden for the Betfred Cup semi-final.

“Listen, we have God knows how many people on the treatment table,” said MacLean, who saw both Craig Halkett and Loic Damour pick up injuries on Saturday to add to the woes. “But you can’t use that as an excuse. We have a big squad and we have quality.

“You can see Glenn’s quality after a couple of games and Ryo Meshino’s as well. He’s a good lad. He has fitted into the dressing room really well. He’s robust and he has a lot of quality as well and in and around the box he’s lightning quick and he has no backlift in his shots so he gets them away quickly, too. He’s definitely got a bit of quality.”

The Manchester City loanee is settling in well but while he is embracing the new language, he is more set in his ways when it comes to cuisine, reveals MacLean.

“You can just tell he’s a good lad, he’s lively and he has picked up a few sayings already!” said MacLean. “He’s just bubbly and really good value.

“He brings in these kind of rice doughnuts for pre-match, all wrapped up in cling film, so a few of the boys thought they had better go and sample a Japanese restaurant with him the other night.

“He’s brilliant and I think he’s enjoying himself as well.”