Bristol Rovers star drops major hint about future and reflects on new role

The 38-year-old is set to continue his 21-year playing career - despite dipping his toes in to coaching.

Glenn Whelan looks set to play on at Bristol Rovers. (Photo by Pete Norton/Getty Images)
Glenn Whelan looks set to play on at Bristol Rovers. (Photo by Pete Norton/Getty Images)
Glenn Whelan looks set to play on at Bristol Rovers. (Photo by Pete Norton/Getty Images)

Glenn Whelan wants to prolong his playing career at Bristol Rovers, despite taking on a coaching role this season. Whelan rejoined the Gas in July with an emphasis on coaching, but has played several times this season.

The 38-year-old was included in a list published by the club earlier this summer of those who would depart the Memorial Stadium. Whelan had joined on a one-year contract and played a part in helping Rovers get promoted from League Two.

He played in a charity match after his release and was seemingly done with football as a player but was offered an opportunity to return to the West Country. Whelan took up a role amongst the coaching staff, working alongside Joey Barton, who he had played under at Fleetwood Townn and at Rovers.

In the midst of an injury crisis and before several signings had been made, Whelan was thrust into first-team action. He is set to remain in his current capacity, until at least the end of the campaign. The 91-capped midfielder, has also taken on a role with Ireland's Under-16's, and worked with them during their Victory Shield campaign.

“I am still playing by default,” stated Whelan to the Irish Independent, when questioned about his playing involvement in the game having initially hung up his boots.

“We got promoted last year. We ended up needing to win 5-0, but Northampton won their game 3-1 so we needed to win 7-0, and we did. That was me, I was done, I wanted to go out on a high and I wanted to get into the coaching game."

He has made 10 appearances this season, including six outings in League One but has not featured for the Gas in the league since the 6-3 defeat to Lincoln City in mid-September. Whelan has been used in cup competitions featuring in the Carabao Cup, EFL Trophy and the FA Cup.

Against Crystal Palace, Whelan was given a red card for a scuffle with an Eagles player, which left him suspended. Despite his dismissal, it was a moment that made him want to continue his career.

“We were struggling for bodies with injuries," added the Republic of Ireland midfielder. "I put my name up and I am still enjoying it, I am doing a bit of everything, coaching and still playing and training.

"I played U23s football the other week and got sent off, I had young lads snapping at me. I want to stay at it as long as I can, if I was aged 38 and was a painter I’d still be playing football.”