Aston Villa boss Steve Bruce explains the importance of Glenn Whelan

According to an interview he conducted with the Birmingham Mail, Aston Villa manager Steve Bruce has praised midfielder Glenn Whelan for the impact he has made following his £1m move from Stoke City during the summer transfer window.

Despite struggling personally in the early stages of the campaign – as Villa also did as a team – the Republic of Ireland international has been a key but understated figure in the Midlands outfit’s recent revival which sees them lying in sixth in the Championship standings heading into the international break.

He often came under criticism from the supporters even when the fortunes of the side improved, with much of that vitriol coming on Twitter during and after matches – such as the 1-0 win against Bolton last month.

With competition from the likes of Conor Hourihane, Josh Onomah, Henri Lansbury and Mile Jedinak in the middle of the park, the 33-year-old’s place in the side is not guaranteed, but Bruce has been impressed with what he has seen.

Speaking to the Birmingham Mail, he said: “He’s the type of player who you realise when he’s not there.

“He’s not pleasing on the eye, he will not mind me saying that. He is not the most graceful of movers, but he is fiercely determined.”

Whelan will look to help his country reach the 2018 World Cup when they face Denmark in a two-legged play-off over the course of the next week, before returning to Villa Park to prepare for the trip to Queens Park Rangers.