Glenn Whelan: Stoke City new boys have lifted my game
GLENN Whelan believes he is now playing better than at any time in his life – thanks to Stoke's big-money signings.
The Ireland international admits he had to raise his game after seeing the likes of Charlie Adam and Steven Nzonzi arrive last summer.
The net result is that Whelan will be one of the first names on the team sheet against Chelsea on Saturday for what will be his 183rd appearance for the club.
"There was a lot of pressure put on myself with the amount of midfielders we were signing," said Whelan.
"It was a challenge I accepted because I wanted to prove those people wrong who thought I couldn't get into the team and stay there.
"Hopefully, I'm fulfilling that now, but I know I can't afford to let my standards drop.
"The other factor is that we've played a different way this season because we haven't been as direct and we've tried to come through midfield."
Whelan returns to the squad on Saturday after being rested for last Saturday's FA Cup tie at Crystal Palace.
It was an omission Whelan understood after a busy 12 months for club and country, but one that left him with mixed feelings.
"The gaffer said I'd played a lot of games at Euro 2012 when the other lads were on a long break," he explained.
"You don't want to be out of the team and giving someone the chance to take your spot, but I understand the thinking.
"I've still got a World Cup qualifying campaign to come with Ireland and the gaffer is looking ahead for me. He wants me to stay fit and healthy."
Stoke are just two games away from going 12 months unbeaten at home in the Premier League, and Whelan admits that is a great incentive.
"It would be a great achievement for Stoke to do it in the big league," he added.
"It shows the confidence we have at home where we always believe we have a great chance... against anybody."