December 22, 1981
Evertonians who admired Ronnie Whelan’s steady progress across the park, may be interested to know that the Irishman who was yesterday presented with the Robinson’s Young Player of the Month award, was once an unsuccessful trialist at Goodison.
“I came to Everton for a trial, as well as several other clubs, when I was a teenager,” Whelan explained. “I suppose most young Irish players do the rounds, Anyway, I never heard any more from Everton after I returned home, so nothing came of my visit.
“In the end, I had to wait a couple of years before I was recommended to Liverpool, who signed me up, but things couldn’t have turned out better.
“I know I haven’t managed to win a regular place in the first team at Anfield but I never expected to do that so soon. The fact that I’ve played a few times is a major bonus – and I can hardly believe I’ve also been picked to play for Ireland.
Joe Mercer, who made yesterday’s presentation, was staggeringly honest about the young man who has already made such a major impression at Anfield.
“I’ve only got one reservation about him and that’s his stamina,” he said. “He’s got balance, two fine feet and rare vision, as well as the ability to change speed without warning.
“The only thing I don’t know is, whether or not he can sustain all this power a period of time under pressure.
“It’s always a bit harder when other players know about you and start to give you special attention. Some people can cope with that and others can’t. You only find out by experience.
“Liverpool is that they give their young players a proper apprenticeship. When I joined Everton there were four international centre-halves on the books and I had to wait years before I got a proper run in the first team.
“I don’t think that did any harm at all, because it meant I’d learned my trade properly in the first place.
“Young Ronnie here is in the same situation. He is having to fight for a place and he’ll be all the better for it in the long run.
“Some people have compared Ronnie with Peter Doherty, That’s a hell of a compliment, because if he’s half as good, Liverpool have got a great player.”
Whelan comes from a great footballing family, though is is not related to that former Irish star, Liam Whelan, who was killed in the Munich air disaster.
His father won two full caps at centre forward and young Ronnie has never wanted for family support and encouragement.
“I haven’t modelled my game on anyone,” he says, with refreshing honesty. “To tell the truth, I’m not much of a watcher … I prefer to play myself.
“The one person I admire most of all is Graeme Souness. If I could be half as good as him I’d be happy, because the way he knocks the ball around is just great.”
(Source: Liverpool Echo: December 23, 1981; via http://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk) © 2018 Findmypast Newspaper Archive Limited