In a midfield which contains the likes of Jack Grealish, John McGinn and Conor Hourihane it’s hard for any other player to get noticed.
But as Aston Villa created club history, going ten games without dropping a single point in the Championship, Glenn Whelan has become an unsung hero.
The midfielder has quietly gone about his business in the last few games and as Villa confirmed their play-off spot with a win over Millwall, he was a player deserving of praise.
Perhaps plaudits beyond his years too. Because at the age of 35, Whelan’s best days are past him. The Republic of Ireland international enjoyed a steady time at Stoke in the Premier League but he could be about to find himself back in the big time.
He’s not the most glamorous of players by any means but he knows how to get the job done and in a team which includes less disciplined players, he’s helped to lay the foundations.
Whelan’s performance against Millwall wasn’t spectacular. It didn’t need to be, but it was effective and at the base of the midfield he allowed Grealish and McGinn to do the business further forward.
His pass success was bettered by just four Villa players whilst he made the second-most successful tackles out of anyone in Dean Smith’s side. The fact he also completed a dribble, an uncharacteristic part of his game, shows that confidence is growing.
It was a simple and disciplined performance. One that should give Smith some thinking ahead of the play-offs. Before then, Villa take on Leeds and Norwich. Should the club come through that with six points, then they absolutely deserve a place in the Premier League next season.
If Whelan also continues to play as he has been in those fixtures, then he may find himself starting over one of Villa’s more influential players in midfield come the play-offs.
McGinn, Grealish and Hourihane have all been outstanding during the course of the 2018/19 campaign, but the understated Whelan has been every bit important this month.