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Last Updated: Saturday, 3 September 2005, 11:27 GMT 12:27 UK
Whelan targets Owls consolidation
By Jonathan Rawcliffe

Glenn Whelan
Whelan is confident the Owls will avoid relegation
Championship survival is the number one priority for Sheffield Wednesday this season, according to Owls midfielder Glenn Whelan.

The Republic of Ireland Under-21 skipper sealed the South Yorkshire club's return to English football's second tier, scoring the decisive goal as Wednesday defeated Hartlepool to win the League One play-off final in May.

Promotion marked the end of years of decline at Hillsborough, but with season ticket sales and expectation levels rising, Whelan is keen to warn supporters they should not expect too much, too soon from Paul Sturrock's promising young side.

"The main aim this season is to stay up - anything else is a bonus," Whelan told BBC Sport.

"With a bit of luck and good fortune, we can push on up the league, but I think everyone at the club is aiming for mid-table. That would be a great season for us after promotion last year.

"Nobody wants to come up and then go straight back down to League One. Obviously you have to set your standards high, but if we do stay up, it will feel like getting promotion again."

Having joined Wednesday from Manchester City last summer, Whelan became an integral part of the Owls' midfield during his inaugural season at first team level.

The main aim this season is to stay up - anything else is a bonus
Glenn Whelan

The 21-year-old quickly gained a reputation as a committed and dynamic performer, whose ability to unlock opponents' defences with measured passes proved to be a crucial weapon for Sturrock's team.

"I like to play good football," Whelan said, "but sometimes you have to adapt to other teams' styles of play.

"We're going to come up against better teams and better players in this league.

"Right from the first game against Stoke we noticed that the tempo in the Championship is much quicker. If you get any time on the ball in this division, you have to try and use it to your advantage."

Handling the step up to the Championship was always going to be a tough task for a side that finished fifth in League One last season.

Wednesday have gathered only three points from their opening five matches, and are still searching for their first league win of the campaign.

Finding the back of the net has so far been the team's biggest problem.

Striker Steven MacLean, who hit 20 goals last season, could be out of action with a leg injury for the next six months, and another play-off final hero, Drew Talbot, has also been dogged by fitness problems.

But despite an ever-growing casualty list, Whelan is upbeat about the Owls' chances.

"The injuries are just bad luck, but we just have to get on with it - there's nothing else we can do.

"Everybody around the club is positive. Obviously the manager wants us to stay in this league, but he also wants us do better than that if we can.

"He hasn't set us any targets as such, but every player will be giving 110 per cent in every game," Whelan added.

"The fans are looking forward to the derby matches against Sheffield United, but there are also big games coming up against the likes of Leeds and the teams that have come down from the Premiership.

"The sooner we get our first win, the better."


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