Whelan: We must be semi-detached

The Potters thrashed Bolton 5-0 at Wembley two weeks ago in one of

the most one-sided last-four clashes in the competition’s history.

It was a stunning result considering the teams were expected to be

evenly matched, and Whelan hopes it will go some way to shaking off

Stoke’s image as a team that relies heavily on set-pieces. The

27-year-old said: “Winning 5-0 we’ve maybe changed a few people’s

minds but we know you’re only as good as your last game so we’ll

put that to the back of our minds. “It was a great day and a great

occasion but we haven’t done anything yet. It’s only a semi-final,

we want to win the final.” The Wembley date with City on May 14

will be the culmination of three years in the Premier League where

Stoke have consistently defied expectations under manager Tony

Pulis. Whelan hailed the achievements of the Welshman, who began

his second spell with the Potters in 2006 before winning promotion

to the top flight two years later. “He’s done really well, and

since I’ve been at Stoke we’ve improved every year, points-wise and

position in the league,” said Whelan, a £500,000 signing from

Sheffield Wednesday in January 2008. “To think this season we could

finish in the top 10 and be in an FA Cup final, it’s unbelievable.

“The manager would be the first one to say we’ve stuck together

through thick and thin. Everyone’s going to have their downs but

it’s how you react to that. We’ve reacted really well and hopefully

we can keep doing that. “It’s been a big change over the last few

years. We’ve become a team to be reckoned with and I don’t think

there’s too many teams who want to be playing Stoke week in, week

out.” It has been a mixed season for Whelan personally, with the

Republic of Ireland international finding himself out of the team

for a lengthy spell around the turn of the year before winning his

place back in February. Perhaps surprisingly for a player known for

his goals, particularly from long range, Whelan has so far drawn a

blank this season, something he would love to address against his

former club a week on Saturday. He added: “I’ll take one off the

backside if it means Whelan scores in the cup final. Obviously if I

could score it would be great for myself and my family but whoever

scores, if we win it’s great for everyone.” A source of justified

pride for Stoke is that they head into the cup final knowing they

will definitely be playing Premier League football for a fourth

successive season. Since beating Bolton, the Potters have picked up

five points from three games with draws against Aston Villa and

Blackpool and a 3-0 win over Wolves to climb to 10th place, and it

was a message Pulis was determined to get across. Whelan said:

“That was the massive thing after the semi-final, the manager was

on about he wanted to finish in the top 10 and in the last three

games we’ve got three positive results. Hopefully we can keep the

form going right to the end of the season.”