Stoke cannot rest on Cup laurels before the final, warns Whelan

Stoke midfielder Glenn Whelan has warned his team-mates they must forget their five-star performance in their FA Cup semi-final because it will mean nothing unless they match it in the final against Manchester City.

Stoke thrashed Bolton Wanderers 5-0 at Wembley two weeks ago in one of the most one-sided last-four ties 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 who rely solely on set pieces.

The 27-year-old said yesterday: "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 Saturday week will be the culmination of three years in the Premier League, where Stoke have consistently defied expectations under Tony Pulis.

Whelan hailed the achievements of the Welshman, who began his second spell managing the club in 2006 before winning promotion to the top flight two years later. "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. We've reacted really well and, hopefully, we can keep doing that. 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, 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.

"I'll take one off the backside if it means Whelan scores in the Cup final," he said. "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 final knowing they will definitely be playing Premier League football for a fourth successive season. Since beating Bolton, Stoke have picked up five points from three games 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."

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When I was supporting Ray La Montagne I was six months pregnant. He had been touring for a year and he was exhausted and full of the cold. I was feeling motherly, so I would leave presents for him and his band: Tunnock's Tea Cakes, cold remedies and proper tea. Ray seemed painfully shy. He hardly spoke, hardly looked at you in the face. I felt like a dick speaking to him, but said "hi" every day. </p>
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He was being courted by the same record company who had signed me and subsequently let me go, and I wanted him to know that there were people around who didn't want anything from him. At the Shepherds Bush Empire in London, on the last night of the tour, Ray stopped in his set to thank me for doing the support. He said I was a really good songwriter and people should buy my stuff. I was taken aback and felt emotionally overwhelmed. Later that year, just before I had my boy Louis, I was l asleep in bed with Radio 4 on when Louis moved around in my belly and woke me up. Ray was doing a session on the World Service. </p>
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I really believe that Louis recognised the music from the tour, and when I gave birth to him at home I played Ray's record as something that he would recognise to come into the world with. </p>
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