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Shrewsbury v MK Dons: Town hero Shaun Whalley happy to be central to plans

Aged 34 and seven seasons in – Shaun Whalley is still learning at Shrewsbury Town.

Whalley, a winger by trade but also an attacker capable of playing across the frontline, has spent the best part of the last month playing in Steve Cotterill’s three-man midfield.

He has impressed, too. Not least in netting a stunning equaliser, his first goal of the season, at Ipswich last Saturday, but also in previous displays.

Whalley, who passed 200 league games for Town against Wycombe and is six games away from 250 all-told, is likely to play a similar role against sixth-placed MK Dons tomorrow as Cotterill’s men go about turning their fortunes around on home turf.

“To be honest, I’d say I’ve never played there throughout my career,” said Town icon Whalley

“But the last three games I have really enjoyed it. I obviously want the results to be better but from a personal point of view I do enjoy playing there.

“Again, it’s up to the manager to play me wherever he needs to and I’ll try my best wherever I play.

“I’ve never really played in a (fixed) position. I’ve played left midfield, right midfield, up front, a ‘No.10’ – most of the attacking positions, I’ve played.

“I do have a bit more defensive duties in midfield, but it’s a bit like right midfield, I still had to track back and do the defensive jobs.

“I don’t mind it, if the gaffer played me left-back I’d try my best there.

“I feel like I’ve done well in the last few games in there but if I play up front next week I back myself to do alright.

“I thought I’d done OK in my first game back (from hand injury) but not as good as I can play. In the last four or five games I feel like I’m getting back to where I should be.”

Cotterill said of Whalley’s recent displays in a midfield three including David Davis and Luke Leahy following an injury to Josh Vela: “I think Shaun’s done well in there, sometimes you have to do that and adapt, that’s where he is.

“You’d think he might be a natural right wing-back in the way we play, he played there before I came in but I gather he didn’t play very well, and that’s come from himself, he didn’t seem to be an area he thought he could play in last season.

“He’s fit as a butcher’s dog, so he could play it.

“He gets picked because of those things (his shooting and dribbling), do I want him back in our box heading it? No I don’t, if you asked him he’d do it, but he’s not in to do that, it’s for the other things.”

Whalley’s left-footed piledriver at Portman Road means he has scored in each of his seven seasons at the club. Only Shrews heroes Bernard McNally and Dean Spink have managed more, with eight.

Town’s No.7 eyes may light up at the prospect of facing MK Dons, too. Two of his best goals in Shrewsbury colours have come against the Dons – albeit at Stadium MK – most recently another screamer with his left this time last year, in his 200th game for the club.

“Nat (Ogbeta) told me the (seven seasons) stat, as I’m not on social media,” he said of his goal feat. “I’d want to score in nine (seasons) then if that’s the top one, hopefully I can do that!

“I’ve got a weak foot, it’s my left definitely, but I can swing it though, I’ve scored a few with my left for Shrewsbury. I can cross and shoot with my left, but that’s all I can do with my left!”

Visitors MK Dons have not played in the league for a fortnight due to the international break. They started the season in fine form under new boss Liam Manning, 36, who they appointed from Belgian club Lommel after Russell Martin left on the eve of the season.

Dons did, however, drop points to lowly Fleetwood and Doncaster prior to the break.

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