GLENN WHELAN has lavished praise upon summer arrival Steven Nzonzi . . . and credited the French born midfielder for helping bring the best out of him this season.
The capture of Nzonzi from Blackburn Rovers, together with Charlie Adam's arrival from Liverpool on transfer deadline day, had seemingly threatened Whelan's starting berth in the side, however, he has shone alongside the pair in a new look three-man midfield.
The Republic of Ireland international, who cost the Potters just £500,000 almost five years ago, has embraced the extra competition for places this season, and has arguably displayed the best form of his career during the opening half of the campaign.
"Everyone has seen what Steven is capable of - he has been incredible for us, and he has really hit the ground running here," said Whelan.
"I think that for myself, being able to play alongside somebody who is performing so well gives you a lot of confidence, and that has played a part in my performances this season.
"We bounce off each other in the middle and I think we have worked well, as has Charlie who has played just in front of us."
He added: "With regards to me playing as good as I ever have, maybe I possibly am, but I don't dwell on my performances too much whilst I am playing.
"I would rather look back when I finish playing and look at when I was playing well, and when I wasn't. I am just trying to improve all of the time, and hopefully I can continue to do that over the coming months and years."
Having been rested for the FA Cup 3rd Round clash with Crystal Palace last weekend, Whelan, who celebrates his 29th birthday on Sunday, is hoping to get the nod to return to the starting eleven against Champions League holders Chelsea at the weekend.
"The manager pulled me over and said that because I have played a lot of games over the past twelve months, including the Euros with Ireland in the summer, he thought that it was the ideal time to give me a break and give me a chance to rest for a few days, which was nice.
"But, obviously with that comes the opportunity for another lad to come into the team, do well and take your spot in the starting eleven. It can work both ways.
"The manager has showed that he knows exactly what he is doing though, so hopefully I can get myself back in the team for the game against Chelsea and continue in the same manner as I have done throughout the campaign so far."
To read the full interview with the midfielder then make sure you pick up a copy of this weekend's Award Winning Matchday Magazine; priced at just £3.50.