A professional footballer escaped a ban for speeding – so he can keep driving 156 miles to play for Bristol Rovers.

Midfielder Glenn Whelan, aged 38, of Wilmslow in Cheshire, who played for Aston Villa after a reported £1.5 million transfer, Sheffield Wednesday and Stoke City, and earned more than 90 caps for the Republic of Ireland, planned to become a player-coach, magistrates heard.

But his lawyer said it would cost about £200 to travel by train each time and it wouldn’t be worth doing the journey to help the League Two side, nicknamed the “The Gas”.

Paul Reddy, defending, said Whelan drove 30,000 miles-a-year on average. The player had been returning from a ferry trip to Ireland to see his sick mum, early on May 20, when his Audi car was caught doing 49mph in a 40mph temporary limit at roadworks on the A55 at Aber, near Bangor, Gwynedd.

There are average speed cameras.

Prosecutor Brian Robinson said at Mold magistrates’ court :”Mr Whelan has nine penalty points on his licence, all being speeding matters.”

The player admitted speeding but pleaded “exceptional hardship” to keep his licence.

Mr Reddy said there had been a “momentary lapse of concentration” at the roadworks.

Whelan had five months remaining of his existing one-year contract.

“He wants to play as long as he can,” the lawyer remarked.

Mr Reddy said Whelan, earning £4,000-£5,000-a-month, would be unable to get home by train at night following mid-week games.

He was also coach for his son’s Sunday football team.

“I request you consider giving him a further lifeline, allowing him to keep his licence,” Mr Reddy said to the magistrates.

“He will be an extremely careful driver for the foreseeable future.”

Court chairman John Perera fined the footballer £307 with £144 costs and three points. The magistrate said Whelan had an “unusual” lifestyle.

If he were banned, it could affect his son’s football team, jeopardise his potential role as a player-coach, and he was the breadwinner for the family.

But the exceptional hardship argument couldn’t be re-used for three years. “Make sure you drive very carefully,” the magistrate warned Whelan.