Now in his eighth Cardiff City season, Peter Whittingham made his 400th career league appearance against Newcastle United earlier this month.
Adept in a multitude of midfield roles, Peter – although never one to seek the limelight – has been of huge importance to Malky Mackay. He’s played in 103 of the Manager’s 115 games in charge of City to date, and every one of the Club’s 2013/14 Barclays Premier League fixtures.
It’s been a satisfying return to top-flight life for Whittingham who dropped into the Championship having left Aston Villa six years ago. His physical fitness and ability to avoid injuries has enabled Peter to reach such a milestone at the relatively early age of 29; his natural talent and consistency has kept him at the forefront of team selections for such a long time.
Peter tangles with Cesc Fabregas at Highbury in October 2004
Peter began life at Villa Park on the left wing, making his Premier League debut as an 18 year old in a 1-1 draw with Newcastle United in April 2003. The young Englishman quickly built a reputation for being able to beat his man and offer a goal threat.
Whittingham made 66 appearances for the Villains and scored in the Premier League against Portsmouth, though he would find starting opportunities at a premium during the tenure of Martin O’Neill.
Loan spells at Derby County and Burnley came in 2004, before Whitts signed for Cardiff in January 2007 and quickly established himself a place on the left of midfield under the conventional 442 setup of Dave Jones.
An early City appearance for Whitts in a March 2007 clash at Hull City
LIFE AS A YOUNG BLUEBIRD
With Joe Ledley stamping his claim for the left midfield birth in '07/08, Whittingham was switched to the right, proving no less deadly.
He played a pivotal role in the Club's F.A Cup run, scoring three times including that curled effort at Middlesbrough that sent travelling fans into delirium and the team to Wembley for the first time since 1927. No doubt, the goal will be remembered in a generation of City’s fans’ top ten – a hypothesised group that would likely feature at least a couple more from PW7.
Peter top-scored for the Bluebirds in the 2009/10 season with 25 goals – a remarkable achievement for a midfielder in the Championship. He continued to play a vital role the following year, linking up to great effect with Craig Bellamy for the first time in 2010/11 as City came agonisingly close to automatic promotion.
Peter wins the 'Goal of the Season' gong at the 2012 Football League Awards in London
Peter’s success hasn't gone unnoticed. Admired and courted by some of the biggest clubs in the land, Whittingham has been named in three of the last four Championship Teams of the Season, has bagged a number of Player of the Month gongs and was awarded the 2011 Football League Goal of the Year for his audacious volley against Barnsley.
Whitts delivers at a murky Christmas clash at Vicarage Road, December 2010
“IS THERE A BETTER SET PIECE TAKER IN THE LAND?”
Time and again, Whitts has shown that he is the epitome of calm when it comes to penalty taking. He found the back of the net twice in high pressure shoot-outs against Crystal Palace and then Liverpool in the 2011/12 Carling Cup semi-final and final and it is of note that he remains the Club’s allocated penalty taker despite the multitude of new, international talent that he now finds himself in the company of.
Penalties and free-kicks aside, Whittingham’s corner kick delivery has bamboozled the very best. England ‘keeper Joe Hart can pay testament to that in recent weeks, while the likes of Matt Connolly, Ben Turner, Steven Caulker et al will testify just how important Whitts’ dead-balls are to their own goal-scoring ambitions from corners in particular.
The Manchester City win back in August also highlighted the 29 year-old's tactical nous. Along with full-back Andrew Taylor, Whittingham patrolled the left flank as his own, rendering the input of Jesús Navas and James Milner in that game of little consequence. His control of the 2-1 victory at Fulham impressed the very best in the game.
THE FUTURE: VIVA BRAZIL?
It’s no secret that England have been found wanting when it comes to having a wealth of talented left-footed midfielders for many a year. Arguably, not since Liverpool’s John Barnes in the late 80s (and certainly since Ryan Giggs put any doubters in their place by committing his international career to the country of his birth and heritage) have they had a pencilled in occupant for that area of the park.
At 29, the mercurial Whittingham now has the platform on which to demonstrate his natural ability and composure. It’s a stage on which many think he’s been capable of gracing for some time and, arguably, with Roy Hodgson’s England team now confirmed to take part in next year’s FIFA World Cup, there’s no better time for the spotlight to be on the unassuming City talisman.
England are in need of a balance in midfield and a calm head that can deal with the high pressure situations that will come in the glare of the media spotlight. When you add Whittingham’s god-given command of a football to that mix, it won’t surprise too many should they see Mr Hodgson take his place in the stand to assess our game-changer’s form over the course of this Barclays Premier League campaign.
With 17 England U21 caps to his name, who’s to say that Peter Whittingham can’t join team-mates Caulker and Campbell on that flight to Rio next June?
With thanks to Liam Jones & Richard Shepherd