Between Cardiff City’s promotion to the Championship in 2003 and ascension to the top-flight last May, one would be hard pushed to think of a player that deserved a shot at the Premier League more than the uber-talented Peter Whittingham.
A consistent performer over the years for the Bluebirds with an undoubted first-class talent, the mercurial Whittingham took time out from the rigours of the lads’ Swiss training camp to speak exclusively to Mark Denham and Cardiff City Player. Demands of Swiss training life were first on the agenda.
“It’s not nice for any footballer coming back for pre-season I don’t think, but we know what’s going to happen and it has to be done,” said the midfielder. “It’s going to be hard, it’s going to be tough and it’s so gruelling, but we’re getting through it.
“I think all the lads are really looking forward to the start of the Premier League season now. The squad that got us there last year are all looking in good shape. It’ll be nice to hit the ground running against West Ham on August 17th – hopefully we’ll get three points on the board and we’ll go from there, in good shape and mind to tackle Man City the following weekend.”
Competition for places in City’s midfield is again looking to be fierce this season, with Whittingham and company all eager to earn their chance in the big league.
And the former England U21 international raised the issue of the quality on offer in the City midfield with the season’s kick-off now just over four weeks away.
“We’ve got some good players in our midfield,” he observed. “That was proved last year, as we had some rotation in there.
“We’ve numbers in midfield with bags of talent, so for us it’s just a case of playing as well as we can in pre-season and trying to get hold of a starting berth come August 17th.
“I’m not sure how much [the football] will change in the Premier League. I don’t think people know as much about me as they do in the Championship; I probably won’t get as much respect as I did last year if you see what I mean, but it’s going to be tough for everyone regardless. We all know how hard it’s going to be, but it’s all about challenging yourself. I’m just really looking forward to it.”
With City fans used to seeing their number seven playing balls over the top of defences for the likes of Michael Chopra, Ross McCormack and Robert Earnshaw to latch onto to name a few, the six-foot-four inch frame of new Bluebirds signing Andreas Cornelius is likely to bring a new dynamic to Whittingham’s midfield play. It's something he thinks can add a new dynamic to his multi-faceted game.
“I think we’ve got different options up top now,” Peter commented. “Andreas [Cornelius] is a big, strong lad and he likes to pin people, but then you’ve obviously got Fraizer [Campbell] and Nicky [Maynard], along with Joe Mason and Bellers.
“The mixture of talent and ability in the squad is really good – we’ve got a different array of players and talents now. It’s going to be interesting to see what starting eleven the Gaffer picks, but the boys will be ready and waiting either way.”
The Bluebirds are not encountering any foreign opposition during their week in the shadow of the Alps – a purposeful decision made by Malky so as not to risk any sub-standard surface or facility that could be met.
“You can see what the Gaffer’s thinking in regard to that,” Whitts reflected. “The preparation and recovery of a game forces you to miss a couple of days out of training. Here it’s relentless training and conditioning, and that means you can monitor the players more closely. There are different styles for different managers, and our manager likes this one.”
And finally, in reflecting on years of speculation as to his long-term future, Whittingham proudly added: “When people were coming in for me in years gone by it was a case of me not wanting to move because I was determined to help Cardiff City get into the Premier League. I've always been happy at this Football Club.
“We’ve done that - we dominated the Championship and deserve to be among the country's elite. Now, it’s about keeping Cardiff City in the Premier League. It’s going to be a massive task, we’re under no illusions about that, but it’s one that we’ll relish and we’re really looking forward to.”
Watch this exclusive interview in full plus additional footage in the next episode of 'In the City'. To watch tonight's episode, CLICK HERE