Peter Whittingham is up there with the most talented players I have ever seen put on a Cardiff shirt in my time supporting the club. So much so, that after his goal against Leicester City in the play-off semis, I vowed that my first-born will have the middle name of ‘Peter Whittingham’, regardless of gender.
However, Peter’s form has somewhat declined in recent years compared to his earlier high standards. In 2009/10, ‘Whitts’ scored 20 goals in 41 games from midfield. Last season he managed just six goals in 43 games. The numbers speak for themselves.
In fairness though, his changing of positions and our style of football doesn’t suit a player like him at all, regardless of his obvious high calibre. Whereas most fans want him either on the left side of midfield to free-roam or just behind the striker, he has been forced to take up a more defensive midfield role.
Not blessed with pace, Whittingham’s main weapon is his ability to find passes that nobody else sees with his wand of a left foot, something that has been robbed from him by every manager since Dave Jones. Instead of the intricate passing, he is now picked to press players until Cardiff get the ball back, he is being turned into a defensive player.
There is also a question of age. It isn’t rocket science that a footballer who is 31 next month, might not be up to the standard he was at 25/26. However, I think Peter is far too good of a player to go into this much of a decline at the start of this 30s.
Has the time come for him to move on? I don’t think it is far off, especially with the emergence of academy graduate Joe Ralls. The youngster’s mobility compared to Peter’s ensures Joe is much more suited to play in Russell Slade’s pressing system.
Throughout Whittingham’s career at Cardiff, he has always been dogged with comments from fans who criticise his work rate, arguing that he is lazy and lacks bite. This further adds to the debate as to why Slade and previous managers have decided to use him as a defensive option.
One of the main factors that will determine Whitts’ game time this year is the fitness of Kagisho Dikgacoi. The defensive midfielder is extremely suited to Slade’s role and could replace Whittingham in most games this year. However the only concern is Kagisho’s fitness. After signing this time last year, he has only made two appearances in the league.
In pre-season, Whittingham has not been that bad, but he will solely be judged on what he does in this season. Without a doubt, he will be under pressure to perform from the moment the whistle blows on Saturday against Fulham.
Due to my love for the man though, I will never give up on him, and think of him as a son, despite the fact he may be ten years older than me. I am adamant that if Slade can find a way of pushing him forward a bit more without leaving the back door open, Whittingham can be influential in getting us back into the Premier League.
However, if it is another season with a lack of goals and assists for him, I am not sure if Cardiff is the best place for him anymore and would fully expect him to be moved on.
So, in a plea to Russell Slade, please find an attacking place for him to flourish. And to Whittingham himself, please rediscover the form of yesteryear. It will make it much easier for my future daughter, named Peter, if she was named after the man who fired Cardiff to the Premier League for the first time in blue.