The 22 year old Danny Whitehead became a Wigan Athletic player in early January. On signing from Macclesfield Town, Whitehead was loaned back to them for the rest of the season. Given that his experience is largely in non-league football, are Latics taking a gamble in offering Whitehead a 30 month contract?
The 5 ft 10 in tall Whitehead was born in Stretford and joined the nearby Stockport County when 15, making his senior debut at the age of 17. He went on to make 60 appearances, scoring 6 goals. Whitehead signed for West Ham in the summer of 2013, following a trial period with them. Sam Allardyce, then Hammers manager, commented that:
“He was recommended by Didi Hamann – who managed Stockport – as he felt he was an emerging talent that needed nurturing. I asked their current manager Ian Bogie about his talents and he allowed us to take a look at him last season and like every young player he’s got talent. He’s very capable of handling the ball and he’s able to create with his passing. Danny is very slight, which we’ll work on, but the question is can we create that potential into a Premier League player?”
Whitehead made his debut for the Hammers in January 2014 in a 5-0 FA Cup defeat at Nottingham Forest. It proved to be his only game for West Ham and he was released in January 2015. In March 2015 he joined Accrington Stanley on as short term contract.
Whitehead joined Macclesfield Town last summer. In order to learn more about Whitehead’s time at Macc we contacted Voice of Reason through the Wragg’s to Riches Macclesfield fan site.
Here’s over to him:
Danny Whitehead was a regular trialist in our 2015 pre-season friendly programme and was one of our star performers. The qualities I remember from pre-season were skill, creativity and time on the ball. Although we already had quality in midfield, both the club and the supporters were very keen to add Danny to the squad, and while it was evident that the budget was under pressure, Danny was the one trialist whom we signed in the final days before the start of the season.
Our competitive season started slowly for a number of reasons, and I would say that Danny did not carry his form fully into the early season, appearing not to adapt well to the more physical nature of competitive non-League football.
After starting in the first 2 games, he only managed to start one of the next 6, but remained involved coming off the bench in all the other games. When an injury to our skipper, Paul Turnbull , let him back into the team in early September, he went on a run of 18 straight starts.
He was voted Man of the Match on the fans message board in our 4-1 win against the League leaders Forest Green Rovers in September, but our away game to Aldershot at the end of September seemed to be a major turning point. Due to injuries, Danny combined with his near-namesake Danny Whitaker in a lightweight-looking central midfield. We needn’t have worried as Whitehead, Whitaker and our two wide midfielders ripped Aldershot apart to the extent that we were 3-0 up away from home after about an hour, and our manager John Askey was able to rest players and to bring on 3 subs, two of whom were getting their first game-time of the season.
Danny Whitehead has not looked back since that match, as we also went on a very good run. He looked more ready for the fray and used his particular qualities more effectively in central midfield. His run of 18 starts was only interrupted by injury from a very physical game at Southport, and he contributed fully to high scoring wins against Woking, Wrexham, Guiseley and Altrincham.
After signing for Wigan, he described his playing style very well – energetic, covering lots of ground, getting forward and chipping in with a few goals. He’s also quick, but my abiding memories of Danny will include some quality finishing (he’s got a great shot on him), his darting runs into space and his willingness to chase the ball down when the opposition get it. He’s played equally well in central midfield in a 4-4-2, or when there have been 3 in the midfield. Following another quality performance on Tuesday night, he has now been voted Man of the Match 4 times outright and once on a shared basis.
Wigan fans might find entertaining an interview with Garry Hill, the Woking manager, after we won 5-2 at their ground with Danny opening the scoring with a cracker – he almost spits out the names of our central midfield players before saying “we never got a kick” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QRTmCr8E850 at 3 minutes and 20 seconds).
Danny goes to Wigan with the best wishes of the Macc faithful. I get the impression that his attitude is “spot on” and having already had a spell at West Ham, he has bags of skill and potential. He will need to step up again from his current level to succeed in League 1 or the Championship, but he has progressed at Macc and, at 22 years old, who’s to say that he won’t establish himself at Wigan or indeed go on to a higher level.
In an interview in November, Danny talked about how much he was enjoying playing regularly, after 2 seasons where he didn’t get many games, and observed that he had to play games to improve – he will need to do the same again and your manager will have to show faith in him to give him the chance to make that step up.