A Macclesfield fan’s view of Danny Whitehead

Whitehead

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.

 

 

Wabara the next on Caldwell’s latest wish list?

Reece Wabara. Photo courtesy of bbc.co.uk

Reece Wabara.
Photo courtesy of bbc.co.uk

Wigan Athletic currently stand in 5th place in League 1, just 5 points behind second placed Gillingham. They are desperately seeking an automatic promotion place.

On November 9th we posted “Caldwell’s Christmas Shopping List”. At that time Latics were coincidentally 5th in the League 1 table, 5 points behind the Gills in second place. We advocated the need for another central striker (Alex Revell was brought in soon after), a right back, a central defender and an influential central midfield player.

Since then short-term loanees Francisco Junior, Donald Love and Sean Murray have left the club, with Yanic Wildschut being signed on a permanent contract. Revell was recalled early by Cardiff City from his loan spell. Moreover Richard O’Donnell has joined Bristol City on loan.

Since November 9th Latics have a record of W5 D3 L2. Statistics supplied by www.statto.com show them lying 8th in the form table for games played between then and now.

Statto

Wigan’s average of 1.8 points per game over the period has helped then maintain their position in 5th place, but the teams that were above them in November remain above them now.

Both Burton Albion and Walsall have had managerial changes since then.  Since Nigel Clough took over from Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink at Burton on December 4th he has had a record of W4 D1 L0. Sean O’Driscoll succeeded Dean Smith at Walsall on December 18th, his record so far being W3 D1 L1.

Latics clearly cannot rely on the teams above them defaulting over the remainder of the season. History tells us that teams who have gained automatic promotion from League 1 have amassed a minimum of 90 points. To achieve that minimum target Latics would need 45 points from their remaining 20 games, an average of 2.25 points per match.

The January window is crucial to Wigan’s quest for automatic promotion. Caldwell’s squad is strong, but somehow the team rarely fires on all cylinders. The chemistry just does not seem quite right. The question is whether Caldwell can bring in the types of players who can provide an appropriate balance.

A right back/right wing back is surely high on Caldwell’s wish list. Donervon Daniels can excel when attacking, but can be suspect when up against a speedy wide player. Daniels is basically a central defender who has been helping the team by playing out of position. Rumours are that Latics are about to sign right back Reece Wabara whose short term contract at Barnsley has come to an end. Wabara is a 24 year old  ex-Manchester City youth player.  He made 43 appearances for Doncaster Rovers last season before joining Barnsley for whom he appeared 19 times.

According to press reports it appears that Aberdeen are interested in taking Don Cowie on loan for the remainder of the season. With the departures of Junior and Murray and a possible exit from Cowie, Caldwell will be keen to bolster his central midfield.

For some time now Latics have looked short of a midfield enforcer who can close down opponents when the going gets tough. Sam Morsy of Chesterfield is certainly that, being known for his toughness in the tackle. Signed by Paul Cook from Port Vale in summer 2013, the 24 year old  captain has made 97 appearances for the Spireites. His contract expires at the end of the season, suggesting that a relatively small transfer fee could secure his services.

Latics have also been linked with Oldham Athletic captain Liam Kelly. A 25 year old Scottish international, who started his career at Kilmarnock, Kelly is a holding midfielder that Oldham fans don’t want to lose.

With the departure of Junior, Latics look short of variety in midfield. Although dogged by injury during his stay at Wigan, Junior could offer alternatives when coming off the bench. Michael Jacobs is the main creative force for Latics, but there is a need for another player of his type.  So many teams will “park the bus” when they come to the DW Stadium and someone is needed who can help unlock visiting defences.

Grant Holt is now back at Wigan after his loan spell at Wolves, but it seems most likely that he will loaned out to another club. Should that happen Caldwell will surely seek another centre forward. The latest name to be mentioned is Lukas Jutkiewicz who has played for 9 clubs even though he is only 26 years old.  Jutkiewicz is a big target man, but his career strike record is not particularly impressive and he has not scored for his current club, Burnley, in 30 appearances.

Leon Barnett’s contract is up at the end of the season and he might well be looking for a move in January.  Previous rumours linked him to Preston North End. Should Barnett leave then Caldwell will seek to bolster the centre of defence with a new signing. Given the long ball approach that can prevail in League 1 he might well look for a tall player who is strong in the air. Good passing of the ball is not Barnett’s strength and it is an attribute that Caldwell will look at from any incoming player.

Latics have already announced the signings of 19 year old Torquay goalkeeper Dan Lavercombe and the 22 year old Macclesfield midfielder Danny Whitehead. Both players will continue playing for their former clubs for the remainder of the season. They are clearly players for the future.

However, Caldwell’s main priority is to recruit new players for the 20 games that remain this season. How many will be able to recruit will largely depend on the departures of players on Championship-level salaries whose contracts expire in summer.

Given the difficulties he has faced with the right back position Caldwell will be keen to bring in a new player as soon as possible. Reece Wabara might well be a Latics player within the next couple of days.