Whiteman New Deal Signals Rovers Intent
The news was delivered in a series of teasing tweets whilst most of us were still tucking into our cornflakes this morning. Then, just before the clock struck 8am, accompanied by an image of the man himself flexing his arms, it was official: Ben Whiteman has signed a new long-term contract at the club.
Hailed as one of the best midfielders in League One for his composed displays this season, the Rovers captain has grown into a true leader on the field in Darren Moore’s new-look side. Now signed until the summer of 2023, this move today marks the first big step in securing the future of this bright, developing squad.
Team Building Strategy
Key figures at Doncaster Rovers have been talking up the commitment to looking long-term of late, following a couple of difficult summers that have caused progression to become stunted on and off the field. The move to secure Whiteman puts a difficult summer of recruitment into the rear-view and marks him out as the player to build around.
The hope is that this is the first of several similar announcements in the coming months. With just over one month to go until the January transfer window swings open, tying down the best of this young crop is pivotal to ensuring a smooth ride next summer and can even galvanise the current squad into mounting a serious Play-Off push in the New Year.
It remains a fact that the majority of the squad is out of contract next summer, and the core of the side that has made an encouraging, if inconsistent, start to life under Darren Moore is among them. Top scorer Kieran Sadlier, defensive rock Tom Anderson and veteran talisman James Coppinger are surely next up on the board’s docket to tie down, whilst a couple of the young loanees currently on the books may also be targets for permanent moves.
Regardless, Darren Moore and Gavin Baldwin can now sit down and plot the next couple of transfer windows safe in the knowledge that their captain and chief playmaker is going nowhere. Late summer interest in Whiteman from Championship clubs caused a brief period of panic among fans, tinged with a feeling of inevitability, and so avoiding any repeat of that is very welcome.
Whiteman himself told the official Doncaster Rovers website that he “can see the long-term vision coming into place,” which can only be encouraging to hear. If promotion from this league is achieved in the next year or two, it would be reasonable to point to today as the jumping off point for that success, following the appointment of Darren Moore.
BW8 is QB1
What of the player himself then? His importance to Rovers’ play has been underlined by a number of fine displays this season, and as Moore said himself when speaking on this new contract, “usually when (Whiteman) plays well the team is playing well as he is our quarter-back.”
What the manager means by that statement is that Whiteman essentially runs the offensive front for the team. In American Football, the Quarterback is the on-field leader of the team through which all major attacking efforts are focused. The position on a traditional football field that most resembles this is that central playmaker role, and Whiteman has filled it brilliantly since finding his feet in the new system.
Previous manager Grant McCann insisted that he didn’t play with a deep-lying midfielder, instead making his three-man unit a fluid, interchangeable group. Whiteman was part of this and had more of an influence than when played in various positions around Darren Ferguson’s diamond, but it wasn’t until the arrival of Darren Moore that Whiteman found his true niche as chief creator.
Able to sit deeper and link defence to attack seamlessly, Ben Whiteman has become the beating heart of Moore’s team. Playing in a 4-2-3-1 formation – and capably assisted by new arrival Ben Sheaf – Whiteman has become more of a box-to-box playmaker, affecting play through the thirds and tying the strands of the side together from back to front, and the stats are there to prove this.
Whiteman is making more key passes, having more meaningful shots on goal and has already matched his goals tally in the league for last season, netting three. He has played every minute of Rovers’ league campaign and Moore’s words do indeed ring true: when he plays well, the team plays well.
Whiteman drives the play from all areas of the field and his renewed commitment to the club shows that everything is moving in the right direction for Doncaster Rovers. Patience will be needed on this journey but Rovers fans and players alike can be content with the prospect of going forward led on the field by our captain for the long-term.