Ben Whiteman has got character.
When Sheffield United’s promotion hopes were dashed by Coventry City last season, it was the young midfielder who volunteered to discuss their catastrophic defeat. Not, as is usually the custom, a time-served senior pro.
Six weeks, five excruciatingly painful minutes and one change of manager later, he now wants to show he has got the right calibre too after predicting Bramall Lane will be a very different place under Chris Wilder’s tutelage next term.
“I think it’s good that we’ve got people here who really care about the place,” Whiteman said. “To be honest, I think we’ve been missing that a little bit for the past few years. The new gaffer is a United supporter and so is Billy (Sharp) who has just been made captain. They’ll bring that little bit of passion that perhaps, in certain areas, has been missing. People who have come through the system here and know what it means to play for this football club and these fans.”
Whiteman’s career might be only seven matches old but, by stressing the importance of attitude and commitment, his words will strike a chord with Wilder as he attempts to put the bite back into the Blades. The former Halifax Town and Oxford United chief, who took charge when Nigel Adkins was sacked after leading United to an 11th placed finish, has spoken openly about his desire to make them more streetwise before the 2016/17 campaign gets underway.
“That, the match at Coventry, was one of the worst moments I’ve ever had,” Whiteman continued. “It was awful, terrible, and I don’t ever want to feel like that again. The manager is a straight-talking guy and that’s exactly what you want as a player. He’s honest, which is good, because you know exactly where you stand with people like that. You want that from a manager.”
Wilder lifted the League Two title with Northampton Town before taking charge of the club he represented 127 times as a player. A former Southampton trainee, the 48-year-old made his professional debut under Billy McEwan in 1986. Whiteman, who enrolled on the Steelphalt Academy’s youth programme after leaving Manchester United, has taken a similar path into the game.
“The gaffer has done what I’m looking to do,” Whiteman, speaking earlier this week, continued. “I came here when I was 16 and this club feels like home. It not where I’m from but it that’s how it feels and I wouldn’t want to change that at all.”
Whiteman, aged 19, started his first League One fixture when Oldham Athletic visited South Yorkshire three months ago, impressed with his vision and passing repertoire after being granted his chance at first team level.
“It’s a new start now and I’ve got to try and impress the gaffer, play as many games as I can and take it from there,” Whiteman said. “It’s a clean slate, the gaffer has already said there were a few out on loan who are going to be in and the around the mix again. So I’ve got to try and get in the starting line-up.”