Peter Whittingham passed away this week at the untimely age of 35.
Words: Andrew Maddox | @MaddoxJourno
Today the footballing world received the tragic news that former Aston Villa player Peter Whittingham had passed at the untimely age of just 35.
It had been long believed by Aston Villa fans that they had sold their youth prodigy too early, with Whittingham afforded only 56 first-team appearances, in which he scored one league goal – in a 3-0 win over Portsmouth in 2004.
The Englishman did see success in Villa’s youth ranks, despite being a defender rather than a midfielder at the time, as he formed part of a backline that held off Wayne Rooney as Aston Villa beat Everton in the 2002 FA Youth Cup Final. Also in that side were Steven Davis, Liam Ridgewell and brothers Luke and Stefan Moore. Davis and Ridgewell both went on to make more first-team appearances than Whittingham, highlighting how little of a chance that he actually received.
Whittingham would make his first-team debut against Newcastle in April of 2003, replacing Gareth Barry at half-time with Aston Villa a goal down at St. James’ Park. Whittingham helped the Villans snatch a draw, making a good impression on his first bow as Steve Staunton provided an assist for Dion Dublin to net the leveller.
Whittingham scored the first goal in a 5-0 drubbing of Wycombe Wanderers in the third round of the League Cup in 2003 with Juan Pablo Angel providing the cross for Whittingham before netting a hat-trick himself.
Despite being something of a regular in the 2003-04 season, making thirty-two appearances, he failed to nail down a starting berth after this. Manager David O’Leary initially had shown faith in Whittingham after his appointment in November, but the Irishman preferred to make ‘big’ signings instead of trusting in youth. Both Mathieu Berson and the Infamous Eric Djemba-Djemba were signed in the 04-05 season and squeezed the youngster out of the side.
In February 2005, Whittingham left on a one-month loan to Burnley, before joining Derby County on a three month loan in September of the same year, making 14 appearances over the two spells. Whittingham was never afforded a regular run of games in claret and blue again.
O’Leary was sacked in 2006 and was replaced by Martin O’Neill, which eventually spelt the end for Whittingham’s time at Villa Park, making four appearances before January of 2007 before joining Cardiff City permanently.
Whittingham would make 413 appearances for the Bluebirds, scoring 85 goals in a ten-year stint in the Welsh capital, before bowing out of the game with a season at Blackburn Rovers before retiring.
Despite his limited chances at Villa, Whittingham went on to cement himself as a legend at Cardiff City and was known for being one of the most likeable characters in the game. His tragic early passing has come as a shock to many.