There was much excitement amongst Preston North End fans following the January acquisition of Ben Whiteman from Doncaster Rovers.
In a transfer saga that lasted weeks, supporters were worried that the Lilywhites were going to get gazumped but they got a deal over the line, signing the 24-year-old for around £1.5 million plus add-ons, per the Lancashire Post.
Whiteman had developed into one of the best midfielders in League One and fully deserved his step up into the second tier, and he’s played in every game for North End this season so far since arriving at Deepdale.
Let’s look at a few things that have been noticeable in Whiteman’s game since his North End debut.
The ‘quarter back’ position
On the same day that Alex Neil revealed that Ben Pearson would be leaving the club after turning down a new contract, Whiteman made his debut in a 2-0 defeat at Bristol City.
Partnered alongside Alan Browne in a midfield two, Whiteman was the one who adopted the Pearson role of stepping in between the two centre-backs, taking the ball off them and distributing it across the pitch – almost like an NFL quarter back.
Ventures up the pitch would be very sparse, and they were mainly just to take set pieces, but his pass accuracy that day was a cool 81% (Wyscout).
Whilst he’s not really a natural tackler, Whiteman has still made that defensive midfield role his own and has had singular games where he’s stood out in interceptions – making 10 of them against Blackburn Rovers and eight against Birmingham City (Wyscout).
If you don’t get at least 15/20 on this Preston North End midfielder quiz, can you really call yourself a Lilywhites fan?
From watching North End live in the flesh in empty stadiums, it’s clear to see that Whiteman is a natural leader.
He was the captain at Doncaster before his departure and from his very first few games he was barking orders on the pitch, more-so than current skipper Alan Browne.
As the ‘sitter’ in the midfield Whiteman is best-placed on the pitch to run the game and it shows his confidence to be demanding things of his team-mates when he had only been at the club for a few minutes.
And he could be captain material for North End should whoever the new head coach is want to switch things up…
Taking over set pieces
The player that Alex Neil likened Whiteman to most when he signed was veteran midfielder Paul Gallagher, who is coming to the end of his playing career with North End.
Gallagher is known for having a wand of a right boot and he has prolific abilities from corners, the penalty spot and from free-kicks.
And with ‘Gally’ not getting on the pitch much anymore, Whiteman has taken over the majority of set piece duties for North End – almost getting on the scoresheet against Rotherham United with a free-kick that somehow stayed out after hitting the post.
That first goal is coming sooner rather than later, and don’t be surprised if it’s from a set piece outside the box.