Premier League Career: Aston Villa (2003-2006), Cardiff City (2013-2014)
Amidst all of the worry and anxiety we face at the moment over the Coronavirus outbreak, it pales into insignificance for the family of Peter Whittingham. It was confirmed earlier this afternoon (19th March 2020) that the former Aston Villa, Cardiff City and Blackburn Rovers player had died in hospital, three days after an accidental fall in a pub in south Wales. Whittingham was just 35-years-old.
On a football perspective, the career of Peter Whittingham will always be associated with Cardiff City. He was part of the Bluebirds maiden Premier League adventure in the 2013-2014 season and won the club’s Player of the Year award twice in 2010 and 2012. Whittingham’s time as a professional footballer was largely spent in the Football League but he did get his top-flight chances with both Cardiff and firstly, at Aston Villa.
Part of the Villa squad that won the 2002 FA Youth Cup, Whittingham made his Premier League debut in April 2003 as a half-time substitute for Gareth Barry in a 1-1 draw away at Newcastle United. His first full season at Villa Park was in the 2003-2004 season under the guidance of David O’Leary. He made 32 appearances in all competitions and scored his first goal that season in a 5-0 victory over Wycombe Wanderers in the League Cup. In November 2003, he signed a contract extension that would keep him in the Midlands until 2007.
Whittingham would only score one Premier League goal for Aston Villa. It came in November 2004, scoring the opening goal of a 3-0 win at home to Portsmouth. However, he began to fall down the pecking order and was shipped out on-loan for one month to Championship side Burnley in February 2005, followed by a three-month period at Derby County in September of that year.
O’Leary was replaced by Martin O’Neill in the summer of 2006 but still, Whittingham couldn’t breakthrough into the first-team setup on a regular basis at his parent side. In January 2007, after making just four appearances in all competitions for the Villans, he moved away on a permanent basis to Cardiff City for £350,000. Out of contract in the summer, it was a good deal for all parties. It began an association with Cardiff that would last a decade.
Primarily playing as a central midfielder, Whittingham would go on to play 457 competitive matches for Cardiff and score 96 goals. This means he ranks in their top 10 for both all-time top appearance makers and goalscorers. He enjoyed some great times in the Welsh capital.
In his first full season at Cardiff, he helped them to a shock appearance in the FA Cup final, scoring three goals during that run which made him the club’s top scorer. Whittingham scored in matches against non-league Chasetown, fellow Championship side Wolverhampton Wanderers and Premier League outfit Middlesbrough.
Arguably, his best season at Cardiff was the 2009-2010 season. The club were moving into their new Cardiff City Stadium and he scored on the opening day of the campaign in their first competitive match in the ground against Scunthorpe United courtesy of the penalty spot. Whittingham was named in the Championship PFA Team of the Year and his haul of 20 goals meant he finished as top scorer in the Championship for that season.
There was interest from other clubs throughout his time at Cardiff, most notably from West Ham United when both clubs were in the second-tier during the 2011-2012 season. Whittingham reached another cup final in 2012 but once again, it ended in agony. Cardiff put up a brave fight at Wembley Stadium but lost on penalties to Liverpool FC after a 2-2 draw in the actual match.
In 2012-2013, Cardiff and Whittingham finally achieved promotion together to the Premier League, winning the Championship title. This gave him the opportunity to play again in the top-flight after an absence of six seasons. He scored his first Premier League goal in nine years in a 1-1 draw against Hull City and there were enjoyable early season victories over Fulham and Manchester City. However, manager Malky Mackay was sacked in the festive period and after just one season, Cardiff were relegated back to the Championship despite the best efforts of the midfielder.
In April 2015, he was selected in The Football Manager Team of the Decade at the Football League Awards but Cardiff finished a disappointing 11th on their return to the Championship. He became a more sporadic player when Neil Warnock was appointed Cardiff manager in October 2016 and in April 2017, it was decided after 10 years, he would leave the club at the end of the season. He joined Blackburn Rovers in League One two months later and helped them win promotion from League One at the first attempt.
That promotion with Blackburn turned out to be his final contribution as a footballer. He was released by mutual consent in August 2018 and announced his retirement last summer.
Peter Whittingham was one of Cardiff City’s finest-ever players. He was a gifted player, who also helped out a lot of the youngsters coming through the setup with the Bluebirds. His death at just 35 has rocked Cardiff to its core and my thoughts go out to his friends and family.
Peter Whittingham – 8th September 1984 – 19th March 2020