So it’s done. The constant reminder on Sky Sports News that we were yet to sign a first team player can irk us no longer, for we have reinforcements!
Dean Whitehead was born Dean Whitehead on the 21st January 1982 in Abingdon, Oxfordshire (Famous not only for our new midfielder, but also Kate Garraway, Radiohead and bun throwing). His footballing career started at Abington Town’s youth team, before he joined Oxford United, progressing through to the first team, before establishing himself as a regular starter. After being voted U’s player of the year, he rejected a new contract and having caught the eye of Mick McCarthy, Sunderland only went and signed Whitehead. There he impressed, and as Sunderland won promotion, he was voted Players’ Player of the Year. His second season did not go as well, for him, nor for Sunderland as they were relegated with a record low total of 15 points. Out went McCarthy and in came Roy Keane, who gave the captain’s armband permanently to Whitehead. Another promotion then followed, before a serious knee injury kept him out for 6 months. Since recovering, he’s pretty much been a constant in their starting 11, and can trumpet blow the fact he’s played just under a ton of Premier league games.
It is however a fair comment to suggest Whiteheads’s arrival will not spur Stoke fans into hanging outside the Britannia Stadium in our hundreds with posters announcing ‘Hands in the air! Whitehead is here!’ Not to worry though as there are some positives about our new arrival.
His career does draw parallels to our part time video star and full time wing wizard, Liam Lawrence. Both joined from Sunderland, both were involved in their excruciatingly embarrassing relegation (all 15 points of it) and both joined the black cats from league two, from Oxford and Mansfield respectively.
While Lawrence’s arrival was perhaps greeted with a touch more verve than Whitehead’s, at the time some did feel Stoke had paid slightly over the odds at £500k, a sum that nowadays couldn’t even get you half a Dexter Blackstock.
When you look at some of the fee’s that are being bandied around for average and/or untried players (Zamora £5mil, Johnson £5mil, Dann £4mil etc), spending (an initial) £3million doesn’t feel such a bad deal. We’re not being super bankrolled, so small incremental improvements are what we’re stuck with, you know, running a football club without running up a chasm of debt, as boring as it is.
Stoke now have a plethora of captain’s to choose from. Higginbotham, Faye, Griffin and now Whitehead are all vying for the armband. Chasing Whitehead for the time that we have, is perhaps the reason an appointment has yet to be made and having captained Sunderland for the last 3 seasons he’ll clearly be in our Tone’s thoughts. I don’t know what criteria you have to have, having never captained anything other than, well actually i’ve never captained anything, but i will say that Whitehead does have a very serious looking face, which may be vital in him accruing the captaincy. But without a doubt Abdoulaye Faye is the fans choice to replace silver fox Andy Griffin. Faye filled in last year in Griffin’s absence, and it’s unlikely Ricardo Fuller would be quite so brave when disagreeing if Faye was his captain this time around, a captain that can slam a revolving door. A captain that doesn’t bowl strikes, he just knocks down one pin and the other nine faint. A captain that can play Russian Roulette with a fully loaded gun and win. Etc, etc, etc.
We expect a few to move on in the coming days and weeks, which will in turn make space for and subsidise the signing of Whitehead and others (Well, hopefully ‘and others’). Seyi Olofinjana looks to be the first out the door, a £2.5million bid has been accepted from Monaco and he is said to be in France on Thursday for his medical.
The fact remains however, that with 17 days until we begin our 2009/10 league campaign, a stagnant summer must soon bear fruition if we are to improve on last season’s 12th place finish.
But as Burnley chase Darel Russell, let us remind ourselves of where we are.
We’re past Darel Russell, at Dean Whitehead, aspiring for a Zigic.
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