Ben Whiteman explains why he was happy to stay at Doncaster Rovers following Hull City interest
Whatever happens over the next few weeks, it will be difficult for Doncaster Rovers to surpass their best piece of business during this transfer window.
Namely, keeping hold of Ben Whiteman.
There were undoubtedly a few nervy moments when Championship side Hull City intensified their interest in the midfielder last week, submitting a significant seven-figure bid for his services.
But Rovers remained steadfast, unwilling to sell Whiteman – certainly not for the fee on offer.
And there appeared to be a genuine desire from the 23-year-old to remain at the club where his career blossomed, a place where he has been handed the captaincy in recognition of what he offers now and what he could deliver in the future.
Whiteman himself believes playing this season at the Keepmoat will stand him in great stead for what the future holds.
“I think just playing regular games is going to be a big thing for me, as we saw last season,” he told the Free Press. “I’ve been given the captaincy which means a lot to me and my family.
“I think it’s about playing week in, week out.
“I love being here. I love the lads and that was one of the main reasons why I wanted to stay.
“There were a few discussions and the two clubs obviously spoke and didn’t really agree.
“I’m really happy here and I could see my football being played here.
“I wouldn’t be a professional football if I didn’t want to be playing at the highest level.
“That’s not to say I can’t do it here. Hopefully we can get promoted this season and I can play in the Championship.
“I do see myself playing at a higher level.”
Whiteman admits to be flattered by the interest from the Championship, but says the biggest honour he has felt this summer was when he was handed the captain’s armband by Rovers boss Darren Moore.
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He said: “I think it does flatter you. It’s the Championship and to be recognised is an achievement that shows what I did last year.
“I’m very happy to be at the football club, especially after getting the captaincy.
“It’s a massive honour to lead the lads out, to represent the football club.”
Whatever the future may hold for the former Sheffield United midfielder, his focus right now is to build upon a brilliant season where he marked himself out as one of League One’s very best.
“I have full confidence in myself that I can replicate what I did last season and do it again this season,” he said.
“But obviously with taking on more of a leadership role.
“Every training session we’re getting closer to what the manager wants.
“I think it’s a big thing and the manager is bringing in his own players who have gelled really well.”
After a year of playing in a deeper-lying role with an emphasis on covering the back four over marauding forward, Whiteman believes the change of manager at the club has afforded him the opportunity to get back on the front foot.
Partnered in midfield currently by Ben Sheaf, Whiteman feels he has enough cover to push forward once again.
“The formation has changed to a 4-2-3-1 and it's given me more license to get forward whereas last year I was the pivot,” he said.
“Ben has played alongside me in the main so he’s given us more of that defensive balance as you’ve seen with him stepping in at centre half against Rochdale.
“It gives me license to get forward. I had it last year but with the likes of Herbie [Kane], Tommy [Rowe] and Ali [Crawford] who are a bit more attack-minded.
“This season I’ve got a bit more cover alongside me.”