Doncaster Rovers: Ben Whiteman determined to carry on improving
One of his midfield partners may have garnered more attention, as have one or two players higher up the pitch, but there is no doubt Ben Whiteman has been in sensational form this season.
The midfielder has become a vital part in Grant McCann’s 4-3-3 system, sitting in the deeper lying position as a blocker, a starting point and an attacking threat too.
So many times will his team mates look to give him the ball to begin an attack and he consistently delivers a stunning pass deep into opposition territory.
Such qualities have seen McCann label Whiteman the best ‘number four’ in League One. But recent performances have seen him mount a major claim on being one of the very best midfielders in general in the division.
The 22-year-old is determined to take any praise in his stride and continue progressing as a player.
"It’s always nice to see your manager saying nice things about you,” he told the Free Press.
“I think it's one those where I’ve got to take it all in my stride, keep progressing, keep listening, keep learning off the management staff and the older pros in the camp.
“Last year, I had the first year in League One and I've taken it into this year.
“And I think I've just stuck to one position which has personally helped me. Getting used to that position, playing week in, week out is going to help anyone.
“You see the gaffer saying things like that is really nice.”
Arguably, when he joined from Sheffield United, few would have expected Whiteman to have become an important piece of the defensive machine for Rovers.
Yet as vital as his contributions in attacking areas have been, he has been involved in plenty of key moments at the other end of the pitch.
But Whiteman himself feels the defensive side of his game is still the area which requires most improvement.
He said: “I’m still learning the game, I'm still only 22.
“I think it's probably only my third year in men's football and it's just a case of listening, learning and taking on the advice.
“I've always been that sort of player who can do most things. Probably last year I felt a bit limited in terms of what I could and couldn't do.
"The gaffer has given me license to play my game and it's helped me.”
Getting involved in the defensive work has seen Whiteman teetering on the verge a two match ban since mid-December after collecting nine yellow cards.
While admitting he is surprised to have avoided the dreaded tenth booking for so long, he insists there has been no change in his game to avoid picking up another yellow.
“I didn't really know when the cut off date was and then I got told it was late on,” he said.
“I’ve done well but I don't think I've changed my game up too much.
“I think it's just a case of not been getting booked.
“I've even been taking one for the team and not getting booked so long may it continue.
“I picked up a lot early on and I think it's just learning on the job, knowing when to do it and when not to do it.
“Early on in the season I was doing it quite a lot, probably the right or wrong thing to do I don’t know.
“I think now I know when to do it more and I’ve just got to keep learning and progressing.”