Ben Whiteman was precisely the type of player Doncaster Rovers needed according to boss Darren Ferguson.
A few eyebrows were raised when Ferguson opted to field the cultured midfielder in a defensive midfield role for the season opener against Gillingham at the weekend.
But the Sheffield United loanee delivered a star turn as he controlled the game from the middle of the park as well as delivering on the defensive side of the game.
“He’s still got to improve in certain things but he’ll put his foot in,” Ferguson told the Free Press. “He likes a tackle. He’s a big lad.
“We need that side of it.
“Towards the end of last season, I felt we missed out physically, especially when teams matched us up.
“I felt we were a lot stronger in there on Saturday. Rodney Kongolo is another player that likes a tackle.
“Whiteman, in particular, will tackle if he needs to. He put in a couple of really good ones against Gillingham.
“People like someone who put their foot in a bit.
“Sometimes it’s all nice playing nice football and having shots but I do love that side of it and the fans do too.
“There was a collective cheer when Ben put his foot in.”
Whiteman could have twice secured the win for Rovers on Saturday with shots from distance, one which rattled the crossbar and another which required a brave defensive header to prevent it flying into the top corner.
Explaining his decision to field Whiteman in the deeper-lying role, Ferguson said he feels the 21-year-old can take advantage of space the position affords and truly show off his passing range.
“I think when he’s coming onto a game and can see everything in front of him, he can offer a lot,” Ferguson said.
“I thought he did that on Saturday.
“It might be slightly different if he played on the sides of the diamond, which he can do, because he is a goalscoring threat.
“As you saw on Satiurday, he can still be a threat from there in terms of scoring goals and creating chances.
“But he also got control of the game for us.
“We did a lot of work on that with Ben getting on the ball instead of our centre halves.
“Ben is a very good player and we’re pleased to have him.”
Whiteman will be hoping to retain his place in the Rovers starting XI for tonight’s Carabao Cup trip to Bradford City.
Liam Mandeville is a doubt for the game as he is suffering from a tight hamstring. Alfie May could come into the side.
James Coppinger suffered a dead leg against Gillingham but it is likely he will sit the game out regardless.