Exclusive: Ben Whiteman missed Doncaster Rovers' win in FA Cup as 'protective measure after having head turned by Championship bids'
Ben Whiteman was left out of Doncaster Rovers’ FA Cup tie at Blackburn Rovers as a ‘protective’ measure following bids from Championship clubs this week, the Free Press understands.
Though the official reason given was that Whiteman had struggled to shake off the after effects of Covid-19, a source has told the Free Press that Rovers boss Darren Moore was instead looking to ‘protect a player whose head had been turned by the Championship interest.’
Both Preston North End and Queens Park Rangers saw bids for the 24-year-old rejected this week.
And there has been reluctant admission within Rovers that it is difficult to keep players happy amid repeated interest from higher divisions.
Preston looks to be the most likely destination for the midfielder should he depart, having expressed a strong desire to remain within a commutable distance from his Greater Manchester home.
Whiteman’s absence from the squad from the win at Ewood Park looks to have represented a significant turning point in his future and a sign that he indeed hopes to secure a move away this month.
However there is still some way to go before any deal is completed, with this week’s pair of bids still falling well short of Rovers’ valuation of their captain.
Rovers will not want to be short-changed for a player who has developed into one of the very best in League One since arriving at the Keepmoat in the summer of 2017 - and one who has two-and-a-half years remaining on his contract.
It remains to be seen whether an agreement can be reached in the next few days that will satisfy all parties but it appears increasingly likely that Whiteman will not remain a Rovers player beyond the end of this month.
The official reason for his absence of an ongoing recovery from Covid-19 did hold some truth with Whiteman confirmed as having tested positive for the virus over the Christmas period.
Jon Taylor was also missing from the squad at Blackburn for the same reason, having struggled with the after effects since returning to training this week.
Moore was asked about Whiteman’s absence after the 1-0 win over Blackburn that took Rovers into the fourth round of the FA Cup and said: “Ben was one of the ones that was suffering.
“We worked him yesterday and he ended up sort of blowing up.
“In the end, I keep looking at the fixtures that we’ve got ahead and it’s so important - the same with Matt Smith and Jon Taylor - that I look at the bigger picture.”
Moore also responded to questions over the likelihood that Whiteman would remain with Rovers beyond this month.
He said: “I always speak with the facts and he’s our player.
“What happens ahead, round the corner, into next week or what happens with the speculation with him I can’t stop.
“What I do know is that he’s our player, he’s an excellent player and I can understand the interest. But he’s a valuable player for us.”