‘It’s not going to stop me from playing my game’ – Doncaster Rovers skipper Ben Whiteman on overcoming close attention from opposition teams

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It is no secret that Ben Whiteman is key to Doncaster Rovers’ fortunes on the pitch.

So much of Rovers’ play goes through the captain in the heart of midfield. He dictates the tempo, pushes them forward and brings so many of his team mates into the game.

It goes that if Whiteman plays well, so does his team.

Opposition teams have been recognising that fact over the last couple of years, and have acted upon it.

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Ben Whiteman fires home from the spot against Blackpool. Picture: Howard Roe/AHPIXBen Whiteman fires home from the spot against Blackpool. Picture: Howard Roe/AHPIX
Ben Whiteman fires home from the spot against Blackpool. Picture: Howard Roe/AHPIX

The close attention afforded to him seemed to peak against Sunderland, who handed a man marking job to central striker Charlie Wyke. Off the ball, one of League One’s most threatening forwards was told his main priority should be to stop Whiteman playing.

Such attention could be seen as a compliment, but Whiteman sees it simply as a challenge being laid down that needs to be overcome.

“I know I’m going to get that close attention with the way we want to play,” he told the Free Press.

“It’s up to me to find other ways to get on the ball, maybe drag a few people out and make space for others.

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“The gaffer said it’s a back-handed compliment but it’s not going to stop me from playing my game.”

Whiteman’s game is constantly evolving to meet the different nuances of the challenges that are being posed to him.

This season has seen him drop deeper to ensure he gets on the ball early in a phase of play, often positioning himself behind the Rovers centre halves.

“I’ve spoken a lot with Jamie Smith and the manager about how I can get on the ball, especially against certain opposition,” he said.

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“What space will be vacated by them? Or maybe dropping into a back three to create the overload there and allowing others to step out.

“Blackpool had a mid block with their two strikers close together so there wasn’t really space for me to get on the ball. It was more of a bounce pass either off Brad [Halliday] or a central midfielder.

“Teams are cottoning on now and I don’t think I’ll be receiving as many passes from the centre halves into me.

“We’re going to have to find ways of getting me on the ball and I’m going to have to do that as well.”

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As Whiteman is targeted, there should be opportunities for other players in the Rovers side to thrive and take up the mantle.

But the 24-year-old insists he will never put the pressure on others and wants to continue to be the one to power the team.

“I put that pressure on myself to get up the pitch and drive the team forward,” he said.

“If that means finding space or getting on the ball myself, I will do that.

“I love getting on the ball and making things happen

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“When I do that the team normally plays well so I look at that and I love the responsibility of doing it.

“I love driving the team forward and I love leading the team, if that is vocally or doing it on the pitch.

“I look to drive the team forward every time I play. In whatever form I can do it I will.”


In these confusing and worrying times, local journalism is more vital than ever. Thanks to everyone who helps us ask the questions that matter by taking out a subscription or buying a paper. We stand together. Nancy Fielder, editor.

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