Reflective Ben Whiteman hopes for Doncaster Rovers return in the future

He may have departed the club but Ben Whiteman does not want the door to be closed on a return to Doncaster Rovers in the future.

By Liam Hoden
Thursday, 14th January 2021, 12:00 pm

The midfielder has completed a move to Championship side Preston North End for an undisclosed fee after three-and-a-half years with Rovers.

And, in speaking about his deep affection for the club, he has revealed he hopes to make a return to the Keepmoat in the future, either as a player or after he has hung up his boots.

“I’ve had an unbelievable three-and-a-half years there,” he told the Free Press.

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Ben Whiteman

“It feels like I’ve been there all my career - that’s how much I care about the people there.

“I’ve spoken to both Gavin [Baldwin, CEO] and Copps and I hope to return to the club in some capacity in the future.

“I would love to return to the club either later on in my career or when I finish.

“That’s why I’ve wanted to do everything in the right way. I’ve not kicked up a fuss or done this and that. I’ve gone in, got my head down and trained and let other people make the decisions.

“I’ve had some great managers. Darren [Ferguson] brought me to the club, I had an unbelievable season with Grant [McCann] and then I’ve carried it on with Darren [Moore].

“It’s never nice for it to end but it was an opportunity that I couldn’t turn down.”

With Whiteman playing a key role, Rovers have pushed up to fourth in League One after their opening 18 matches of an intense season.

The 24-year-old is confident Rovers can maintain their excellent form into the second half of the season and push for the opportunity to join him in the Championship next season.

“The core group is there that are pushing and striving every day,” he said.

“And the lads that are on loan, like Tyreece and Taylor Richards who could be anything on his day.

“I’ve left a massive hole but I’m sure the club will have replacements lined up and they’ll want to get them in quickly.”

Looking back on his time with Rovers, Whiteman is proud of what has been achieved personally and as a squad since he arrived from Sheffield United in the summer of 2017.

Signed by Darren Ferguson, the midfielder felt his career accelerated once Grant McCann took charge midway through 2018, ultimately leading him to play a major role as the side came within a penalty shootout of a Wembley play-off final.

“When I first joined the club, certain people had to play in certain positions and that halted me a little bit,” he said.

“Grant came in and put that trust in me. I knew I could do it. Whenever I played in that number four position in the diamond under Darren, I usually played well.

“Grant came in and said to just be myself. He had tried to sign me for Peterborough so he knew what I was about.

“I kicked on from there. The whole team knew what we were about and he signed some quality players like Herbie and Mallik who were outstanding, we had John Marquis who is the best number nine in the league, Copps drifting in, Butts, and a quality back four.

“It was an unbelievable squad and I felt I was an integral part of it. When I got injured the team didn’t really play the way we used to.

“To be fair to Grant, he put that trust in me and that’s why he tried to sign me for Hull.”

McCann departed Rovers after only a year in charge but the progress of the side continued following the appointment of current boss Darren Moore.

And for Whiteman, there was further progression in his career as he was quickly handed the captaincy after Moore’s arrival - a role he has relished and in which he has looked a natural fit.

“Darren understood what I was about and he gave me the captaincy straight away which was massive for me,” he said.

“It came from the board and the players there as well, I was probably the best option for that, especially with Butts [Andy Butler] leaving at the time.

“I loved it. I loved leading the boys out and having that control on the pitch. I think I was a leader anyway so getting the captain’s armband just added to that.

“Gaining the captaincy was a highlight along with the second leg of the play-offs, even though we lost we were outstanding that night

“The Oldham game [in the FA Cup where his last minute winner booked a place in the fifth round], Bristol Rovers under Darren [complete performance last season] - there’s been some great moments.”

While he may be back under Rovers’ employment in the future, before that he plans to keep a close eye on the club’s progress - potentially with a place in the stands at the Keepmoat once supporters are allowed back in.

“I’m really looking forward to watching them as a fan,” he said.

“I’ve had a great time there.

“Everyone knows about that special relationship I’ve got with Copps.

“But Gavin has been outstanding with me. The chairman has been different class too.

“I had a good chat with him, he wished me well and thanked me for the time at the football club and the way I’ve conducted myself.

“I’m definitely going to keep a close eye on my mates more than anything.”

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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.