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Beware the shy assassin! Cardiff's Whittingham just won't celebrate

13 Feb 2010 01:07:42

Beware the shy assassin! Cardiff's Whittingham just won't celebrate

Well, it's just a case of score, wait to be mobbed by the lads, run back to the halfway line and carry on.' You would never guess from either his demeanour or lack of a goal celebration that Peter Whittingham is the leading scorer in the Championship. So unfussed is the Cardiff midfielder that, when he scored a hat-trick at Sheffield United earlier this season, it was his manager and team-mates who asked for the match ball on his behalf, signed it and presented it to him. Reluctant hero: Whittingham just lets his team-mates mob him 'He wouldn't have taken it. He'd just have left it. He just sitsthere after the game with a cup of tea in his hand,' said Cardiffmanager Dave Jones of this most unaffected of modern-day footballers. It is hard to know which is the more remarkable, Whittingham'sastonishing transformation into a goal machine or an attitude that ismore horizontal than laid-back. Bridge too far: Whittingham left top-flight football In 28 Championship games this season, the 25-year-old has 15 goals,one ahead of team-mate Michael Chopra. In 166 previous league games hemanaged just 13. Ask him for an explanation and you are knocked over by amatter-of-fact delivery that stands in inverse proportion to thesweetness of his left foot. Whittingham said: 'I'm on penalties dutynow, which got my confidence up to hit the back of the net. After that,balls have fallen for me, I've had good finishes and it's all just cometogether as a whole. 'I'm starting this new trend where I don't really have a goalcelebration. I think if the lads didn't actually mob me it would look abit weird. I get a bit of stick from home that I don't really doanything but I'll take it. 'I don't think I've quite got the coordination for the Tim Cahillpunch of the corner flag or anything like that. It's not a surprisewhen I score, more the case that, once you start thinking aboutcelebrations, you're thinking about that too much rather than puttingthe ball in the net.' Delve deeper into the goal mystery - add another three Cup goals tohis season's tally and the chance to add to it when Cardiff visitChelsea for a high-noon FA Cup showdown at Stamford Bridge on Saturday - and the oddness of the situation spins on irony. Both Whittingham and his manager attribute part of his confidencein front of goal to a new-found willingness to track back and defendfor his side. One step backwards, two steps forwards, you might say. His greaterinvolvement in games means he is now first choice rather than a fitfulfirst-team presence and it has improved his concentration. A chat between the pair in the aftermath of a traumatic collapselast season that saw Cardiff miss out on the play-offs by a single goalwas another defining moment. Old times: Whittingham playing for Villa back in 2003 Whittingham added: 'The manager spoke to me about what I need toimprove on and what assets I've got. It was a big chat for me because Iwent away, thought about it and I feel I've come back this year anddone quite well. 'He's good for me because he's quite laid-back andlets the lads try things,a ball that maybe you wouldn't try if it was adifferent manager. 'The gaffer tries to get a bit more out of me on the pitch, shoutingand things like that, but I do find it hard in matches to shout andbawl. I'm not like an Anthony Gerrard (his Cardiff team-mate) that justdoesn't shut up.' Whittingham readily admits that the transition from Premier Leagueto Championship when he finally gave up on making himself a regular inthe Aston Villa first team three years ago has been a slow and painfulprocess.It has been a test of his manager's patience as well as hisown. Jones said: 'He's still in the learning process, still really ayoung player. He could play at the highest level because he's got afootball brain. The thing that will stop Whitts is that desire to wantmore. 'I actually asked him once, "What will you do when you retire?" Hesaid, "Sit in front of the telly and become a fat bastard". So you cansee the mentality with him. But he's changed a lot. He's not anout-and-out winger. He's not going to push the ball past you and beatyou with pace so he's got to be clever. We play him on the right sideto come in on his left foot. 'Because he's got good control and he can see a pass, when he comesinside the picture actually gets bigger for him rather than smaller. Ipersonally feel there's much more he can still do. He drifts a littlebit in games at times although that's got less and less and at his besthe's got great ability, great awareness and a hell of a shot. 'My next goal with him is to try to get him to head the ball. Idon't think he realises that he's got to head the ball now and then.' Do that and his flow of goals may turn into a torrent. And he willhave to find a way to celebrate then. in games means he is now firstchoice rather than a fitful first-team presence and it has improved hisconcentration.  Confident Carlo names Chelsea starting XI 24 hours before Cardiff clashCHELSEA v Cardiff City: Carlo Ancelotti to rest key players ahead of cup clashCardiff 2 Peterborough 0: Burke and Gerrard on target for Bluebirds


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