After securing England Under-21 honours Wheater was regarded by Fabio Capello as having the potential to one day challenge the likes of John Terry and Rio Ferdinand in the senior squad.
Wheater was named as a substitute for the games against France and Trinidad and Tobago in 2008 and although he didn't feature in either match he was regarded as one of England's rising stars.
Relegation from the Premier League has, for the time being, ended Wheater's opportunities to gain international recognition and Strachan admits the Redcar-born defender has suffered from playing alongside a succession of central defensive partners.
Since starting the season with Robert Huth, Wheater has struggled to develop an understanding with Sean St Ledger, Jonathan Grounds, Seb Hines, Chris Riggott and Emanuel Pogatetz.
The Boro boss hopes that the arrival of Stephen Mc- Manus on loan from Celtic will offer Wheater an experienced guiding hand to set him back on the road towards an England recall.
David has the potential to go to the highest level of the game,'' claimed Strachan. He has everything you need ability, character but he needs to learn the game.
I think it takes longer for centre-halves and defenders.
As we are brought up as kids we learn how to score goals and all the beautiful things but we don't really know how to defend. That takes a lot longer.
I don't know if he's suffered emotionally from relegation more than some of the others. It's been a period of turmoil for the kid. But I like what I see. I love working with him he is great fun.
Strachan is convinced that the key to securing a place in the end of season play-offs is a settled starting XI. Mc- Manus and Wheater are set to face QPR this afternoon and barring injury, they will be Boro's first choice centre-back pairing for the season.
I think David has had six or seven partners this season,'' said Strachan. That tells you about the inconsistency we've had to contend with. Injuries, guys moving on all sorts. It's not been fair on David.
He is still young for a centre- half. Mick's (McManus) influence has been good for him.
He has been about for a while and I am sure David is enjoying working with someone like that.
He has had a rough time of it in terms of not knowing who he's playing beside. That must have been horrible.
When you look at the other teams in this division they have settled back fours - that's not been the case with us and David has suffered more than most.'' Strachan's first victory as Boro manager came last December in the 5-1 pummeling of QPR but he admits it was an encounter when his side enjoyed plenty of good fortune.
Deflections, off the bar it all went our way,'' he recalled.
Funnily enough I thought we were better last Saturday than in the 5-1 at QPR. We beat QPR without Adam (Johnson) but let's get it straight, we would rather still have him with us.
If you look at Adam's stats from the beginning of the season they are phenomenal. If it wasn't for him during that period I'm scared to think where we would be in the table.
Adam was on fire at that point. He was like Rooney is for Man United. If you took Rooney out of their side you'd see what they are like. We are a bit like that. Adam is irreplaceable.
What we now have to do is find a different style to suit what we have got now. There's nobody left at the club like him. You can see why Man City bought him.
Fringe player Josh Walker has been linked with a loan move away from the Riverside, with Rotherham United and Bradford City interested.
Strachan believes that a number of his young players would benefit from a spell away from the comforts of Rockliffe.
I like to see the kids go out on loan and see the real world,'' he said. This is not the real world this is fantasy football the training ground and the way they are looked after here.
I go back to when I was at Aberdeen Willie Miller and Alex McLeish, two of the best centre-halves I have ever seen, they went to the Highland League. Trust me, it doesn't get any tougher than Forres Mechanics away!