With everybody clamoring on about the need to strengthen our defence is it fair to single out Steven Whittaker as the weakest link? I remember going to Carrow Road on Boxing Day last year and despite Whittaker scoring
for the second game in a row, a few fans around me still felt the need to
chastise him for the slightest thing that went wrong (which wasn’t much as on
the day we won 6-1.) The fact is that all defenders make mistakes, if they
didn’t there wouldn’t be as many goals scored. If John Terry being substituted at half time has taught us anything, it is that even the best and most
experienced defenders can have a bad day. Now I am not saying that Whittaker isn’t irreplaceable. Nor am I saying that there are not better right backs in the division. Nor am I saying that he won’t have bad days against the pace and power of the strike forces in the Premier League, what I am saying however, is that in terms of priorities of the positions that need strengthening, I don’t believe it is top of the order.
We know that Russell Martin can also play right-back so if another centre-back is recruited, which based on this week’s transfer speculation that City are clearly on the hunt for, then I believe we are covered for this season at right-back. It is also worth pointing out that Whittaker actually cost us nothing in terms of transfer fees after arriving from the Scottish Premier League as a free agent, a league that is the subject of much debate in terms of its quality. Bearing all this in mind, then I really don’t understand why he has come under such scrutiny at times and also feel that he has done a pretty decent job for us overall. Under Alex Neil his form has shown a resurgence in correlation with his new hairline and since his arrival in 2012 he has chipped in with a few memorable moments.
Swansea City 3-4
Norwich City- 8/12/2012
Whittaker had missed the first part of the season through an ankle injury but really showed what he was capable of when going forward on the attack in this epic encounter away at Swansea. The Canaries took a deserved lead in the
16th minute, when Snodgrass laid the ball off to Whittaker and the ex-Rangers
man was allowed to run from just inside the Swansea halfway line, before
cutting in and firing low past Gerhard Tremmel for his first Norwich goal. With this victory City recorded consecutive wins with Whittaker as part of a solid back four in a team that had a ten match unbeaten run.
2-2 Everton- 17/08/2013
It was a thrilling opening game to the season which started full of promise but ultimately delivered the opposite. If we had learnt anything about Norwich in their previous two seasons in the Premier League, it was that they were at their best when they were allowed to express themselves. Whittaker’s performance in this game was a typical example of expression and was one of the few
bright moments in a dour season. The Scotland international started City’s new season off positively, by stumbling his way through a couple of Everton
challenges, before opening up his body and curling a left-footed effort past
Tim Howard which bounced straight back off the post. Whittaker then reacted
quicker than any of the visitors’ defenders and was on hand to roll the rebound
into the empty net and give the Canaries the lead just six minutes after the
Everton in the second half very quickly turned the game on its head to take a 2-1 lead. Norwich equalised when Whittaker was again heavily involved, as
his speculative left-foot strike from the edge of the area, turned into the
perfect cross for Ricky van Wolfswinkel to direct a header past Howard and level the match once more. If anything, his performance in this game should be at least taken note of, as who else in a Norwich shirt can lay claim to an assist for a van Wolfswinkel competitive league goal?
Derby County 2-2
Norwich City – 18/12/2014
City grabbed a last-gasp 2-2 draw with Whittaker, the unlikely saviour for the visitors as his 89th-minute strike earned Neil Adams’ men a point. It looked like Derby would hold on for a win that would take them back to the top of the table, but after the Rams failed to clear a corner, Whittaker struck with a shot that went in off the inside of a post. The technique showed to keep the ball down on the volley and accurately aim the ball across the keeper, was something many strikers would have been proud of.
Middlesbrough 0-2 Norwich City-25/05/2015 (The
Championship Playoff Final)
Arguably his best game in a Norwich City shirt, he was positive and did not put a foot wrong all afternoon. Between himself and Nathan Redmond, they absolutely terrorised the Middlesbrough back line in particular down the right, giving full back George Fiend a torrid afternoon. Whittaker linked superbly with Redmond all match and it was of little surprise when City’s second goal came down the right hand side. With Middlesbrough’s midfield pulled out of position, Whittaker’s fine pass found Redmond who did the rest to cap off as quoted by Sky Sports a “Blistering start by Norwich City!”
Sunderland 1-3 Norwich City- 16/08/2015
Despite being used to it by now, it still rankles no less when all the punditry surrounding a Norwich win tends to focus on what the other team did wrong, rather than what Norwich did right.
Yes Sunderland were shockingly poor but City’s second goal was brilliantly incisive. You can only beat what’s in front of you and Whittaker’s rifled low angled finish beyond Costel Pantilimon from seven yards after collecting Wes Hoolahan’s return pass, was exactly the sort of finish that we need from a potential striker in this transfer window.