Age: 30 years old
Position: Centre Back
Current Club: Bolton Wanderers (Championship)
League appearances: 147 (14 goals).
Former Clubs: Middlesbrough (140 apps, 9 goals) Doncaster Rovers (loan), Wolverhampton Wanderers (loan) and Darlington (loan)
LOYALTY in football is hard to find these days, particularly with the ludicrous amounts of money in the game growing year on year. But, if there’s one man who knows the meaning of the word, it’s David Wheater.
The 6ft 5′ defender has been with the Trotters since their Premier League days back in 2011 and after going through relegation to the Championship and League One with the club, he has certainly seen some tough times, but despite it all, has remained as their main man at the back.
Wheater was initially a product of the Middlesbrough youth system, and was promoted to the first team at the age of 17 for the 2004–05 season. After brief loan spells with Wolves, Doncaster and Darlington, he returned to the Riverside stadium, where he began to establish a glowing reputation for himself.
During the 2007–08 pre-season, an injury to Jonathan Woodgate allowed young Wheater to start in his place and he earned himself a starting XI place for the opening day Premier League fixture. Woodgate subsequently transferred to Tottenham and Wheater became Boro’s first choice centre back.
He experienced what was arguably his best season of football during that season, starting as a regular for Gareth Southgate’s side and he became a real force at the back. At the end of a stunning campaign, Wheater won the North East Football Writers’ Association Young Player of the Year and Player of the Year awards.
Unfortunately, Middlesbrough were relegated at the end of the 2008–09 season, but Wheater decided to stay to try to help the club regain promotion and despite being only 22 at the time, he was appointed captain for the 2009–10 season.
On 20 January 2011, Wheater moved to Bolton on a three-and-a-half-year contract and made his debut on January 29 in an FA Cup game at home to Wigan Athletic.
He became a regular fixture in the side once again before an incident which could have changed his career forever. On May 7 2012, he was ruled out of action for up to nine months after rupturing an anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee in Bolton’s 2–2 draw with West Brom. He had to wait ten months to make his comeback.On numerous occasions, he came close to an England debut, but was either left on the bench or had to pull out due to re-occurring injury problems.
In 2015, Bolton controversially told Wheater that his contract would be terminated at the end of the season due to the clubs financial state. Despite this, the defender still trained with the club and played in most of their pre season friendlies for the 2016–17 season, as a trialist player. He then re-signed for the club on a one-year contract on severely reduced wages further showing his loyalty to Bolton.
Last season, Bolton finished in second place in League One, earning promotion back to the Championship at the first attempt and Wheater enjoyed a sensational campaign. He was named as Bolton player of the season, PFA Fans’ Sky Bet League One Player of the Season and alongside defensive partner Mark Beevers, was also named in the League One Team of the Season.
Over the years, despite slipping down the divisions, Wheater has always been held in high regard by fans who truly know their football. He is a strong and commanding centre back and proved that, even at 30 years old, he still has what it takes with a brilliant season last year.
AFEFootballNewsrecently spoke to David about his footballing career which has spanned over 13 years in England and here’s what he had to say.
AFE: Hi David, first things first … Who was your footballing idol when growing up and who did you (or do you) support?
DW: Hi mate. My idol would probably have to be Rio Ferdinand.
After watching him in the 2002 World Cup in South Korea/Japan, I thought he was the best defender in the world.
I wanted to watch how he played and hoped that someday I would be with or against him and I ended up doing that (against him) on a couple of occasions.
AFE: Who’s the best player(s) you have played alongside and why?
DW: The best player I’ve played with was either Gaizka Mendieta or Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, who were both at Middlesbrough when I was there.
They were coming to the end of their careers whilst they were at Boro, but some of the things they could do were still unbelievable.
AFE: You have always been known for being a strong defender, but who’s the most physical player you’ve come up against?
DW: The most physical player I faced was Kevin Davies, although luckily that was only in training!
In terms of out on the field, I would say that Edin Dzeko (Manchester City) was a very, very strong player to come up against.
I remember playing against City and when I marked Mario Balotelli, I was kicking lumps out of him and he was diving all around the pitch.
But then Dzeko came on and I remember trying to boot him and he didn’t move.
AFE: Who is the manager you would say has helped you the most during your career?
DW: I would say that my current manager, Phil Parkinson, has probably helped me the most because he likes to focus on defending at the end of our training sessions.
We work hard on it and I think that it’s really helped my game. He is a great man manager as well.
AFE: What’s the most memorable match you have played in and why?
DW: The most memorable games I’ve played in were the Youth Cup final which I won with Middlesbrough against Aston Villa and also the last game of last season when Bolton got promoted back to the Championship.
AFE: How did it feel to be named in the League One Team of the Season as well as PFA Fans’ Sky Bet League One Player of the Season last year?
DW: It was brilliant to be recognised by the players and the fans last years as it’s always nice to receive some personal accolades.
However, the team as a whole was brilliant last season and I think any of us could have ended up winning those awards.
AFE: Bolton have been through some very hard times since you joined the club in 2011. What has made you want to stay at the club despite everything?
DW: I have always wanted to stay because Bolton has been my home for nearly seven years now.
The fans and the staff have always been terrific with me, which I am always grateful for. I hope that I show my gratitude to them through my performances out on the pitch!
AFE: Finally, what do you hope to do once your playing days are over?
DW: I think I would like to get into a bit of coaching when I retire as I think it’s the easiest and most natural thing for me to do.
It would be brilliant to be able to coach a young player and watch them progress to the first team.
Thanks for talking to AFEFootballNews David and all the best to you and Bolton this season in your quest to stay up in the Championship!