Peter Whittingham cost Cardiff City a mere £350,000 when he joined from Aston Villa in 2007
Former Cardiff City midfielder Peter Whittingham has died at the age of 35.
Whittingham, one of the Bluebirds’ all-time greats, died from a head injury he suffered in a fall.
Born in Nuneaton, Whittingham started his career at Aston Villa, where he played over 50 league games and represented England Under-21s.
The elegant playmaker joined Cardiff in 2007 and established himself as a club legend with 459 appearances and 98 goals before leaving in 2017.
After his short spell at Blackburn Rovers ended in September 2018, Whittingham returned to live in south Wales – as it was with Cardiff where he felt most at home, on and off the field.
Starting his career on the left wing before moving to the right and then into central midfield, Whittingham compensated for his lack of pace with a magical left foot.
His pinpoint set-piece delivery and thunderous long-range shooting earned him a place in the Villa youth team which beat an Everton side featuring Wayne Rooney in the 2002 FA Youth Cup final.
Whittingham made his Villa first-team debut aged 18 in April 2003 and, in the following season, he went on to make 32 appearances.
England Under-21 honours followed and, having initially featured regularly for Villa, loan spells at Burnley and Derby County paved the way for his permanent departure.
In January 2007, Whittingham joined Cardiff in a £350,000 move that would define his career.
He made an immediate impact on the left wing but it was during the next season when he switched to the right that he truly started to endear himself to the Cardiff faithful.
Whittingham was Cardiff’s top scorer during their 2008 FA Cup run, scoring with an exquisite curling effort with his less favoured right foot in the quarter-final win at Middlesbrough, before the Bluebirds were eventually beaten by Portsmouth in the final.
Peter Whittingham scores for Cardiff City at Middlesbrough in 2008 FA Cup
He enjoyed a remarkable 2009-10 season, scoring 25 goals as Cardiff again reached Wembley but missed out on promotion to the Premier League with a play-off final loss to Blackpool.
Whittingham’s highest tally for a single campaign included a hat-trick in a 4-3 win at Sheffield United, his third goal coming as he finished off a sensational team move to score from what was unusually close range – with Bluebirds fans more accustomed to seeing him score with free-kicks or volleys from 30 yards or more.
There was yet more play-off anguish for Cardiff in the 2010-11 campaign but they were back at Wembley the following season, losing to Liverpool on penalties in the 2012 League Cup final.
Whittingham remained a key player for the Bluebirds, and in the 2012-13 season his goals and assists helped them win promotion to the Premier League.
Cardiff only lasted one season in the top flight but Whittingham continued to add to his one-man highlights reel of spectacular goals in the Championship.
He was a first-team fixture until his final season, as then-manager Neil Warnock looked to change the team’s style of play.
Whittingham did not complain and simply left when his contract expired in the summer of 2017, with no fanfare or ceremony.
He was too modest to want a fuss but, looking back on his departure, he admitted he wished he could have had a proper farewell.
“I wanted to say goodbye to everybody surrounding the club, the fans,” Whittingham said.
“That’s something I would have loved to do.”
It was not to be, but Whittingham’s legacy at Cardiff had already been assured.
He ranks as one of the club’s greatest players of all time and his standing in the wider footballing community was evident when he was named in the EFL’s team of the decade for 2005-2015.
Whittingham was a huge fans’ favourite and a graceful player, whose nonchalance on the pitch matched his personality away from it – a gentle soul.