Midfielder Ben Whiteman concerned leaders on pitch are becoming thing of the past

Whiteman playing for Preston North End. Photo by Jan Kruger

Paolo Maldini, Franz Beckenbauer, Steven Gerrard, Roy Keane, Tony Adams and Ben Whiteman. What do all of these have in common?

Unfortunately, they haven’t all graced the Deepdale turf but they can all be identified as leaders on the pitch. The type of people you would want alongside you in the trenches and certainly the type of players you want in your team.

Now it might be a slight exaggeration to include North End’s number 17 here but one thing that doesn’t get noticed whilst watching at home on iFollow, is the foghorn on the pitch.

The man who respectfully challenges every decision the officials make and encourages his team-mates to get stuck in and bring home the three points.

It’s not quantifiable with stats and often pundits and fans have been mocked for their obsession of praising Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson, for his leadership qualities.

But is it really as simple as just shouting on the pitch or is it a key element that managers and coaches look out for? Is it a dying art?

Preston North End midfielder, Ben Whiteman, certainly thinks it is.

“I’d say it is an intergral part to football and it’s probably going out of the game a little at the moment, with a lot of young lads who it is very rare to see talking and putting demands on people,” said the 24-year-old.

“It’s half the battle, if you can help your teammate out by being vocal – telling him where the man is or where everyone else is when he receives the ball.

“It was probably in me as a young lad, I was always very vocal on a pitch and setting demands for myself but helping my teammates out as well, because that is the main reason you do it.

“You can give them a rollicking but there’s the other side you have to get right, the helping and encouraging when they do something well too.”

For a long time in football, it was inconceivable that a manager or club captain could adequately do their job without meeting the criteria of a stereotypical leader.

However, despite the worry of a lack of spearheads, fans attending Deepdale next season may be lucky enough to watch a midfield of Ryan Ledson and Ben Whiteman – two players who show the leadership qualities that are rare in the modern game.

And according to the former Doncaster Rovers player, he relishes playing alongside the ‘Rhino’.

“Myself and Ryan are quite similar in that we can both sit or get forward.

“When Alan Browne or Daniel Johnson are in there, they look to push on and try to make things happen in the final third.

“Ryan is a massive character in the dressing room; Frankie McAvoy rightly gave him the captain’s armband when Browney was suspended.

“When Ryan goes forward I know that I have to sit back, and vice-versa when I push on.

“We are developing a good understanding and can hold our own in midfield.”