Dean Whitehead (born on 21 January 1982 in Abingdon, Oxfordshire) is an English, professional footballer who currently plays for Stoke City F.C. in The Football Association Premier League, having previously played for Abingdon Town F.C., Oxford United F.C. and Sunderland A.F.C. He plays primarily in centre midfield, but has played at right midfield and right back.
Abingdon Town F.C. and Oxford United F.C.
Dean Whitehead started his career in the youth system of his local club, Abingdon Town F.C., when he was 9, before being signed by his nearest professional club, Oxford United F.C., in the summer of 1999, when he was 17.
He only made 1 appearance in The 1999/2000 Season, his Oxford debut, in a 2-0 win against Luton Town F.C. in The Football League Trophy. The following season he played a much bigger role in the first team, making 23 appearances in all competitions. In The 2001/2002 Season he truly established himself in the first team, making 43 appearances in all competitions, and scoring his first professional goal. He developed a reputation as a tough tackling midfielder with a very high work rate, sharp passing and attacking prowess. He impressed many with his eye catching performances. The 2002/2003 Season was hampered by injury, and he could only make 22 appearances in all competitions, scoring once. The 2003/2004 Season was certainly his best at Oxofrd, and it was this season that attracted the attention of then-Sunderland manager Mick McCarthy. Dean made 47 appearances in all competitions, and scored 7 goals, including a stunning, long distance free kick in a 3-0 win over Northampton Town F.C. After 5 seasons with The Us, his contract expired. He turned down the offer of a new one in the hope of an offer from a bigger club. Fortunately, and deservedly, for Dean, he received one from Mick.
The 2004/2005 Season
On 21 June 2004 he signed a three year contract with Sunderland, with the option of a 12 month extension if he impressed. The transfer was, technically, free, but Sunderland were forced by an F.A. tribunal to pay compensation of £150,000 for the time, money and effort put into his development. Oxford would receive another £100,000 if Sunderland achieved promotion and they would receive 25% of any fee paid for Dean if Sunderland ever sold him. He was given the number 14 shirt (he was number 12 at Oxford). He made his Sunderland debut on 7 August 2004, coming on as a substitute for Ben Clark in the 87th minute at Highfield Road against Coventry City F.C in a 2-0 defeat. He scored his first goal for Sunderland on 25 October 2004, at Millmoor against Rotherham United F.C. His goal in the 61st minute proved to be the winner, as Sunderland won 0-1. He was an integral part of the team that won The Football League Championship in The 2004/2005 Season. He scored 5 goals in his 42 Championship appearances. He also made 2 F.A. Cup appearances, not scoring in either game, and also didn't score in either of his 2 League Cup appearances. Pundits, fans and Mick were all impressed with Dean's hard working performances. He was voted Sunderland A.F.C. Players's Player Of The Season 2004/2005 by his team mates. At the end of the season he was given the 12 month contract extension.
The 2005/2006 Season
For The 2005/2006 Season, Sunderland would be playing in The F.A. Premier League. They had been relegated from The F.A. Premier League in The 2002/2003 Season with a record low number of points (19) and £40 million of debt. Those debts had still not been cleared, and as a result then-chairman Sir Bob Murray C.B.E. could only provide Mick with £5 million to spend in the transfer window - which many thought was not enough to build a team capable of surviving in The F.A. Premier League. Whitehead was given the number 8 shirt, traditionally the number of a team's best centre midfielder, or 'midfield general', as Jeff Whitley, the former number 8, had joined Cardiff City F.C. The season was an unmitigated disaster for Sunderland. Because of the lack of transfer funds, most people expected Sunderland to do badly, and probably be relegated, but no-one expected it to be so disastrous. Dean stood out as one of the few good points of Sunderland's season. Many commended Dean on his performances, as he was one of the few Sunderland players who played to an F.A. Premier League standard. Although all were expected to play to an F.A. Premier League standard (and some didn't), Dean was commendable for doing so because in only a year and 3 months he had gone from the bottom tier of the English Football League to the highest tier (and the best league in the world). To do so in such a short space of time would be incredibly difficult for any player, and most would not be able to adapt to The F.A. Premier League. It was a testament to how good he was that Dean not only adapted to The F.A. Premier League but he excelled, played very well, even by F.A. Premier League standards, and stood out as by far and away Sunderland's best player. Particularly noticeable was his exceptionally high work rate - noticeable because many members of the Sunderland squad had very low work rates, and didn't put in much effort. These low work rates partially contributed to Sunderland's poor performances. He made 37 league appearances, missing only one game due to suspension. He also scored 3 league goals, 2 of them penalties, as he had been given penalty taking duty for the season. An indicator of how unlucky Sunderland were that season, they were only awarded 2 penalties all season, both of which were taken and scored by Dean. He played in both of Sunderland's games in The Football League Cup, scoring no goals, and also played in both their F.A. Cup matches, scoring once. His first F.A. Premier League goal was a penalty on 29 October 2005, in a match that ended Sunderland 1-4 Portsmouth. His penalty had given Sunderland a 1-0 lead inside 10 minutes. He put in an excellent performance in the first half, helping to preserve Sunderland's lead, and creating several chances for Sunderland to double their lead, which his team mates could, unfortunately, not convert. Sunderland fell apart in the second half, conceding 4 goals. His second goal was also a penalty. On 19 November 2005, Aston Villa F.C. were leading 0-3 at The Stadium Of Light, and Sunderland, were awarded a penalty in the last minute, which Dean converted. The game finished Sunderland 1-3 Aston Villa. Arguably his best ever Sunderland goal, and certainly his best ever F.A. Premier League goal, came at White Hart Lane on 3 December 2005, in a game that finished Spurs 3-2 Sunderland. With 15 minutes played, and the scores still at 0-0, Sunderland were awarded a free kick 30 yards from the Spurs goal. Dean smashed the ball, and it swerved past Paul Robinson, who was England and Tottenham's first choice goalkeeper at the time. Dean played in all 4 deby matches of this season. The first derby of the season was the Tees-Wear derby, and Sunderland got their first league win of the season, 0-2, at The Riverside. Dean played in the heated 3-2 defeat at St. James's Park, as well as the humiliating home defeats 0-3 to Middlesbrough and 1-4 to Newcastle. At the end of the season Dean was voted Sunderland A.F.C. Player Of The Season 2005/2006.
Reading F.C. had won The Football League Championship in The 2005/2006 season, and as part of their preparations for life in The F.A. Premier League and their attempt to avoid relegation from it, they wanted to sign players who had experience in The F.A. Premier League and played to a high quality F.A. Premier League standard. Therefore, they offered Sunderland £1.2 million for Dean. Sunderland rejected the bid because they thought Dean was worth much more. They also wanted Dean's talent and experience in order to win promotion back to The F.A. Premier League from The Football League Championship. After rejecting the transfer bid, Sunderland offered Dean a new 4 year contract, which he accepted.
At the end of The 2004/2005 Season Dean was offered the captaincy by Mick. However, Dean thought he was too young, and therefore lacked the experience, to captain an F.A. Premier League team, so he declined, and Gary Breen remained captain. In the summer of 2006 Gary left the club, and Dean was offered the captaincy again. By then, Dean thought he was old enough and experienced enough to captain the team, so he accepted the role.
The 2006/2007 Season and The Irish Revolution
After the disaster of The 2005/2006 Season (also known as The 2nd Disaster Season), it was rumoured that ex-Sunderland player Niall Quinn (who had had a very successful spell at Sunderland and was held in very high regard by the fans) was leading a consortium of Irish businessmen to buy Sunderland. Sir Bob had all 100% of the shares, and in July 2006 it was announced that the consortium, known as the Drumaville consortium, had bought all 100% for £10 million. Sir Bob was offered, and accepted, the role of Honorary Life President. The Drumaville Consortium paid off all of Sunderland's £40 million of debt. Without even spending a penny on new players, the consortium had already spent roughly £50 million. Niall was appointed manager and chairman, and began to spend the transfer funds afforded to him. Unfortunately, although he was a good player, and is still a good chairman, he was not cut out for management. Sunderland had a very poor start to The 2006/2007 Season, losing their first 4 league games in a row, going bottom of The Football League Championship and losing in the first round of The Football League Cup to Bury F.C., who were then bottom of The Football League 2. It was confirmed that former Manchester United player - and old Republic Of Ireland team mate of Niall's - Roy Keane would take over as manager. Niall remained in charge for one maore game, which Sunderland won, a 2-0 home win over West Bromwich Albion, thanks to goals from Dean and Neill Collins. Niall stayed on as chairman and Roy took over. He brought a complete turn around in the club's fortunes, and led Sunderland to win The Football League Championship. Dean had another good season, captaining his team to their 2nd Football League Championship title in 3 seasons. He was once again an integral part of the team, with 45 appearances and 4 goals, missing only one league game for the second season running. He made 1 appearance each in The F.A. Cup and The Football League Cup without scoring in either. He was named in The Football League Championship 2006/2007 Season Team Of The Season, as a testimony to his high quality performances for Sunderland throughout the season. Dean was still the assigned penalty taker, but Sunderland were not awarded a single penalty all season. Dean came second to Nyron Nosworthy in the club's Player Of The Season vote.
The 2007/2008 Season
The 2007/2008 Season was very important for Sunderland. They were back in The F.A. Premier League, and Roy had been given substantial transfer funds to strengthen the team, unlike Mick 2 years earlier. In The 2005/2006 Season, Sunderland could pin their poor performances and low points tally on their lack of money. Now, they had plenty of money and no excuses and had to prove they were an F.A. Premier League standard team. Dean was one of the few players left who had played in The 2005/2006 Season and was also looking to establish himslf as a quality F.A. Premier League player. He made a decent start to the season, but in their third match of the season against Wigan Athletic he sustained a cruciate knee ligament injury, which was expected to keep him out for 6 months. He returned sooner than expected, though, and regained full fitness after missing 11 league games and Sunderland's only Football League Cup game, making his return on 1 December 2007, helping Sunderland to a 1-0 over Derby County at The Stadium Of Light. He scored his first and only goal of the season, and his last ever goal for Sunderland, late on in the season, on 12 April 2008, at The Stadium Of Light against Manchester City. City had taken the lead on 79 minutes with an Elano penalty (which replays showed was not a foul), and Whitehead volleying in Andy Reid's cross had levelled on 82 minutes. Unfortunately, Darius Vassell scuffed a winner for City in the 87th minute, and the match ended Sunderland 1-2 Manchester City. In all he made 27 league appearances with 1 goal, 1 F.A. Cup appearance which he didn't score in and missed Sunderland's aforementioned only Football League Cup game through injury. It was a good season for Dean, captaining Sunderland to a 15th place finish and survival. Sunderland were the only newly-promoted team to survive in The F.A. Premier League, whereas in The 2005/2006 Season they had been the only newly-promoted team not to survive. Therefore, in The 2007/2008 Season Sunderland were able to put to bed all the bad memories of The 2005/2006 Season. For Dean, who had played in both the ill-fated 2005/2006 Season and the triumphant 2007/2008 Season, this was particularly satisfying, as he had finally established himself as a top class F.A. Premier League player. He was one of only 4 players who had played in both (Daryl Murphy, Danny Collins and Nyron Nosworthy were the others). During the season, Dean often had to fill in at right back, as the initial first choice right back, Greg Halford, turned out to be shite. Roy knew he needed Dean's talent and leadership in centre midfield, so in January he bought right back Phil Bardsley from his former club Manchester United for £2 million, allowing Dean to move back into centre midfield. This season saw Dean give up penalty taking duty for Sunderland. Sunderland were awarded their first penalty of the season on 22 December 2007, at the Madejski Stadium, with Reading 1-0 up. Although Dean was on the pitch, he allowed Michael Chopra to take it, and he scored. Reading won the match 2-1, with Stephen Hunt scoring the winner, although replays showed that the ball did not cross the line. On 1 January 2008, against Blackburn Rovers at Ewood Park, with the scores at 0-0, Sunderland were awarded a penalty. Dean took it, but then-Blackburn goalkeeper Brad Friedel pulled off an excellent save to prevent him scoring. Blackburn then went down the other end and won a penalty of their own, which was scored by Benni McCarthy. The match ended Blackburn 1-0 Sunderland. After discussing the matter with Roy, Dean offered to relinquish penalty taking duty, and Michael Chopra was appointed the new, full time penalty taker. Dean, again, played in all 4 derby matches - the 2-2 draw at The Riverside, in which ex-Sunderland players Julio Arca and Stewart Downing both scored for Middlesbrough, the exciting 1-1 draw with Newcastle at The Stadium Of Light, the low-key 2-0 defeat at St. James's Park, and the jubilant 3-2 win over Middlesbrough at The Stadium Of Light that mathematically guaranteed Sunderland's F.A. Premier League survival.
The 2008/2009 Season
The 2008/2009 Season was another good season for Dean and Sunderland. They survived once again, Newcastle and Middlesbrough were both relegated and Sunderland went unbeaten against both their local rivals. They won at home against both teams (2-1 against Newcastle and 2-0 against Middlesbrough), and drew 1-1 at both St. James's Park and The Riverside. On 30 July 2008 Sunderland signed centre midfielded Steed Malbranque from Tottenham Hotspur. Malbranque asked for the number 8 shirt, which Dean graciously gave him. Dean took the number 6 shirt, one of two possible numbers for the 'other' centre midfielder (the other number being 4), the non-midfield general one, although Dean was certainly still Sunderland's midfield general. Dean and Steed's classic '8 and 6' centre midfield partnership was key to Sunderland's survival. Dean was once again an integral part of the team, playing 34 league games, missing only 4. He also played in Sunderland's only F.A. Cup game, and all 3 of their Football League Cup games. He didn't score at all that season. Roy was sacked midway through the season, and Ricky Sbragia was appointed caretaker manager until the end of the season. He managed to guide Sunderland to safety, and Niall offered him the job permanently at the end of the season, but Ricky declined. Niall set out to recruit a new manager who could take the club forward so that they would not be battling against relegation year after year. On 3 June 2009 it was announced that Wigan Athletic manager, and former Manchester United player, Steve Bruce had been appointed as manager. In The 2008/2009 Season Steve had guided Wigan to an 11th place finish, 5 places higher than Sunderland, on much less money. Stoke made an offer of £5 million for Dean, which Steve reluctantly accepted. Dean signed a four year deal with Stoke on 24 July 2009.
Dean Whitehead will be remembered at Sunderland as a consistent, hard working, high quality player and a brave and inspiring captain, who was a shining beacon in times of darkness, and was easily one of the best players of recent years. In his 5 seasons at Sunderland he notched 185 league appearances, with 13 league goals, 7 appearances and 1 goal in The F.A. Cup and 8 appearances and no goals in The Football League Cup, making a total of 200 appearances and 14 goals for the club.
Dean stated that Stoke's team spirit was the main reason for his move to the Britannia Stadium. He made his Stoke debut on 15 August 2009 in a 2–0 win over Burnley. Dean made a rather slow start to his Stoke career with a number of anonymous performances; however, following a 0–0 draw with Blackburn he has since become an influential player for City and has earned praise from manager Tony Pulis. Dean scored his first goal for Stoke City when he converted winger Matthew Etherington's cross in the 86th minute in a 3–1 F.A. Cup 4th round win over Arsenal on 24 January 2010. Dean was controversially sent off by Mike Dean against Spurs in March 2010 a decision which drew heavy criticism from Tony Pulis and Matthew Etherington. His first F.A. Premier League goal for Stoke came against Birmingham City on 9 November 2010 with Dean scoring the winning goal in a 3–2 win in the 85th minute. He scored his second league goal for Stoke away at Manchester United on 4 January 2011. He was the first Stoke player to score at Old Trafford since 1980. In The 2010/2011 Season Stoke reached The F.A. Cup final, with Tony Pulis using his fringe players throughout, meaning Dean did not start in any of the 5 games, coming on as a substitute in 4 of them. It was unclear whether Pulis would use his best players for the final against Manchester City, or stick to his policy of using fringe players. Pulis decided to stay loyal to his fringe palyers, who had served him so well in the competition and got him all the way to the final. Dean came on as a substitute early in the 2nd half for the injured Matthew Etherington. Stoke were defeated 1-0, and Dean collected a runners up medal. Because Manchester City qualified for The U.E.F.A. Champions League through their final position in the league tabel, Stoke won a place in The U.E.F.A. Europa League for being The F.A. Cup runners up. Dean got his first taste of European football early in The 2011/2012 Season in Stoke's 4 U.E.F.A. Europa League qualifiers. Stoke did qualify, and, therefore, they, and Dean, will play in the U.E.F.A. Europa League group stage.
Sunderland A.F.C. Players's Player Of The Season 2004/2005
The Football League Championship 2004/2005 Season winners medal
The Football League Championship 2006/2007 Season winners medal
The Football League Championship 2006/2007 Season Team Of The Season member
The F.A. Cup 2010/2011 Season runners up medal