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'As a Bluebird he excelled with talent and humility. Nobody did it better'.

Byline: IAN MITCHELMORE, GLEN WILLIAMS, PHIL BLANCHE & TOM COLEMAN echo.newsdesk@walesonline.co.uk

CARDIFF City legend Peter Whittingham has died at the age of 35, following a fall 13 days ago.

The former Bluebirds star, who became hugely popular with supporters during a brilliant 10-year spell at the club, suffered head injuries at a pub in Barry on March 7 from what South Wales Police have described as an "accidental fall".

In a statement on their website yesterday, Cardiff City said: "It is with an immeasurable amount of sorrow that we must inform supporters that Peter Whittingham has passed away at the age of 35.

"We are heartbroken. "The news of Peter's sudden and untimely passing has shaken us to our very foundation.

"Our love goes out to his wife Amanda, their young son and family.

"They are at the forefront of our thoughts and, on their behalf, we ask for their privacy to be respected at this unfathomably cruel and difficult time.

"First and foremost, Peter was a family man - and somebody who could light up a room with his sense of humour, warmth and personality.

"Then, as a professional footballer - as a Bluebird - he excelled with talent, ease, grace and humility. Nobody did it better.

"The loss of Peter will be painfully felt by our city, supporters and indeed all who ever had the pleasure of knowing him.

"We love you Pete and your memory will eternally stay with us."

The former England Under-21 international, affectionately known as "Whitts", had been at the University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff since the accident nearly two weeks ago.

Nuneaton-born Whittingham began his career at boyhood club Aston Villa and was part of the club's 2002 FA Youth Cup-winning team.

He played 66 games for Villa and had loan spells at Burnley and Derby before joining Cardiff in 2007.

He made more than 450 appearances and scored 98 goals in 10 years at Cardiff before finishing his career at Blackburn in 2018.

Wales and Juventus star Aaron Ramsey was among those to pay tribute to his former teammate, with whom he played on numerous occasions.

Writing on his Instagram account, Ramsey said: "I will forever be grateful for you taking me under your wing.

"You were one of the most technical and gifted players I've played with and that left foot of yours was like a wand.

"I'm proud to have played alongside you and will always remember the young vs old games and you just running the show.

"My thoughts and prayers go out to your family. Rest in peace Whitts."

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer also praised the midfielder, who he coached at Cardiff.

"I was deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Peter Whittingham," he said. "Peter was a fantastic footballer and an incredible human being.

"I thoroughly enjoyed working with him during my time at Cardiff City.

"It's hard to believe that he has been taken from us at such a young age.

"Peter will be deeply missed and our thoughts are with his family at this very sad time."

Whitts had become such a terrace favourite in Cardiff that fans instantly called for a statue to be built in his honour when news emerged earlier this week that he had been badly injured.

The midfielder was known for being a dead-ball specialist with a devastating left foot; his swagger in possession and ability to make things happen soon won the home faithful over.

A laid-back and unassuming character, he was regularly described as the best player in the Championship as Cardiff fought to get into the Premier League.

His 98 goals for the Bluebirds placed him ninth on the club's all-time list of goalscorers, and created many more.

An FA Cup final appearance and the heartbreak of a penalty shoot-out defeat by Liverpool in the Carling Cup final, as well as promotion to the Premier League in 2013, all helped build a lasting bond with Cardiff fans.

But Whittingham was denied the chance to give home supporters a proper farewell after walking off to a standing ovation in what proved to be his last appearance at Huddersfield in May 2017.

Whittingham could have stayed on under Neil Warnock on a oneyear deal, albeit on reduced terms and with no guarantee of an extended first-team run.

Second-best, though, was something he would never have been accused of when giving his all for the shirt.

Looking back on his departure, eventually signing for Blackburn, themselves preparing for a new challenge after dropping into League One, Whittingham always wished he could have been given the opportunity to show everyone just what a decade at the club had meant to him.

"The biggest regret for me personally is the fact I couldn't say goodbye to everyone surrounding the club, the fans," he said in an interview with BBC Wales Sport.

The biggest personally couldn't say everyone club, Peter leaving in "It's something I would've loved to have done.

"That's football, things don't work out I suppose but I'm sure I'll be back there soon enough.

"The gaffer offered me a one-year contract and he said: 'You're not going to play as much as probably you'd like.'.

"That kind of rubber-stamped things for me.

"It's one of the hardest decisions I've ever had to make to leave Cardiff after such a long time.

"I loved my time there, it was amazing. (Leaving was) something I had to do for myself."

Whittingham was born in Nuneaton, Warwickshire, on September 8, 1984, and attended King Henry VIII School in Coventry.

He came through the Villa ranks, part of the team which won the 2002 FA Youth Cup.

Future Northern Ireland captain Steven Davies, Liam Ridgewell and the Moore brothers, Luke and Stefan, were also part of a Villa side that beat an Everton team featuring Wayne Rooney 4-2 on aggregate.

Whittingham was a leftback in those days but he would move further up the pitch, first for Villa in his 66 appearances for the club and also during loan spells at Burnley and Derby.

regret for me is the fact I goodbye to surrounding the the fans At the start of 2007 came the opportunity to join the exciting Cardiff side that Dave Jones was building. Michael Chopra, Stephen McPhail and Joe Ledley became teammates.

Whittingham on CardiffCity 2017 It was the start of a love affair with Cardiff supporters and the Bluebirds reached the FA Cup final in his first full season at Ninian Park.

Whittingham scored three goals during the march to Wembley, including a stunning effort in the quarter-final win at Middlesbrough, but Cardiff lost 1-0 to Premier League Portsmouth in the final.

Cardiff suffered more Wembley heartache when losing the Championship play-off final in 2010 and they were semi-finalists in 2011 and 2012.

There was another Wembley appearance in the 2012 Carling Cup final when Cardiff held Liverpool 2-2 before losing on penalties.

Whittingham was key in Cardiff's equaliser two minutes from the end of extra-time, as Craig Bellamy, then playing for Liverpool, said in his autobiography.

"The ball went for a corner," Bellamy wrote. "Peter Whittingham bent a brilliant delivery into the box and Ben Turner scored. Credit to them. I admired their refusal to give up."

Whittingham finally returned to the Premier League in 2013 when Cardiff, backed by wealthy new owner Vincent Tan, won the Championship title under Malky Mackay.

It was to prove a oneseason stop, but Whittingham remained a firm favourite of the charismatic Tan.

"I watch every Cardiff match and I told them: 'You guys have no confidence. Peter Whittingham is capable of shooting and scoring goals from 30 yards, so have a go'" Tan said to the Echo in February 2016.

Whittingham ended his career at Blackburn, playing his final game in April 2018, but his heart remained in Wales and he continued to live in the Vale of Glamorgan with wife Amanda and their young son.

show everyone decade at meant to I to things in those would move pitch, first 66 the club during at Derby. 2007 join that was Michael Stephen Joe Ledle"The biggest regret for me personally is the fact I couldn't say goodbye to everyone surrounding the club, the fansPeter Whittingham on leaving Cardiff City in 2017

CAPTION(S):

Peter Whittingham in his days as an England u19s player...

... in action for Cardiff against Wolves in 2008...

... meeting fans at Cardiff City Stadium in 2015...

... on the charge against Derby in 2014
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Article Details
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Author:IAN MITCHELMORE, GLEN WILLIAMS, PHIL BLANCHE & TOM COLEMAN echo.newsdesk@walesonline.co.uk
Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Mar 20, 2020
Words:1419
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