Ever since his move from Nuneaton, Elliott Whitehouse has struggled to fit in. He’s suggested he might be a good player, but the systems we’ve employed have never granted him the freedom to play where he wants. Now, as we experiment with 4-3-3, he’s not only thriving, but emerging as a real talent that perhaps could be our most improved player this season.
Of course, his goal against Shrewsbury will remain the stuff of legend, the winning goal in a cup final always will be. However, his recent form has been about much more than the odd goal, his tireless work ethic and constant running have won him an increasing number of fans. I’ll hold my hand up, I had him down as a fringe player at best, but since the switch to 4-3-3 he’s truly come into his own.
In the Exeter programme I had an interview with Elliott published and he told me; “I can play a ‘ten’ or an ‘eight’, as long as I can get the freedom to get into the box and create chances. I’m an engine midfielder, I like to get box to box, make runs. I want to make things happen, whether that is chances or goals, I want to be right in the thick of it.”
As a ten our system dictates you need to be big and with a certain aerial ability, not the young midfielders strongest attributes, but in the 4-4-2 there is no ‘eight ‘ as such, certainly not when Bozzie and Woodyard parade the midfield. When Lee Frecklington signed it seemed any potential role in midfield was one player further away from the former Sheffield United youngster, but instead he’s suddenly come into his own.
There’s little doubt the EFL Trophy run has helped, he remained sharp and turned in a great performance against Notts County in the group stages, something that has kept him fresh and ready. He’s a down to earth character too, a typical non-nonsense lad who you wouldn’t imagine had played against Paul Pogba and alongside Harry Maguire.
“Paul Pogba didn’t half give me the run-around,” he told me recently. “That Sheffield United period was another successful period for me, playing against the likes of Pogba, Lingaard, Keane and a host of others. You look at those players now, they’re top players, aren’t they? I made the most of the occasion, you have to do that while you can.”
Making the most of an occasion seems to be a strong attribute of Elliott’s, he surpassed expectation with a wonderful display in the Lincolnshire Derby, but his Man of the Match outing at Wembley will have given Danny food for thought as the summer approaches. Elliott is out of contract, but having secured the club’s first piece of EFL silverware since 1976, that must surely be something that is now up for discussion.
I love being proven wrong by players and once again, it has happened. There was a time when I’d see Whitehouse and Palmer warming up and suggest to anyone who’d listen that we were effectively conceding the game. It goes to show what I know doesn’t it, with one being nominated for League Two player of the month, and the other securing a place in Imps folklore forever.
What the future holds for Elliott is anyone’s guess, perhaps the same could be said for Lincoln City as a whole. The good times can’t last forever and eventually the loco will stop and let a few faces off. Right now though we’re at a peak in our history and it seems the likeable lad plucked from the National league North might have a more important role to play over the next six games than anyone could have predicted at Christmas. I wouldn’t be unhappy if he kept his place until the end of the season, such has been his impact.
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