I saw it labelled the worst-kept secret of the year; I’m not sure that’s true.
I don’t think it was even a secret, the club just can’t talk about another team’s player until something is confirmed. I know in conversations I’ve had with people at the club, Morgan Whittaker’s arrival on New Year’s Day was as secret as Boris Johnson’s cheese and wine business meetings.
What does it mean for the club? Is this the missing piece of a jigsaw? I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but that’s not the case. Capturing Morgan gives us an option up top, a likely starter every week and someone you hope will contribute a few goals and assists. Had we signed him in September, We wouldn’t be fifth from bottom; we might be in the bottom half still, as our problems do run a little deeper than simply having a creative player in the side. I actually think some of our problems have been created by not having a decent outlet up top. I think pressure on our flair players has stifled them, and the squad has developed a lack of confidence throughout. I look back to Cambridge, where we won 5-1, and think there was no lack of confidence there, but somehow one unlucky result led to bad results, than bad performances, and now we’re in a battle against the drop. Morgan Whittaker won’t keep us out the bottom four on his own, but he will make us a better squad than we are now.
Who is Morgan Whittaker, a name you’ve heard no end but a player you’ve likely never seen kick a ball? He’s a Debry born forward player, who came through the youth ranks with the Rams. In 2019 he signed a professional deal with them, becoming a regular member of Phillipe Cocu’s squad. He bagged his first career goal for them against Birmingham City on the final day of the 2020/21 season.
He only joined Swansea in February, with an undisclosed fee taking him to Wales on a four-and-a-half-year deal. He bagged on his debut in the cup against Manchester City, and netted his first league goal in May against Derby. This season, he scored the first Swansea hat trick in a decade as he bagged three times against Plymouth Argyle in the Carabao Cup. However, since their change of manager, Whittaker has not featured as much, and he’s been desperately short of minutes since the collapse of his deadline day deal. In total the 20-year-old has played 54 senior games, scoring nine goals. He has been capped by England at youth level, appearing for the Under 16s right through to Under 20s, amusing sixteen caps and four goals. He last appeared for his country in October 2020 in a 2-0 victory against Wales.
“He’s a quality player who can play as a forward or winger so gives us options,” said Michael Appleton yesterday. “He’s quick and direct: he has the ability to drop into pockets of space well and also contributes with goals and assists. I think everyone knows how close we were to getting him in the summer, so we are really pleased to get this deal agreed early so we can get him straight into the group and ready to go.”
When Michael says Morgan is versatile, he’s seemingly underplaying the situation! This season alone he has appeared as a right-winger, centre forward, left-winger, central midfielder, right wing-back and left wing-back for Swansea, and he’s only played 450 minutes of football. It’s hard to glean much from his stats, since returning to Swansea he’s played one full game, up front as they lost to Brighton in the Carabao Cup, and then 48 minutes of Championship action in three different positions. It’s fair to say this season his career has stuttered somewhat.
I’m not going to heap pressure on Morgan Whittaker by saying he’ll dramatically change the squad, but he will give us something we’ve desperately lacked; a player able to play anywhere across the front three that has pace, ability and an air of unpredictability. He is seemingly highly rated by Swansea fans, which is a good sign. Of course, comparisons will be drawn to another player from the East Midlands, in his early 20s who joined the Imps on loan, but if the summer has taught us anything, it is not to draw comparisons. The lad can’t be tasked with hauling the entire squad’s form around, but on paper at least, he looks like one part of a jigsaw that might be missing more than a single piece. However, we are at least on the front foot with recruitment and hopefully, we can swell the ranks by a couple more over the coming weeks.
My apologies for not covering this yesterday. For the first time in a decade, we went to an actual pub on New Year’s Eve, and I forgot that I can’t drink to excess. I drank to excess and found myself chatting to God on the porcelain telephone (violently) for much of the night. The hangover only wore off at 10 pm last night, so I am bringing you this at the earliest opportunity.