Them and us – Gareth Whalley (Swindon Town and Wigan Athletic)

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Tomorrow’s sell out FA Cup game against Swindon Town at the County Ground gives TNS the opportunity to look back on the career of Gareth Whalley.

Gareth was born in Manchester on 19th December 1973.  He played mostly as a holding midfielder and started his career at Crewe Alexandra, for whom he signed under the watchful eye of Dario Gradi in July 1992, after completing his schoolboy and YTS schemes at Gresty Road.

He made his debut for the Alex as a substitute against Rochdale on 25th August 1992 in a Coca Cola Cup first round second leg 2-1 defeat at Spotland.  From that moment on he became an almost permanent fixture in the team and he helped the Railwaymen reach the Division Three play off final against York City at the end of the campaign.  Unfortunately for Gareth he missed a crucial spot kick in that game which ended Crewe’s promotion dream.

He went on to help the Railwaymen to automatic promotion from Division Three in 1994 and then to successive play-off appearances in 1995 against Bristol Rovers and then again in 1996 against Notts County.

The highlight of his Alex career arrived in 1997. After helping the Alex into the play-offs once more, he was outstanding at Wembley in the final against Brentford as Crewe clinched promotion to the First Division for the very first time thanks to a 1-0 win.

He made a total of 223+6 appearances in all competitions for the Alex before a £600,000 transfer to Bradford City in July 1998.

His debut for the Bantams came on 28th October 1998 against Leeds United in a Worthington Cup third round game at Elland Road which Leeds won 1-0.  Playing for the Bantams were also future Latics players Peter Beagrie, Gary Walsh and Jamie Lawrence and of course the manager of City was a certain Paul Jewell!

He played in both City’s Premier League seasons and even starred in the Bantams’ six Intertoto Cup games in the summer of 2000.  He made 103 Premier League appearances during which he netted twc and was transferred to Cardiff City on a free transfer in July 2002, after also playing a further seven games for Crewe Alexandra in a loan spell.

His career at Ninian Park was blighted by injury and after making 41 league appearances, and netting twice he arrived on a free transfer from the Bluebirds on 14th September 2004. He had been in dispute with the Bluebirds for several months and had been training with Latics for three weeks prior to signing. He had impressed Paul Jewell, his former manager at Bradford City sufficiently to sign him until the end of the league campaign.

The Blues were woefully short of midfield cover at the time as Tony Dinning no longer figured in the manager’s plans and Jason Jarrett was injured. He made his Latics League debut on 28th September 2004 against Watford at Vicarage Road in a game that resulted in a 0-0 draw. In total he made 8+1 League appearances for the Blues without scoring. However, he goes down in Latics folklore as a member of the team that took Latics into the Premiership for the first time in their history in 2005.

From the JJB Stadium he moved to Swindon Town despite having received a better contract offer from Grimsby Town.  His debut came against Barnsley on 6th August 2005 at Oakwell and the game resulted in a 2-0 win for the home side.

Once again injuries blighted his spell at the County Ground and he retired from the full time game in May 2007.  He played 16 games for Altrincham in season 2007/08 before calling time on his playing days.

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