Tuesday, 2 November 2010
179 Steve Whitehall
Position : Forward
Played : 1991-92 to 1996-97
Appearances : 235
Goals : 74
Steve was signed from Southport in a complicated deal involving a £25,000 downpayment and then a pay-as-he-scores arrangement. Dale were his first fulltime club, Steve giving up a whitecollar job with the Civil Service when he signed for us.
There were rumours at the time that the Board rather than Sutton had arranged the deal and certainly in his first season Steve didn't seem to be the manager's pet usually being substituted and, for reasons never really explained sometimes being given the number 2 shirt. Towards the end of the season the signing of Mark Leonard made things look ominous for Steve but he survived.
There are two schools of thought about Steve. On the one hand his 91 goals in all competitions (including 10 in 16 Freight Rover appearances) speak for themselves and he was fairly invited to the Legends night a few years back. Certainly without Steve the grim days of Docherty would have been grimmer still. On the downside people point to his dreadful first touch, the number of dubiously-won penalties in his total and his inability to form profitable strike partnerships with a number of different forwards over the years (Andy Flounders's frustration with him was often visible on the pitch). Being 25 when he first came into the professional game there was also a stamina issue with his goals tending to dry up just as the season reached its climax.
It's undeniable that Steve left us with many good memories. I think my favourite goal was the one against Hereford away when he hit a cross far too close to the keeper Alan Judge who proceeded to somehow juggle it into the roof of the net.
From the moment Leonard left the club in August 1982 Steve's place in the side was assured until the former returned under Graham Barrow four years later. Barrow preferred to play with a more conventional centre forward and Steve was often put out on the wing. When Robbie Painter was signed in October it was obvious Steve's days were numbered and he was sold to Mansfield in the summer for £20,000.
Steve had his best ever season for Mansfield scoring 25 goals in 45 appearances. This earned him a move to Oldham (who had often watched him at Spotland) for £45,000. Steve found it harder in the third tier and scored just 13 in 76 appearances. Perhaps surprisingly he got a loan move to Chester now in the Conference and managed by his nemesis , Barrow.Unsurprisingly they made it a permanent signing after 5 goals in 5 games. Steve couldn't keep that up of course and he left in the summer after 4 more goals in 23 games. He spent a few months at Nuneaton before returning to Southport in November 2001. He spent two years there which were blighted by injury though he scored 10 goals in 35 appearances. His final club was Marine before retiring in 2005.
Steve started studying physiotherapy before he left us and graduated from Salford University in 1999. He has worked as a physio for both Northwich and Southport but now works for the NHS.