Thursday is SPFL wonderkid day! Every week, we shine the spotlight on an emerging talent from the Development League and analyse their key strengths.
This time around, resident SPFL scout David Brockett was at Firhill to assess new Partick Thistle signing Scot Whiteside as the young defender made his debut for the Jags against Hamilton Accies.
Following teenager Jack Hendry’s deadline-day transfer to Wigan Athletic, Thistle have been on the look-out for a replacement to fill their centre-back void. The defender, who spent two years at Rangers before leaving Ibrox in the summer, has signed a contract until the end of the season.
Having come through the ranks at Linfield in his native Northern Ireland, Whiteside has represented and captained his country at every level from U15 to U19 and will travel for next week’s U19 friendly against Iceland.
Whiteside’s composed demeanour will be a valuable asset for Thistle, who currently sit 12th in the Development League table, having won two of their opening four matches. Playing as a left-sided central defender in a flat back four, Whiteside’s composure is that of a seasoned professional. His ability to read the game and make vital interceptions should see him establish himself in Scott MacKenzie’s Development League XI.
Whilst a committed defender, Whiteside’s tackling is one of his most notable qualities. Attempting nine slide challenges, he gave away just one free kick. Unlike many central defenders of similar age and experience, Whiteside is not guilty of rash or over zealous tackles. Instead, he opts for a more measured approach, only making the challenge where he believes he is likely to cleanly take the ball. This was demonstrated when left one-on-one with Accies' Brazilian striker Alex D’Acol, with Whiteside’s last-ditch tackle denying an almost guaranteed goalscoring opportunity.
The tall, commanding centre-back also has a strong aerial ability. Winning seven of his attempted 10 headers, the towering defender uses his height at both ends of the pitch. While Thistle adopted a more zonal marking approach at set-pieces, Whiteside’s height and heading ability was instantly obvious. A constant threat at attacking set-pieces, his sheer stature proves difficult to defend against.
The centre-half is particularly comfortable with the ball at his feet, often opting to play out of defence before starting an attack. With a wide range of passing, including a number of impressive cross-field diagonals that would be the envy of many deep-lying midfielders, Whiteside may prove pivotal in bringing Thistle’s wide players more into the game.
Whiteside’s positioning and ability to read the game is also of particular note. Whilst generally dealing well with D’Acol, his vision to make vital interceptions will be of huge benefit to a side who squandered a series of gilt-edged chances in the match against Accies. With a tendency to push higher up and play a high defensive line, he has ample pace to recover should he be caught out at the back.
Despite the defeat, it’s clear Whiteside possesses the necessary attributes to make the breakthrough and challenge the likes of Liam Lindsay, Frederic Frans and Dan Seabourne for the centre-back position at Firhill.
Key Strengths - Composure, Tacking, Vision, Aerial Ability, Positioning
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