THE BIG INTERVIEW: Alfy Whittingham

Alfy Whittingham joined Aldershot Town from Hungerford Town in July 2019 after spending last season there, where he was named their Young Player of the Season.

Before that, he spent three seasons at Havant & Waterlooville and he also spent time on loan at Hungerford Town, AFC Totton and Petersfield Town. He is the son of Portsmouth legend Guy Whittingham and he scored against them in a friendly in pre-season.

Whittingham discusses his father, his accolades at Hungerford, times out on loan, joining The Shots and some interesting hobbies too.

From the beginning, where did football start for you?

“I was playing at my local football team. I played from the age of eight or nine up until when I was like 14 in the local village that I lived in.

“I played for Whiteley which is based in Portsmouth and I grew up playing for them every Saturday morning. It was in the Midwessex League which was a standard league.

“I was young, short and chubby but I always loved football and my Dad encouraged that from the very beginning.”

How was life at Havant & Waterlooville when you played there?

“I had trials at a few clubs and I was on trial at Portsmouth at one point. I didn’t get in and when I was 16, I went to South Downs College which had a link to the Havant & Waterlooville academy. I went there and they were in the Conference South at the time.

“I did two years at college and studied a BTEC Sports Performance and Excellence and I got my personal training qualification from that as well. I played in the u19 league which is the same league as the current Aldershot Town u19s academy.

“Once I finished my two years at college, the manager (Lee Bradbury) offered me a contract at the age of 18 and I signed for them in the Conference South. I didn’t play for the first year so I went out on loan to quite a few teams.

“I was at AFC Totton, Petersfield Town etc. I was at a lot of different clubs and then in my third year, I came back to Havant. In pre-season, I couldn’t get into the team and I signed for Hungerford Town the first week after pre-season.

“I was there for two years going out on loan to these different teams and at the age of 19 or 20, I thought that it was time to move on and go somewhere where I’ll get more football.”

You had a great time at Hungerford Town and you won the Young Player of the Year award there. How did you come to winning that award? What was the journey?

“I didn’t play that much in the first half of the season. I was in and out of the first team, I only started about 10 games out of 20 up until Christmas.

“After Christmas, we had Oxford City away on New Years Day and that was the first game that I’d started for about seven weeks or so. I had a really good game and I scored to give us the 2-1 win.

“From then on, I just kept on playing and kept on scoring for the next 25 games or so. I believed I scored five goals and got a few assists in that period. I got into the National League South team of the week three or four times.

“That allowed me to get my confidence up and keep my momentum flowing.”

Do you believe that achievement with Hungerford Town earned you the move to Aldershot Town?

“Yeah, I think so. The way I got into Aldershot was just by giving Danny (Danny Searle) a text and I showed him a few highlights of my best football. I sent a few videos over and told him what I’m about and he thought that I looked good and he got me into their pre-season.

“If it wasn’t for that, I wouldn’t have got my name about. Most managers would have had a google just to check who the player is and scoring a few goals in the Conference South helped me a bit. Obviously, when he googles my name, it’ll come up and tell him what I’ve done. That really helped my move to Aldershot Town.”

You also have a famous father named Guy Whittingham who was famous for his Portsmouth days. How crucial was his guidance to your career considering he would have key knowledge of what football is like?

“When I was younger, I played a lot of football and when I grew up, that’s when I started to realise exactly who my Dad was. People would use to stop us for a picture or a chat about his playing days.

“Football was the only thing I wanted to do. I wanted to prove a point to him and I loved football out of all the sports.

“In terms of having an impact on me, he’s always the first person I speak to on a matchday and when I’ve played, I ask him for advice sometimes on what I can improve on. I and he bond a lot over football.

“Over the last three or four years, every football decision I’ve made have been his and my decisions. When I left Havant, that was a big thing for me and he provided lots of guidance on what was the next step for me.

“Bad and good performances will always be discussed with him. He’s always wanted me to play non-league as he thought it was the best route into the game for me when I was 16. I needed to play men’s football and from the age of 16, I’ve played about 200-300 men’s games now.

“That was definitely his involvement because I just wanted to play football in general. He advised to just go and play men’s football. It helped me develop very quickly and it has toughened me up quite a bit as well.”

In pre-season, you scored against his former club Portsmouth. Was it a really weird feeling for you?

“It was a little weird. I felt really good though especially to score against a big club like that. That was the first game he watched me play for Aldershot Town and hearing Mum in the stands seeing me score against his old club was a very good feeling.”

Since joining Aldershot Town, what key advice have you taken on this season?

“I think patience has been a massive thing for me. I’ve been in and around the team this season and whenever I get my chance, I can be over eager sometimes as I’ve picked up five yellow cards so far. It does show how hungry and eager I am.

“I love to get onto the pitch and prove a point. That comes with learning the other side of the game, keeping a cool head. I think Danny Searle has helped me learn that side of things.

“It is the first time I’ve trained in a full-time environment so my technical ability has improved through that.”

You consider yourself as a central-midfielder but you have makeshift to right-back in a few games where Robbie Tinkler has been out this season. How has it been learning to become more versatile?

“For me, I feel comfortable playing right-back. I’ve played there before for Hungerford and Havant in the past so it is a comfortable position for me to play in.

“I’m happy to do a job for the team when I’m needed and George Fowler is back fit now. He has been playing really well at right-back as well.”

Do you think it is important to be versatile as a midfielder?

“Yeah, definitely. It is really good to play a lot of positions. As long as I’m on the pitch, I’m happy.

“Whether that’s in any position in striker, right-back, winger etc. Obviously, in the middle of the park is the best position for me and it’s the position that I think people will see the most out of me. I like to run around and give the team energy but I’m happy to play wherever to help the team out.

“It is important that you are as versatile as a footballer. When you are asked to do a job, you have to do it, it’s as simple as that. It’s your job at the end of the day to do what you’re told by your manager and your coaching staff.”

Who would you say has been the hardest attacker for you to play against this season?

“It would have to be John Rooney from Barrow. I played against him on the first game of the season at home to Barrow and we lost 2-1.

“That was a big learning curve for me. I learnt the way he played as he was pretty phenomenal. When we played them away the second time around, I got to grips with him more but Rooney is definitely the hardest opponent I’ve come up against.”

Outside of Aldershot Town, what hobbies or interests would fans not know you get up to?

“I do personal training so I’m really into my fitness and health. I enjoy playing golf as I do like to play other sports when I have the time to do so.

“It’s not just football that’s on my mind. I like to play the guitar as I enjoy my music. I also like to be very social. I like coffees with friends and I love to walk my dog.

“I’m just chilling. I like to get a lot of recoveries done in between training sessions as well.”