When I arrived at Cardiff and looked at the squad, Peter was one of the players I was very interested to see up close at training and was genuinely excited that he was still at the club. I had known him from playing against Villa and Cardiff. I realised the danger he possessed with that wand of a left foot. Maybe I didn’t quite appreciate how comfortable he was on the ball and how he rarely gave it away until I watched him at close quarters.
After the first couple weeks of training, I turned to my coaches, David Kerslake and Joe McBride, and said “He’s special. We could build a team around this boy.”
Peter had been playing out wide, but I wanted to see him centrally as I felt that he could be even more effective in a controlling role in front of our back four. I explained the role I thought he could be even better in. We were in my office and we moved the pieces around the tactics board for at least half an hour, with him asking various questions. Afterwards, we sat and I asked him about himself and his career. His ambitions and his family.
He left and I thought about how he really understands the game. That may seem strange, but most players don’t really get it until later on in their careers, or even early in to their coaching career. Peter had such a good understanding of when to receive it, where to take it, how to check his shoulders for pressure, what his options were and who to give the best pass to help the team. In short; he was a dream for a manager to have as a focal point in a team.
He really took to that central controlling area and enjoyed the responsibility I loaded on to his shoulders. I expected a lot and pushed him as I knew what he was capable of. I felt he had underachieved personally to that point with the talent he had. Peter should have had five years in the Premier League and I told him that. The target was to get back there and for him to show people just how good he was.
There were times when he would hit a pass, a set piece, a strike or do something sublime with the ball and just shrug his shoulders as the guys shook their heads. I just felt he could impose himself on the game even more and just believe in himself. It was part of his character. Very self-effacing.
Peter was an integral part of our team and club as a whole. He was instrumental in our journey to the Carling Cup final and the long hard slog in winning the Championship. Also the huge challenge of adapting and surviving in the Premier League. All of which he stood up to, accepted the challenge and came through.
The general perception of him was of a quiet shy introvert. He was also articulate, intelligent and giving. He also had a dry razor-sharp wit, which now and again would have everyone laughing. He gave our kit man Ian Lanning a torrid time! Peter genuinely enjoyed living in Cardiff. He embraced the city and supporters the same way they gave it back. Even to the point of their song about him; that he does what he wants!
I asked Peter to come to a Children’s Hospice with me one day, which was no problem to him and after we were shown around, the shy, quiet player was busy mixing with a few of the young kids and taking them on at X-Box. Chatting and laughing with these children, not realising they idolised him.
A little sign of a warm hearted man who was a terrific Ambassador for Cardiff City.
We also stood next to each other on the pitch at Wembley awaiting the hand shakes before the Carling Cup final. After the music stopped and the handshakes by the guests were finished, we turned to shake and say good luck to each other and I said “go show them just how good you actually are.” He just had a little smile and a wink. A quiet confidence in that ability. I loved it.
He was rarely injured, trained every day, loved the ball and hated the gym! He also signed three contract extensions while I was at the club. We thought so highly of him. The day I was leaving the club, Peter knocked my door to say goodbye and thank me for giving him so much responsibility with the team in those couple of seasons. He didn’t have to do that, but was an absolute gentleman. Real class. Peter had been brought up in the Midlands by his mum and dad. The values and morals that shone through from them were evident.
My good friend Alan Whiteley, himself a huge bluebirds fan and a fantastic servant of Cardiff City, called me late one evening and told me the shocking news of Peter’s fall and subsequent hospitalisation. Very quickly the sad news broke of his passing and a city mourned I’m sure. I was shocked and saddened. I spoke to some of the people still at the club who I know regarded him very fondly. He was a genuinely lovely lad who had so many friends at the club and in the city.
I still can’t quite believe that you’re gone Peter. You gave so much joy and happiness to so many in Cardiff. My condolences and prayers are with Amanda and the Whittingham family. You’ll live long in the memory of many people and have already gone down as a true legend of the club.
I’m sure your spirit lives on.
Gone, but definitely not forgotten.