Watch how Harry Wilson scurries across the pitch. The first time I saw him do it in a Cardiff shirt. It felt like I was watching Peter Whittingham.
I wasn’t expecting it and I’ve seen Wilson play many times, for Derby, Bournemouth and Wales, but there was something about the combination of him doing it in a blue shirt, probably in front of the huge Whittingham banner at the Cardiff City Stadium, and it made me gasp. That’s Peter.
Like Whittingham, Wilson is not the fastest, but he’s deceptively quick. He puts the leg work in and gets around. He also has a wand of a left foot, which on its own makes me feel all nostalgic. He even does that half smile thing that Whittingham used to do. I mean he’s not quite as dismissive of his talent, but that’s not possible!
When Wilson lines up to take a free kick, you expect him to produce, just like Whittingham did, more often than not. You grin in expectation and wait for the net to bulge. Wilson had his first free kick for Cardiff against Bournemouth last night and rather than bend one around the wall, he instead belted it over the top and it was pushed on to the bar. You would bank on him to go one better next time.
Wilson has been afforded the freedom that Whittingham rarely enjoyed, roaming around freely behind a central striker. Whittingham started on the left, then moved to central midfield before dropping back in his later years to play as a quarterback of sorts. I often wished he would get a fair crack in a free role and now I’m getting to experience that vicariously through Wilson.
I miss Peter. I never met the guy, but we shared a lot. I got to witness his career unfold and it was a joy. I still think about him a lot. I used to wonder what he was up to in Barry and hoped that he would return to the club, in some capacity.
I miss him like I miss Gary Speed, who he shared a birthday with. They were both too big and too important to die so young and so tragically. I have a picture of Whittingham on my fridge and I can’t remember how it got there, but I’m not going to take it down. I still have his number in my phone for an interview that never materialised.
Wilson is a wonderful player, the kind that transforms a side. Cardiff have been a bit boring for too long, but that changed the minute he stepped in the door. These players are few and far between and are to be cherished. Enjoy it while it lasts. His arrival was a big surprise, but the even bigger surprise was that the spirit of Whittingham returned with him and that truly is a beautiful thing.