The teenage midfielder, who turns 18 next Friday, has signed for AFC Bournemouth and earlier this week took part in a team building exercise with the Championship side’s first-team squad, crown green bowling!
Whitfield, from Bingley, was part of the Cobbydalers’ u19s league and cup double winning team last season aged just 16 but has joined the Cherries from Conference North side Guiseley, where he was playing this season.
He has signed an 18-month contract with the south coast club and is looking forward to working with manager Eddie Howe, the former Burnley boss.
Whitfield told the T&A: “It’s taken a while to get sorted but I’m really happy to be a Bournemouth player.
“Eddie Howe was a big part of why I decided to come down here because of the way he coaches and his teams play.
“It’s a big move but that will make it easier for me and help me improve as a player.”
News of the transfer deadline day signing featured on Sky Sports and Whitfield was left rubbing his eyes to check he wasn’t dreaming after seeing his job switch from working in a pub to professional footballer.
He told his Facebook followers: “Wow what a day, by far the biggest life changing day and one of the happiest and proudest too! Thank you to everyone who has supported me. It really means a lot! Onwards and upwards!”
And he has been quick to settle in at Dean Court, helping his new team to a draw against Brighton last week and a stunning 5-1 friendly win at Premier League Southampton yesterday (click here to see video highlights).
Whitfield is one of nine members of Bournemouth’s development squad, which bridges the gap between youth football and the first team. He will play against other development teams and non-League opposition, alongside a mix of senior players, before, he is hoping, being introduced to the first team squad.
The Cherries team includes former Leeds United defender and Irish international Ian Harte, as well as Premier League loanee Andrew Surman, from Norwich City. There is also some regional interest with former Bradford City defender Simon Francis and ex-Burnley junior winger Marc Pugh in the ranks.
First-team boss Howe told Bournemouth club’s website: “Ben is a young player with huge potential.
“He’s only 17 but he’s had a really encouraging couple of months playing men’s football for Guiseley.
“He’s certainly a talent and someone we would like to work with and develop.”
Howe explained how Whitfield had been brought to the club to increase the pool of talent being groomed for the first team.
“It’s important that if you’re going to have a development squad and believe in young players, you have to do it properly,” he said.
“The players who have come in aren’t here to take the place of our own young players, but to enhance the group and raise the standard of training.
“Then the aim is that if we have injuries in the first team, we can call on the development squad players but we needed to make that group better in order to do that.”
Whitfield was being tracked by Everton and had trials at Huddersfield Town, after being released by Bradford City as a youngster, because he was considered “too small” for the professional game.
The former Crossflatts Primary and Bingley Grammar School pupil started his football career with Myrtle Park, where he played until the age of seven when he joined the Bantams youth development programme.
After being released from Valley Parade, Whitfield’s dream continued with a tour to Barcelona with Silsden Juniors whetting his appetite to prove the coaches at City wrong.
And that seems to be happening quickly with his first two appearances in the red and black of Bournemouth drawing plaudits.
“I played half an hour in both games,” he told Keighley Kicks.
“The manager said I did well and I got to play no.10 in both games as well.”
Development squad manager Stephen Purches was excited about the attacking midfielder’s future and told the club website: “Ben’s a young lad who is excited and just wants to do well every day, which is great
“He showed some great touches and interplay when he came on and we just have to make sure we integrate him well.
“It’s a big step up for him, going from training twice-a-week to every day. It will take a bit of time for him to get used to it, but if he can produce the same growth as a player that Harry Cornick has, he’s got a good chance.”
For now, Whitfield will be keen to follow the path laid down by the Keighley area’s other four current professional players – Tommy Lee and Jacob Hazel at Chesterfield, FC Halifax Town’s Matty Pearson and Oxford United captain Jake Wright.
The class of 2012/13 is proving a strong one for Silsden u19s. Several members of that team have quickly progressed to the North West Counties League first-team, Joe Gaughan is playing professionally in New Zealand, with Chris Wademan heading to Tasmania next month and Dale Feather going close to signing for Orient or Swindon Town after doing well in a national trials competition.