Isaac Whitehall may not be a name that is familiar with many Rovers supporters, but for those who are keen viewers of the U23 and U18 sides, he is a player who has impressed for a couple of years.
The former Barrow youth player signed a pro deal in January 2020, and after spending time training with the first team, we’ve taken an analytical look at the 18-year-old.
Signing for Rovers from Barrow AFC at U13 level, Whitehall has been with the club since the age of 12. Operating as a centre-back, right-back and central midfielder during his time with the club over the past six years, Whitehall has a helpful versatility about his play.
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His experience in a number of positions have given him a wide range of experience and skill, which has been a key factor in helping him standout, just like now first-teamer Joe Rankin-Costello.
Aged just 17, Isaac featured in the U23s’ Lancashire Senior Cup victory over Burnley, and he has continued to impress at U18 and U23 level ever since – also captaining the club through the successful 2019-20 FA Youth Cup campaign.
In January 2020, just over a year to the day, Whitehall penned his first professional contract, comitting to a long term future at the club.
At around six foot tall, the promising young talent has a physicality about his game, whilst showing great technical skills with the ball at his feet too.
Comparison With Youth Midfielders
Comparing the U23 and U18 match data only, you can start to see why Isaac is so highly thought of. He is a true epitomisation of a box-to-box midfielder when playing in that role. His dribble success rate is high, and he gets into the penalty area regularly, but also possesses a great passing ability.
His statistic of 1.11 shots per match and impressive 60% shot accuracy figure shows some maturity, signalling his ambition to get into advantageous shooting scenarios.
One factor to take into his account is that his high passing accuracy can be assigned to his more sideways, backwards and ball retention role in the side. Players such as John Buckley and Jared Harlock have much more creative responsibility to make things happen from deep areas.
However, this comparison still highlights a nice wide range of admirable skills.
A major strong point of Whitehall’s match is his defensive positioning. Whether he is at right-back, centre-back or centre midfield, he is often in the right place at the right time, a key asset in younger, inexperienced defensive minded players.
In recent weeks, Whitehall has been spotted in training with the first team, and he could feature in a couple of matchday squads like his team-mate Daniel Pike.
Whitehall’s progression as a footballer is a massive credit to the youth set up, and the work that Mike Sheron, Billy Barr, Stuart Jones and the rest of the academy staff for the rate that a number of the U18 players have improved through the ranks.
This post was originally featured on the ‘Rovers Analytics’ Twitter account – @AnalyticsRovers – where Joe provides an excellent analytic view into a range of Rovers topics. If you haven’t already, please head over there and give it a follow.