West Ham target Cardiff’s Peter Whittingham
DAVE Jones will face a battle to keep Peter Whittingham if Cardiff City fail to go up after speculation that West Ham want to sign the top scorer in the Championship.
Whittingham, inset right, is one of the leading names the Hammers are being linked with as new owners David Sullivan and David Gold plan a summer shake-up of the playing squad.
Whittingham’s stock rose even further yesterday when he was named on the shortlist for Championship player of the month for April.
The Bluebirds wide man, who scooped the honour in October, competes with Newcastle’s Kevin Nolan, Leicester’s Welsh midfielder Andy King and Scunthorpe striker Gary Hooper for the prestigious award, the winner being announced tomorrow.
The Bluebirds’ rich vein of form is also underlined by the fact that Jones is on a four-man shortlist for manager of the month.
Up against Jones will be Newcastle’s title-winning boss Chris Hughton and two other managers looking towards the play-offs – Leicester manager Nigel Pearson and Blackpool’s Ian Holloway.
Of the five matches the Bluebirds have played in April, they have beaten Swansea, QPR and Sheffield Wednesday and claimed draws against Nottingham Forest and Reading to secure a play-off spot.
But it is Whittingham’s form over the course of the whole season which has attracted interest from West Ham. He tops the Championship scoring charts with 20 goals, a magnificent figure for a midfield man and ahead of anything even the leading strikers outside the Premier League have managed.
However, reports from London say West Ham want Whittingham as part of the major overhaul they are planning on Gianfranco Zola’s current squad of players.
The Hammers, who have had a torrid season fighting relegation, have said that every one of their players is up for sale this summer, apart from Scott Parker.
Among the changes being mooted are moves for Portsmouth midfielder Kevin-Prince Boateng, Burnley’s ex-Manchester United man Chris Eagles and City ace Whittingham.
Jones is hoping he can deliver the Premier League dream for his players via the play-offs, the Bluebirds likely to meet Leicester in a home-and-away semi-final.
However, he will know he could face a fight on his hands to keep some of his star players in South Wales if City slip up in their bid to reach the top flight.
Jones will ask his players to finish the regular season on a high note with victory at Derby on Sunday.
However, Whittingham, named in the Championship team of the year earlier this week, is one of a number of leading stars Jones plans to rest.
The City boss has decided to play pretty much a shadow XI at Pride Park as he looks to avoid injury to key personnel ahead of the play-offs.