Happy birthday to a goalkeeper who on his debut for Wrexham came up against the mighty Wayne Rooney!
Born on May 6, 1982, Paul Whitfield is 39 today.
Future England great Rooney was still just 16 when he visited the Racecourse Ground for a Worthington League Cup tie with Everton on October 1, 2002.
And substitute Wazza was on the mark twice in the closing minutes (and Kevin Campbell once in the first half) as the Blues triumphed 3-0 in the second round clash.
It was the night Rooney became Everton’s youngest-ever goalscorer aged 16 years and 342 days.
A 20-year-old debutant Whitfield was between the sticks for a Wrexham side which also included Dennis Lawrence, Duncan Ferguson, Carlos Edwards, Andy Morrell and Lee Trundle in the ranks.
Wrexham: Whitfield, Pejic, Carey, Lawrence, Carlos Edwards, Whitley, Barrett, Ferguson, Paul Edwards, Morrell, Sam. Subs: Rogers, Trundle, Holmes, Thomas, Morgan.
Everton: Wright, Hibbert, Yobo, Unsworth, Naysmith, Carsley, Tie Li, Weifeng Li, Gemmill, Radzinski, Campbell. Subs: Stubbs, Ferguson, Simonsen, Rooney, McLeod.
It was quite an occasion for the Dragons keeper, who went on to make 11 Football League appearances for the club across 2002-03 and 2003-04, and featured in 18 games in all competitions.
Whitfield started out his career at Wrexham, coming through the youth team.
His time at the Racecourse, however, was plagued by injury. He needed a cartilage operation in his right leg from an injury sustained in the warm-up for a game against Kidderminster Harriers.
However, whilst at Wrexham, Whitfield would earn a Wales U21 cap against Azerbaijan. He was given his chance by U21 coach Jimmy Shoulder after more than 18 months on the fringes of the squad.
And Whitfield performed well in a 1-0 victory at Barry Town’s Jenner Park in March 2003. Under-employed for a long period of the game, Whitfield made crucial saves in the final ten minutes as the Azeris tried to salvage a draw and saw one late effort rebound off the crossbar.
Whitfield was also part of the Dragons squad which won promotion from the Football League Third Division in 2002-03.
He was in goal when the club beat Newport County 6-1 to land the 2002/03 FAW Premier Cup and on the subs bench the following year when the Dragons saw off Rhyl 4-1 in the final.
After leaving Wrexham in 2004, Whitfield would play for various clubs in the Welsh Premier League, including Connah’s Quay Nomads and Newtown (loan), plus Bangor City, Rhyl and Airbus.
He represented Rhyl in both legs of their Uefa Cup tie of 2006/07 against FK Suduva of Lithuania, which the Lilywhites lost 2-1 on aggregate.
Previously, in 2000-01 he had joined The New Saints as an on-loan keeper from Wrexham and travelled with the Welsh Premier champions to Estonia for a Uefa Champions League tussle with FC Levadia Tallinn.
After several good years playing in the Welsh Premier, Paul then signed for Cammell Laird where he helped them win promotion to the Unibond Premier League in 2008.
In 2009 Paul moved back to his hometown club, Llandudno and in his first season he helped them retain the League Cup and just miss out on promotion to the Welsh Premier League.
He later became head coach at Rhyl FC’s Academy, worked with the Welsh FA’s Under-19’s Women’s National team and returned to TNS as goalkeeping coach.
Paul is also still a more than capable goalkeeper, as he proved in helping Llandudno Albion reach the FAW Trophy final last season. The final was unfortunately never played due to coronavirus.
Whitfield is now back with hometown club Llandudno FC as goalkeeper coach working under long-time friend and current Seasiders manager Sean Eardley.
Paul Whitfield has certainly made the most of his talents as both a player and coach.
Since his main playing days, he has gone on for many years to offer experience and extensive knowledge to young keepers throughout North Wales to help them improve their game.
He has been a key figure in Just4Keepers, formed in 1999 to help nurture the goalkeeping talent that lies within Wales.
Have a great birthday Paul.