The Gavin Whyte conundrum and how Cardiff City solve it
Gavin Whyte arrives for the EFL Championship fixture between Cardiff City and Reading / Photo by Alex Davidson/Getty Images

To state that Gavin Whyte's tenure with the Bluebirds has been anything but plain-sailing would be a severe understatement.

Recruited by veteran boss Neil Warnock following the club's relegation from the Premier League in 2019, Whyte had initially impressed under his tuition.

He had established himself as a staple on the team sheet at the back end of the Yorkshireman's time in South Wales, but after his departure, he soon found himself on the periphery.

Subsequent boss Neil Harris did not envisage him in their plans to take the side forward as he elected to sanction a loan move.

First came Hull City, a move which was sanctioned a week before Harris left his post.

And, by all accounts, the loan switch went fairly well, although a permanent transfer to Humberside never materialised and the former-Crusaders flyer swiftly wound up at the Cardiff City Stadium once again, clouded by uncertainty and divisiveness.

With Mick McCarthy at the helm by this stage, he was sent on his way for a second temporary move.

  • A change of fortunes

This one would change the entire complexion and possibilities of Whyte's future at Cardiff.

Having lit up the Kassam Stadium during his sole season with Oxford United before being poached by the Bluebirds, he returned to the League One outfit in a bid to reinvigorate his career.

Many City supporters regarded this one as a real last chance saloon for the Northern Ireland International to salvage his status as a Cardiff player, but he has truly seized the chance with both hands.

At the time of writing, Whyte has provided 10 goals for the U's, proving pivotal in their promotion pursuit.

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Such a tally stations him second in the division's assist charts, only behind Accrington Stanley's Sean McConville with 13 to his name.

For additional context, Cardiff's current top assister is Joe Ralls, who has provided just five this term.

However, the alternative argument that certain supporters will enforce is that he has never quite transitioned this vein of form into the rigours of Championship football.

But, perhaps, such is the belief of many within the City faithful, he simply has not been utilised correctly.

  • What lies ahead?

The significant summer that Whyte faces coincides with a monumental rebuild set to take place at Cardiff, with progressive young boss Steve Morison now permanently licensed with the reins.

It is no secret that the 38-year-old is targeting a mammoth revamp come June as he looks to stamp his authority on the side.

Indeed, up to 10 players see their contracts expire at the club, emphasising the need for a complete reconstruction of the playing squad.

Whyte is not among those, but Morison evidently does not currently have a group of individuals- barring a few exceptions- that are truly capable of fulfilling his possession-based style, meaning that a bulk of names who have longer contracts may well be upping sticks in a few months time.

Due to this, he has been unable to optimise his footballing philosophy upon the squad. 

Even though the club's possession statistics have been at their highest in years following his appointment, counter-attacking play has still been the modus operandi for many outings.

Along with this, they have typically operated with a five-at-the-back formation that does not facilitate wingers.

Wing backs in Morison's system are still tasked with having an influence on attacking proceedings, though- young prospect Joel Bagan has looked a player reborn since brushing up on the offensive elements in his game, while Leeds United loanee Cody Drameh has been nothing short of electrifying at both ends of the pitch since his January move.

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It has long been suggested that Whyte could successfully make the adaptation to a deeper role.

He is a player who, though rarely renowned for his output in the final third, has never failed to express a dogged work ethic and a willingness to register his defensive responsibilities. 

The 26-year-old possesses dynamism and intensity to his play, traits that installed him as a real favourite of Warnock's.

But, in Oxfordshire, Whyte has been utilised at the top end of the pitch,  impressing as either a winger or even, interestingly, as an attacking midfielder. 

Cardiff's current scenario removes the facilitation to operate with those two positions in the side, yet as aforementioned, we could well see a totally different look next campaign.

Due to Drameh's dazzling displays, it is, for now at least, unlikely that they will be able to secure his services for another season. 

His progression has been eagerly tacked by those at Elland Road, who clearly visualise a project for the young talent. 

The ever-changing nature of football as a whole does create a revolving door, mind, which could see the speedster touted as a Drameh replacement in equal measure.

Ultimately, it all comes down to Morison's verdict.

For someone so young in the world of management, the ex-Cardiff academy manager is already renowned for his muscle in decision-making and he has proved he is not afraid to make big calls.

And for Whyte, judgement day is swiftly approaching. 

That day will come on the initiation of Cardiff's pre-season next term, when Whyte rejoins the foray ahead of a herculean reshuffle. 

When quizzed on the wide-man's future, Morison told WalesOnline"I haven't focused on it too much.

"But I get the information and I know how well he is doing. He is one who comes back into the group for next year.

"From my point of view he comes back into the group, we will assess and then go from there in the summer."

Accompanying a variety of other ports of calls, Morison has also exhibited the potential for once-unfancied members of the side to cement their worth to him.

A notable example of this is Ryan Wintle, who joined the club in the summer but failed to appease McCarthy and was swiftly shipped off on loan to Blackpool.

Though upon the opening of the January window, the first call he made was to recall the central midfielder, having made a big impression in the North West.

He has since gone on to be an ever-present in the team, subsequently earning plaudits for his calmness, composure and ability to keep play ticking over in the middle of the park.

Wintle should be the benchmark for Whyte, and his recent success needs to serve as an illustration of the fresh start that can now be granted in this corner of the world.

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