Experienced left back Jon Whitney joined Hull City in December 1998 with the Tigers marooned at the foot of the League Division 3 table and new manager Warren Joyce rapidly assembling a squad that could address the near-terminal decline in fortunes that developed under his predecessor Mark Hateley. Joyce’s plan was to sign experienced, hardened and hungry players who would rampage for the City cause and Whitney was a key part of that new approach. The early signs were not good, City lost all of Whitney’s first three League starts as he slotted in at third centre back. However January wins against Rotherham and Hartlepool sparked the Tigers into life and Whitney struck a thunderous 30 yard shot in a late January draw at Peterborough that added more belief to the squad. With Whitney now slotted into the left back role ahead of Steve Swales, City won seven of 15 games between mid-February and May Day 1999, lifting the Tigers out of the relegation zone with a foundation of aggressive, perhaps at times intimidatory, defensive solidity that delivered eight clean sheets. Whitney was a pivotal part of that recovery, and also had a key role in the subsequent squad celebrations.
At the start of the 1999/00 season Whitney was absent and new signing Steve Harper slotted int the left back role. City were unable to replicate the form that saw them ease to safety a few months earlier and Whitney’s only involvement in the first four months of the season was to deputise at centre back for three matches in October that yielded only one point. Two further starts in December saw City win both times, but when Whitney started in a pre-Christmas FA Cup tie against Chelsea a Gus Poyet hattrick saw the Tigers defeated 6-1. Whitney was restored to the first team in January 2000 and in ten starts City kept seven clean sheets as they assembled an unbeaten run, then Whitney scored his second City goal in an April 2000 2-0 win against Leyton Orient. However City were not competing for promotion as chairman Nick Buchanan had hoped and Joyce was replaced by Brian Little, who turned to Whitney to start the last two games of a disappointing season.
With Steve Harper established at left back and Ian Goodison installed at centre half, Whitney’s opportunities for first team action were limited in the 2000/01 season. However when the club went into receivership in the early months of 2001 and several players, including Harper, cancelled their contracts and found new clubs, it was Whitney who once again stepped forward in a crisis. With the players not being paid, Little’s City rose up the table fuelled by the goals of John Eyre, Rodney Rowe and the imperious Kevin Francis. Whitney also weighed in with his third and final City goal in a pivotal April 2001 2-1 win over local rivals Scunthorpe United and City qualified for the end of season play-offs with a thumping 3-1 win over promotion rivals Chesterfield. Whitney started both play-off semi-final legs against Leyton Orient, the first a rambunctious 1-0 home win and the second a crushing injury-hit 0-2 reverse at Brisbane Road. These two games drew Whitney’s City career to a close, safe in the knowledge that when the Tigers had to turn to unsung heroes in a crisis, he twice stepped up and aided the club to success.
Jonathan David Whitney was born in Nantwich, one of the prominent Cheshire salt towns, but after a youth career at Wigan Athletic he drifted out of the professional game and played in the North West non-league scene for four years. His form at Winsford United led to him signing for Neil Warnock’s Huddersfield Town in October 1993 and went into the first team to replace incumbent Chris Billy, although Jon was himself usurped later in the season by Irish ex-Southend defender Pat Scully – Huddersfield reached the 1994 Autoglass Trophy Final, though Whitney did not play at the Wembley final that was lost to Swansea City on penalties. Warnock did not select Whitney during the 1994/95 season and he was loaned to Wigan Athletic in the later stages of the season, the club where he spent his teenage football years. After a brief return to the Huddersfield first team at the start of the 1995/96 season under ex-City manager Brian Horton, Whitney joined Lincoln City in October 1995, signed by newly installed manager John Beck. Beck’s aggressive and disruptive style of management suited Whitney, and while Beck only lasted two years Jon spent three years at Sincil Bank, making 121 senior appearances and scoring 11 goals. Jon’s best season came in 1997/98 season when he made 51 appearances, but by midway through the 1998/99 season he had drifted out of the first team picture and a move to Hull City was a chance to rejuvenate his playing career.
Whitney joined King’s Lynn in the 2001 close season after a failed week’s trial at Halfax Town, and he spent a season at The Walks playing alongside ex-Tigers Steve Wilson and Simon Dakin. He started studying for a degree in Physiotherapy while playing for The Linnets and when he ended his playing career in 2002 he continued his degree and was appointed club physiotherapist at Walsall in December 2003. He fulfilled this role for several years, turning a chance to join Wolves’ physiotherapy team in 2006 and adding a Masters degree in Football Rehabilitation in 2010. In January 2011 Jon was elevated to the Sadlers’ assistant manager by new boss Dean Smith and he continued to fulfil a combined physiotherapist and assistant manager role until June 2016 when he was appointed Walsall’s first team manager, a post he held for two seasons until his dismissal in March 2018, bringing to an end a 16 year association with the Midlands side. Whitney then worked as a sports injury therapist and performance coach on a freelance basis.
Date/Place of Birth: 23 December 1970, Nantwich
Hull City First Game: 19 December 1998, Swansea City H (League Division 3), 27 years, 361 days old
Hull City Final Game: 16 May 2001, Leyton Orient A (League Division 3 Play-Off Semi-Final First Leg), 30 years, 144 days old
Wigan Athletic (1988-1989), Skelmersdale United (1989), Winnington Park (1989), Winsford United (1989-1993), Huddersfield Town (1993-1995), Wigan Athletic (1995, loan), Lincoln City (1995-1998), Hull City (1998-2001), King’s Lynn (2001-2002)
Hull City Record
Career: 67 apps, 3 goalsJon Whitney
|1998/99||21 (0)||1||-||-||-||-||-||-||1 (0)||0|
|1999/00||19 (2)||1||2 (0)||0||-||-||-||-||2 (0)||0|
|2000/01||14 (1)||1||-||-||2 (0)||0||-||-||3 (0)||0|