USA To York Road: Danny The Star Out To Earn His Stripes

Hands up if you’ve heard of the Nebraska Bugeaters. No? What about Chattanooga FC? Not exactly names that roll off the tongue.

What if someone asked you to head to the other side of the planet to play for one of them but in return, you might achieve your dream?

It’s a dilemma Maidenhead United striker Danny Whitehall found himself bang in the middle of having been dumped by Rochdale at a young age.

After taking the plunge, he’s now back on English shores looking to pick up where he left off.

“I did a scholarship at Rochdale and wasn’t offered a professional contract,” he said. “I was just hanging around and I wasn’t really doing anything. So, when the opportunity to go to America to play football and get a degree at the same time came, I jumped at it.

“It was a hard decision in some respects, but I don’t regret it at all. I had an amazing time and met some incredible people and travelled all over America.

“At the start I didn’t know too much about it. It took me a while to adjust but once I’d settled down it was incredible. It was probably the best four years of my life. Anyone in that same position I was shouldn’t think twice about it - it’s a fantastic path to go down.”

With a niggling desire to follow in the footsteps of his dad – former Rochdale striker Steve Whitehall, the Stripes frontman had to become a student of the game across the pond.

But, as he explains, some of his teammates took that expression a bit too literally.

“I always knew I wanted to come back to England and play,” he said. “My dad played at a decent level for Rochdale back in the day so when I was younger, I used to go and watch him and always hoped I could do replicate what he’s done in the game.

“One thing I’ll never forget from being in America is when you’d get lads sat reading their textbooks during a game.

“I’d ask them what they were doing. They’d always say, ‘I’ve got an exam tomorrow.’ It was very strange because you wouldn’t get that over here anywhere.”

The BT Sport cameras are in town this Saturday as Maidenhead welcome Woking to York Road.

Asking a question about the effect of all eyes being on you usually yields a stock answer, but Whitehall tells it how it is.

“No doubt the lads would say it doesn’t make a difference having the cameras on you, but it definitely does. It has an affect because you want to give that extra five per cent.

“You want to avoid making a mistake and you want to score so people see it. The whole occasion of it is good because your family and friends watch you on television - you want to play in those kinds of games.

“You certainly wouldn’t get a game in the fifth division on television in America. Football is starting to grow a bit more there, but it will always but much bigger over here.”

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