A REPENTANT Jeff Whitley is being given a chance to resurrect his football career at Wrexham – the club he deserted in their hour of need eight months ago.
The 28-year old former Northern Ireland international recently completed a 28-day alcohol rehabilitation programme at the Sporting Chance clinic founded by former England captain and self-confessed alcoholic Tony Adams.
And as he begins a trial with the Dragons, he believes he is now ready to conquer the demons “that took everything” and pick up the threads of his life again.
Whitley, who joined Wrexham last February from Cardiff City, played a key role in the club’s battle against relegation, despite going Awol prior to the final match of the season against Boston United, whose 3-1 defeat saw them drop out of the Football League.
In Whitley’s 11 appearances, which included his scoring the only goal in a victory at Bristol Rovers, the Dragons took 17 points – a return that helped to retain their League Two status.
But he now admits he let down Wrexham, their then manager Brian Carey and the club’s fans by missing the Boston clash.
“I have to say sorry to a lot of people for what happened in May,” said Whitley yesterday. “I feel I cannot let it rest until I’ve made amends to myself, the staff here at Wrexham and the supporters so I’d love the chance to do that.
“It’s no secret where I have been and I have had to address my problems before I could think about doing anything else.
“I checked into the Sporting Chance clinic for 28 days just before Christmas and it was the hardest – but the best – thing I have ever done because they saved my life.
“The problems I have had from a young age had taken over my life and I was on the verge of ruining everything, but I am now concentrating on my recovery.
“Everything else comes second to that, otherwise it will not work for me, but if I get the opportunity to play for Wrexham again I will grab it with both hands.
“I am dedicated to restarting my life and my career and I’m taking it one day at a time.”
Admitting that he had been given numerous chances in the past, Whitley added: “I feel I have still got something to offer, but I know I have to prove myself.
“I realise there will be a lot of doubters out there who only know me as a party animal, but that just makes me more determined to get it right this time.”
Wrexham manager Brian Little, who has already added five players to the squad he inherited in November from Carey, said: “Jeff is spending a few days with us because we appreciate how well he did during his time here last season.
“We know, too, that he has had his problems, but we have agreed to have a look at him.”
He added: “We are not going overboard about the situation and we’ll see how it goes, but we felt it was the right thing to do.”
Another midfield player, Tommy Taylor, who played in Norway last summer, is continuing his Colliers Park trial for a second week and the Racecourse boss is still actively seeking more new faces.
“Our league position makes it more difficult, but if we work hard enough hopefully we can find more players out there like Paul Hall and Danny Sonner – both of whom have made a positive impact since coming in last week,” Little said.
“In our last three league games we have been inches away, rather than miles away, from winning matches.
“Our results say we are not making any progress, but the performances have pleased us more than previously so we feel we are going down the right road, and I would like to change things even more if that’s possible.”
l WREXHAM boss Brian Little and new assistant Martin Foyle will answer questions at tomorrow's annual meeting of Buckley & District Reds at Buckley Cricket Club (8pm). The meeting is open to members and anyone wishing to join the fans' group.