For many Sheffield United fans, that fateful November day in 1997 is still as gut-wrenching as ever. It proved to be the last time we’d ever see Dane Whitehouse fit and firing in red and white, before a horror challenge from Gareth Ainsworth ended his career.
Whitehouse has made it known in the odd interview previously that he isn’t too happy with Ainsworth. Of course, you wouldn’t be, given the nature of the challenge and the rumours of a lack of apology from the now Wycombe boss.
Still regarded as one of the best wingers Sheffield United have ever had, Whitehouse remains a fans’ favourite and has his name etched in Blades folklore anyway, thanks to his efforts against Sheffield Wednesday. However, he’s never quite opened up on that grim day at Vale Park. Well, until now.
Speaking to the Sheffield United Way Podcast last week, Whitehouse gave an in-depth explanation of what happened, and detailed just why he is so upset at Ainsworth to this day.
While Whitehouse is open and honest throughout the chat with Nick and Hal on SUW, you can see the discussion on Ainsworth stings. And rightly so, given Whitehouse’s explanation of events.
“I’ve spoke to mates and the club about it and I’ve not really come out doing an interview and said what I needed to say. But I’m going to make an exception. People need to know. People need to know what went off, then people can judge certain people in a certain way,” Whitehouse said.
“For me, personally, I’ve never got an apology (from Ainsworth). I’ve never spoke to him man to man. He’s never come up to me, man to man. I’ve heard through other people that he did send a letter apologising for what happened. I can honestly say I never read that letter.”
Whitehouse, as we know, has rebuilt his life following the injury. But going into more detail, the former Blade admitted he is surprised that Ainsworth hasn’t reached out.
“As a man who’s injured a player on a football pitch in the first half, at his own football club, he had numerous chances to come and see me. Half-time, he could have come to see how I was, he never did. Full-time, we left after six o’clock, he never came to see me. I was in hospital for nearly a week, I had some visitors, I had one from Port Vale and it was a lad called Billy Dearden (former Sheffield United player). Why didn’t he come with him? Why didn’t Gareth Ainsworth come and see me with Billy?.
“I was on crutches for 18 months. Surely in that period, he’s got time to visit me, to speak to me, or even ring me. As a person I don’t hold grudges. I do believe he didn’t go out and want to snap me in two. But as a man, you go up and apologise to that person and shake his hand and so on. If you’ve put someone on a stretcher, you know it’s serious so you make sure, as a man, you send your condolences and wishes.”
Clearly, and expectedly, the situation with Ainsworth is clear in Whitehouse’s head. Footballers put tackles in, they end up hurting each other, but more often than not, there seems to be some remorse shown. On this occasion, it’s almost like Ainsworth has gone into hiding.
And that, Whitehouse says, is what ‘boils his blood’.
“I had nothing. Absolutely nothing. This is what boils my blood. As a person, I can’t stand him. I cannot stand him. I’ve had my friends say there’s £500 for someone to run on the pitch and smack him”, he added.
“I’ve been asked before if he (Ainsworth) walked into this room what would I do? And I’ve said I don’t know. But I think it would take some people to hold me back. Because I think I’d have a go at him. I’m not like that, and I don’t hold grudges as I’ve said before. But he’s got no respect from me, or any Sheffield United fan who were there that day. And it’s all because of the way he went about treating me as a player and a person.”