THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

Striker died at the age of 43

icon striker14 September ~ I got a late-night text from a fellow Charlton fan on Tuesday to say they'd heard that David Whyte had died. I found no confirmation on his Wikipedia page and went to sleep hoping that it hadn't happened. Around 11am the next day, the club put out their official announcement of Whyte's death. Tributes quickly came in on Twitter. Stan Collymore said: "Just heard of the death of David Whyte, a team-mate at Palace. Devastating news, a very sad loss." Meanwhile Mark Bright added: "Very saddened to hear my former team mate has died. Such silky skills and a dry sense of humour."

There were other tweets suggesting a battle with alcohol and depression. In Alan Curbishley's autobiography, the Charlton manager recalled that he and chairman Richard Murray had once gone to Whyte's house when he'd failed to attend the first pre-season training session. They were greeted with evidence of partying and their star striker still in bed.

Despite that, it is no exaggeration to say that Whyte was one of the most naturally talented footballers I have ever seen play, who could create something from nothing. I can still picture him, as a loanee from Palace, dancing through the Leicester defence in April 1992 and effortlessly rounding their keeper before scoring. Leicester fans had turned up in numbers anticipating promotion that day, which was ruined by Charlton's 2-0 win.

Whyte had also scored on his Charlton debut, a 2-1 win at Portsmouth a few games earlier. He signed permanently for the Addicks two years laters, as part of the deal that saw Palace pay a £1 million for Darren Pitcher. Whyte scored on his second "debut", an opening-day defeat at Oldham. This was his purple patch, scoring 21 goals in 41 games. After an injury-hit second season, he was joint top scorer in his third and final year, one of his nine goals being an audacious lob over David James in a 1-1 draw against Liverpool in the League Cup

The following season his final match at The Valley was in an Ipswich shirt, on the losing side in a 3-0 defeat. There followed short spells at Bristol Rovers and Southend before he retired in 1999 having played just 151 League games in a ten-year career.

On April 20, 1999, I was at The Valley for an evening game, a 4-1 defeat to Spurs and a result which pushed the club closer to relegation in their first Premier League season. As I was walking up Lee High Road, Lewisham, someone stopped me, spotting my Charlton shirt, to ask me what the score had been. He commented that it was going to be difficult for Charlton to stay up now with a tough game coming up at Everton. That was my only conversation with the man, who my team badly needed to have still been playing for them, fully fit. It was his 28th birthday. Brian Cowan

Related articles

Scott Parker’s wasted potential is a sorry tale of one poor career choice
Embed from Getty Images // Charlton’s best period of the modern era coincided with the rise of Parker as their midfield general but his...
There’s always last year ~ League One 2016-17
Fleetwood make an impact at the top, while off-field issues hampered some big clubs at the bottom – what WSC contributors got right and wrong...
Turf Wars: A history of London football by Steve Tongue
Pitch Publishing, £9.99Reviewed by Si HawkinsFrom WSC 360, February 2017Buy this book History may teach us the mistakes of the past, but...