- DOB March 4, 1984
- Age 32
- Place of birth Houston, Texas
- POSITION Defender
- HEIGHT 6'2"
- WEIGHT 180
- U.S. CAPS 0
- CLUB Derby County
- TWITTER @zakwhitbread (15.1K followers)
- Youth Experience U-20
Houston-born defender Zak Whitbread is part of the growing American diaspora playing the game overseas. The center back has played his entire career in England, most recently earning promotion with Norwich City into the Premier League. Before that he cut his teeth in the trenches of England's lower leagues, where defending is famously at a premium.
Yet Whitbread’s career so far may be best defined by the succession of injuries that have limited his appearances for both club and country—although he's never represented any country at the senior level. Former U.S. national team coach Bob Bradley called up the blond 6-foot-2 defender to a series of friendlies in 2011, though injury prevented Whitbread from earning any caps.
Whitbread spent his early years in Runcorn, England, and then in Singapore, where his father, Barry, was coach of the national team. Upon returning to England, Whitbread joined Liverpool's youth academy and eventually broke into the first team in 2004-2005, though he also went on loan to Millwall that same season. He signed with the south London side and played there for the next three years, though long-term injuries limited his appearances.
In 2010 he signed with Norwich City, earning promotion to the Premier League at the end of his second season there. He started the Canaries' first game back in England's top division, yet came away from the match with an injury and spent three months away. When at full health, Whitbread was part of the first-choice back four, but injuries continued to abbreviate his appearances, and Norwich chose not to renew his contract at the end of the season.
In the summer of 2012, Whitbread signed a two-year contract with Championship side Leicester City. Manager Nigel Pearson said of his new defender: "Zak is a player of great quality that will add a huge amount of experience. He will be a great character to have as part of the group and, having only won promotion from the Championship a little over a year ago with Norwich, he knows exactly what it takes to get out of this division."
Internationally, Whitbread has only represented the U.S. at the U-20 level. Coach Klinsmann hasn't rung him once yet. But should Whitbread succeed in putting together an extended injury-free run in the future, there’s little doubt the U.S. back line would benefit from his rugged play and experience.—ADAM ELDER
Noteworthy ReadsAmerican Exports: Whitbread Transfers to Leicester City (MLSsoccer.com)
Zak Whitbread Wants to Repeat Norwich City Success at Leicester City (Eastern Daily Press)
Whitbread Back for Norwich, Eyes Chance with U.S. (SportsIllustrated.com)