DEAN Whitehead has become the second former Oxford United midfielder to join the coaching staff at Turkish giants Besiktas.
The 40-year-old will be reunited with ex-U’s captain Adam Murray, who was appointed assistant boss in March, after leaving Sky Bet League One newcomers Port Vale.
The pair briefly worked together at Vale Park earlier this year alongside Andy Crosby, another former United player, with Whitehead joining as first-team coach last July ahead of their promotion-winning campaign.
Besiktas are one of Turkey’s biggest clubs and boast 21 top-flight titles but they only finished sixth last season.
They are managed by ex-Barnsley and West Bromwich Albion boss Valerien Ismael.
Speaking to Vale’s official website, Whitehead said: “This opportunity is something I couldn’t turn down and I’d like to thank the club for being supportive and allowing me to do this.”
The Abingdon-born midfielder joined United as a trainee and made his debut in 2000, going on to score ten goals in 136 games.
Whitehead’s performances earned him a transfer to Sunderland in 2004 and he won promotion to the Premier League in his first season, later becoming captain under Roy Keane.
After five years at the Stadium of Light he moved to Stoke City and reached the Emirates FA Cup final in 2011, before going on to play for Middlesbrough and Huddersfield Town.
Whitehead gained promotion to the Premier League for the second time with the Terriers in 2017, retiring the following season.
His coaching career first took him to Shrewsbury Town under former U’s teammate Sam Ricketts, but he left in 2020.
Vale director of football David Flitcroft said: “When we recruited Dean last year, we knew he was a good fit with our values and ambitions.
“Success naturally breeds growth and our environment and culture of developing people – both on and off the pitch – means our people will have the opportunity to improve and grow with Port Vale or, as in this instance, by their success being noticed by clubs at the highest level.
“When an opportunity as unique and exciting as this arose for Dean, we hoped we could convince him to stay, though we will never stand in the way of somebody’s development if the opportunity to progress is as significant as this one.
“He has regularly stated in our communications that this has been a difficult decision given the success we have enjoyed together.
“Dean played at the highest level during his career and from the moment he came in, he brought really good practices with him. His extensive playing and coaching experience was clear.”