Jeff was born in Zambia in 1979 but moved to England at age seven and was therefore qualified to play for three different countries - Zambia, England and Northern Ireland (Jeff's late father was born in Belfast). He played for an England U17 side but at age 17, after only a handful of first team appearances, elected to represent Northern Ireland at full international level. He was immediately named in the Northern Ireland squad for their friendly against Italy in Palermo on 22nd January 1997 and will no doubt become a major asset to the Irish side. At around the same time, a transfer bid from Everton was received, rating Jeff at over £1 million.
Jeff joined City after being recommended to the club by his brother, Jim, four years his senior and also a player at Maine Road. He was signed up quickly at the tender age of 10 years and went on to play for Manchester Boys and Manchester County. One of the most skilful players at the club, he made his first team début at Maine Road against Barnsley on 7th September 1996 and had an excellent game before under-hitting a back pass and gifting the visitors a last-minute winner. This was quickly forgotten after a series of fine displays in the midst of a poor season for City and he scored his first senior goal for City against Bradford City three months later to earn the Blues three valuable points.
One of Jeff's chief influences at Maine Road is Youth Team Coach Neil McNab. "Neil has probably been the biggest help to me personally since I've been at City. He has talked a lot about being in the first team and helped me to deal with it all at the start of the season when everything was new to me," said Whitley. McNab's view is that "I have no doubt that Jeff will be among football's millionaires soon. He is a big, big talent and there isn't a better midfield player in England at his age."
Jeff experienced a difficult time during Citys departure into 2nd division, and was not close to a regular place in the team when he went on loan to Wrexham to help him get some experience. Jeff returned a different player and for the last games of the season and the beginning of the 1st divison campaign his effortless running and clinical distribution reminded of a Colin Bell in disguise.
After Keegan took over as Manager it became clear that Jeff's days at the club was numbered, although he performed well for the Reserves. An broken ankle put him out of business for quite some time, and a loan spell with Notts County proved fruitless. In July 2003 he was released from his contract and thereafter he joined Sunderland in their chase for promotion back from Division 1.