EMOTIONS ran high for Tom Poole last Saturday as he entered the ranks of players to make 100 appearances for Coventry – a club he calls his home.
The 28-year-old second row joined Cov at the start of their second campaign in National League One and has played at a consistently high level to reach the milestone in a little over four seasons.
And he makes no attempt to hide the pride he felt leading out the side last weekend for a game which, fittingly, ended in a thumping 53-24 win over Fylde.
“It was an amazing feeling,” said Poole. “Honestly, I can’t tell you how proud I was to go out there in front of all that support and to join all the people that have gone before me in the shirt, the likes of Tony Gulliver and Dave Addleton, and all the others who have got to 100 games.
“I’m massively grateful and massively proud.
“A few people have said to me that in this day and age you don’t really see it because people move around quite often, but for me this club feels like home and has done for the last couple of seasons.
“I think I’ve been very fortunate in terms of injuries, I’ve kept my body ticking over quite nicely and I think I’ve had the rub of the green a bit there.
“But it’s not just me that’s got me to this point, it’s everybody who’s been a part of it – it’s thanks to the coaching staff who were here before, Scott Morgan and Dave Addleton, and then the new guys coming in, Rowland and Boris. I’m massively grateful to everybody who has been a part of the journey.”
Poole did pick up a couple of injuries last season which restricted him to 21 appearances and prevented him from reaching his century even sooner, and although competition for places in the second row is intense this season, he can appreciate the merits.
“As a player you’re always going to want to play every game, stupidly or not, it’s something that sticks in the back of your head – it’s that mentality that you’ve got to play and get yourself through that game,” he said.
“You’re always carrying niggles and there were one or two knocks I got last season that probably weren’t too enjoyable to say the least.
“But this season there’s a lot of competition for places, we’ve got some good lads in there with Jubby, Brendon and Rob, and it’s obviously nice to have that rotation option. It’s a position we haven’t necessarily had before.
“But, as I said, you want to play every game, you want to be in there in the thick of it, and when you’re not you feel like you’re missing out.”
Poole came back refreshed from a long summer break, which he says was needed, although a pre-season injury kept him out for the opening weeks of the new campaign.
“It was nice to have time away from rugby,” he said. “Almost 100 games in four seasons – this is my fifth – does start to take its toll on you and it’s almost nice to take yourself out of that environment for a while, which is what I did. I had a nice long holiday.
“It was good to have that, and when you come back it does leave you raring to go and get back out there, get in the gym, and right all the wrongs from the previous season.”
Poole also admits that it was difficult to see so many of his team-mates leave the club at the end of last season, although he never seriously considered moving on himself.
“I had offers from other clubs, but nothing to keep me interested.
“I think the biggest thing for me was that I was not only losing team-mates, I was also losing a lot of mates – I had some good friends who went elsewhere and to new ventures.
“A big part of this club is that it’s almost like a family, so to have most of your family leave is hard, I’m not going to lie.
“But I’ve not got a bad word to say about the club and the guys who have come in have bought in well to what we have here.
“You’re never going to have a shop-bought team of guys who are able to go out there and play the style of rugby you want to play straight away, and we are a work in progress.
“We’re getting there, and it did feel like a good team performance against Fylde.
“I’m happy with my own performances and I think I’m just more confident now as a player.
“Saturday was a bit nervy, the occasion was in the back of my mind, but that’s gone now so it’s back to business, back to getting on with it and on to the next 100 – but I’ve got a long way to go yet to catch up with the likes of Gully and Aggy.”