PULLING on a Coventry shirt was something summer arrival Tom Wheatcroft always envisaged doing at some point in his career.
It almost came about four years ago when the Nuneaton-born centre was a victim of Cambridge’s mid-season financial problems and had talks with Cov about a move, but Ealing Trailfinders represented a better option at the time and it was another three and a half seasons before he finally weighed in at Butts Park.
“I had a few options – Coventry, Ealing and London Scottish – and it was just circumstances at the time,” said the 28-year-old. “Cov was only until the end of the season while Ealing offered the next season as well, and at the time I thought that was best for me.
“But I could always see myself coming back nearer to home and that there would be a time when I would come to play at Cov.
“I first spoke to Eoghan Grace about it at the end of last season, and it went from there. The first contact with Rowland Winter actually came while I was in Thailand on holiday.
“I was really pleased when I finally signed up and I’ve got no regrets over coming. We have loads and loads of potential in the squad – we are still finding our feet a little bit, but I feel we’re in a good position now and hopefully can carry that on.”
Wheatcroft started mini-rugby when he was six and played all the way through Hinckley’s age groups up to colts before moving on to Worcester, where he spent two years in their academy – playing one game on loan for Nuneaton – and then one year with the senior squad.
Two and a half seasons followed at Cambridge, where he played 65 games, before the move to Ealing which proved an eventful time.
“I got promoted twice with them and relegated once,” said Wheatcroft. “It was a bit of a mixed bag, going from one season winning week in, week out to only winning a handful of games the next.
“It was one extreme to the other, but it made me a more experienced player and playing in the Championship was one of the highest moments in my career. It helped me to develop massively as a player.”
Wheatcroft’s Coventry career didn’t enjoy the best of starts as he was concussed – albeit, getting away a scoring pass – in the league opener against Loughborough Students.
“It was in the first 20 minutes, I probably came back a little bit too early from that, and then I injured my shoulder and was out for another three or four weeks,” he said.
“But I’m getting back into it now and it’s going better and better each week.
“I’m not your classic crash-ball 12, I’m more of a thinker which is quite rare nowadays. I like to play, so the style Cov favour suits me to a T.
“The thing about National One is that there’s no one game when you can switch off and take your foot off the gas, there are tough games week in, week out whereas there is the luxury in the Championship of getting a couple of games off to recover. It’s something you have to learn to handle.”
Wheatcroft was named co-captain with Grace before the start of the season and is part of the players’ representative group which reports back to Winter and the back-room team.
“It’s going really well,” he said. “I feel it’s quite important to be able to feed back to the coaches how the players are feeling, and vice versa.
“It’s good to have that balance, almost like a middle man thing, and it’s working well. I think it’s what Rowland likes, the squad to be player-led.
“There is a massively professional air around the club. Training three nights a week really helps, and the players who are part of the community coaching team can do extra sessions around that.
“It’s definitely going in the right direction towards where we want to be as a professional set-up.
“I’ve signed for two years and hopefully we can achieve something in the next few seasons – I’m not looking anywhere but Cov to get back into the Championship.
“But we said at the start of the season that we weren’t looking too far down the line, just looking at each week and every game as a new challenge which is what Rosslyn Park away will certainly be this Saturday.”