A return journey up the M5 is all it has taken for Moseley’s prodigal son Ollie Thomas to stop thinking the world is on top of him to feeling on top of the world.
Mose’s newest yet oldest player, who last week returned to the club of his childhood after 18 months’ full-time rugby with Cornish Pirates, is set for a first start anywhere since April at Sedgley Tigers tomorrow.
That opportunity has not come as he might have expected in the summer. At that stage the 25-year-old was part of the Pirates’ squad, had enjoyed a successful first season in Camborne and was looking forward to a second equally positive campaign. But, and he still can’t explain why, the mercurial full back was frozen out and limited to only 30 minutes’ pre-season action as Adryan Winnan filled his shirt and niggling injuries began to suggest Thomas’ future lay elsewhere.
With Moseley looking for a long-term successor to veteran No 15 Andy Binns, a return to the club both he and his father have represented with distinction seemed to suit everyone. Negotiations on a season-long loan were swift and within days Thomas was back in the Red and Black and making an intriguing cameo against Esher last Saturday.
The England Counties international was a second-half substitute for Binns and dazzled his way past three defenders with his first touch. “I was really buzzing, the adrenalin was flowing so it was nice to make that break,” he said. “When I first got the ball I wasn’t used to the environment. Since the last game of last season I have played half an hour of pre-season rugby so it felt a little strange. But after one run or kick you’re soon back into the swing.”
It was getting out of that swing that caused Thomas so much heartache. While he was unable to dislodge Pirates’ leading scorer Gareth Steenson from his preferred fly-half berth last season, he at least featured in every squad for which he was fit and developed into a specialist full back. But when regime change came to Cornwall, Jim McKay was replaced by Mark Hewitt, Thomas fell right off the radar and was overlooked for the first few matches before the inevitable physical and mental doubts set in. “When you are getting paid to do something, you actually want to be able to follow that through and do it,” he said. “But recently I felt like I was just training with nothing to aim for. I am 25 and can’t spend a year where I might play only four or five games - which was quite possible at that point.
“Initially they wanted me to go to Mounts Bay but no disrespect they are right at the bottom of National Two and I didn’t really want to take a backward step like that. Then Moseley came up and I said ‘Yes’ straight away. It was all done fairly quickly. I was told I could have a little bit of time to think about it but I didn’t need it.
“ I just want to play, that’s my only concern at the moment. Down at the Pirates you’d train just two or three hours a day and the rest of the time you spend worrying about why you’re not playing. You feel like the world is on top of you.”
The reverse is true now.
Moseley’s prospects will be improved by the return from Gloucester of Jack Adams and his cordon of flying Kingsholm Kids on the wings. No one, though, will be as far over the moon as the returning Old Boy.