It's always refreshing when you get a bright young talented player come through the club you support, a player who you can see has an abundance of talent. Tom Heathcote has been one of those players.
Heathcote was nominated for the LV=cup breakthrough player last season for his outstanding performance in the first round against Newport & Gwent Dragons, with 2 try assists and hitting 8/8 kicks. Despite having many top performances for Bath he was left playing second fiddle to Bath's "World cup winning" fly half Stephen Donald, grabbing game time while Donald suffered injury. Whether it was pressure from above or the coaches selection Bath still stuck with Donald although the young contender kept putting ing better performances, this is something I doubt we'll ever properly know. With the announcement that Donald was heading east to Japan the hope was that Heathcote will get a fairer crack of the whip and get much more deserved first team game time.
Heathcote was born in Inverness making him eligible to follow an international career for Scotland as there is a wealth of talent fighting for the England 10 shirt. As Donald was announcing his departure Bath were announcing the poorly kept secret the George Ford was due to join the club for the 2013-2014 season. Bath were now going to be gifted with two potential world class fly halves, both very young with very bright future and the ability to develop with the club. Youth and potential ability has been Bath's agenda for their signings of resent, growing players and a team to become a great side that can return to the top for the foreseeable future, this was met by great hope and expectations by the supporters.
As the 2013-2014 season progressed Heathcote was getting very few appearances for Bath and generally featuring in Bath's United team, where as usual he shined. During the Premiership season Heathcote only featured in four games and missed out on even getting on the bench. The coaching staff opting for Ford with Henson or Devoto as utility backs to fill the void if Ford was injured, even Kyle Eastmond was drawn in to the fly half role rather than Heathcote. So why was this talented potential Scottish fly half being omitted from the team sheet? Yet another question which will remain unanswered.
In the run up to the Amlin Cup final news was filtering out that Ford would not be going on the England tour of New Zealand as he will require shoulder surgery after the final. With Ford carrying an injury into the game many expected to see Heathcote at least feature as a back up 10, yet again no sign on the team sheet.
Saracens have Owen Farrell as their first choice fly half and Charlie Hodgson as their second, they believe in rotation and Hodgson still gets plenty of game time and still shows flashes of the top class 10 he was, basically they have faith in their players and use them accordingly. Saracens also have Bosch as a long distance kicker and if Farrell is off par on kicking (very rare) he can step up to the mark.
Bath have also have an abundance of players who are very talented with the boot- Henson, Devoto, Heathcote and Eastmond who was a kicker in league. Surprisingly even when Ford had an off day from the tee nobody else stepped up and took the duty on to ease the increasing pressure from a still very young Player.
Speculative rumours began circulation earlier in the season that Heathcote was looking at Edinburgh and vice-versa, a very strong move to further his international career with Scotland. With the complete lack of first team appearances and continuous playing second fiddle it hasn't come as any surprise that the move has gone ahead, and really who can blame a player who has aspirations which are being hampered.
One very concerning issue is Bath at the moment are left with only one specialised fly half and a few covering utility backs. This leaves the club on very tentative ground in regards to Ford, he is more than likely going to be spending extensive time away on international duties, there is also possibility of injury, this could leave Bath very high and dry.
Will Bath draft in another fly half and if they do will they be happy to play the role that Heathcote has played over the last few seasons?
I'm sure many of the Bath faithful will agree with me in wishing Tom the best of luck for the future and look forward to seeing him fulfil his ambition and featuring for many years in the Scottish team!