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Tom or Marvin? Now it's Tom and Marvin for Whites

WITH much of the attention in Saturday’s big FA Cup tie at home to Poole Town trained on Marvin Brooks, who arrived at the Ray Mafrom the Dolphins, it is easy to forget that another crucial Whites player also joined us from the Tatnam outfit.

Talented midfield dynamo Tom Whelan joined Salisbury FC for the inaugural season in the Wessex League and in one of those ironies that football throws up, it was because he couldn’t get past Marvin for a regular place in the Poole starting line-up.

“It’s funny really,” says 21-year-old Tom. “I played a few games for Poole when Marvin was injured but when he came back, that was me on the bench.”

Before that, Tom was very nearly a player for the old Salisbury City club. It happened like this…

Born in Liverpool, Tom went with his family to live in Spain when he was two, his father in the property business. His Scouse accent comes from growing up a family that never lost theirs despite living abroad. “My Dad’s is thicker than mine though,” says Tom.

He came back to England to go to the famed sporting school of Millfield in Somerset where his footballing prowess was spotted by none other than Mikey Harris, then Salisbury City manager, now coach of Portsmouth’s Under 18s.

“I was playing for Millfield against Salisbury’s Under 18s and Mikey liked me,” says Tom. “I was offered a deal for the following season with Salisbury City in the Conference and I took it.”

Then came that fateful summer of 2014, with Mikey leaving for Portsmouth and the folding of the City club. Tom had by now left Millfield, whom he had captained to the Independent Schools Cup, and though his Salisbury City deal was dead, he decided to stay in the area to see if he could get a professional deal somewhere.

Playing half a season with Verwood in the Wessex League got him fit and Poole soon took notice. It became a frustrating second half of the season as he could not find a regular slot, however.

All the while, Steve Claridge had been monitoring Tom’s situation and though Tom was keen to play higher up, he accepted the manager’s offer and the challenge to establish the new Salisbury FC club.

“I didn’t want to sit on the bench at Poole and I thought Steve would be good for my development,” says Tom. “That’s been the case and I’ve played over a hundred games for the club now, so I’ve got that under my belt.”

He admits he was dubious about signing on again in the summer though.

“Losing to Tiverton in the play-off final was a blow,” says Tom. “It was worse because I was injured and couldn’t do anything about it.

“I do want to play in the Conference or the Football League sooner rather than later and I had to think long and hard about my options but I spoke to Steve and decided to give it another go and hope we can get promoted this season.”

So how does he view this Saturday’s second qualifying round tie against his and Marvin’s previous club, two steps higher than us in Vanarama National League South?

“I’m really looking forward to it,” he says. “It’s a big game for the club and all of us, not just me and Marvin.

“It was only a matter of time before Marvin came good, once he was fit. At Poole, he played a certain way and it’s a bit different here. It was always going to be about him getting used to us and us getting used to his game and I think that’s happening now.

“I think we’ve got a great chance. They’re not in great shape at the moment, having lost some players, but they’ll still be strong. It’ll suit us to go into the game as underdogs.”