The forgotten man of Edinburgh Rugby has finally upped sticks and moved back south, leaving a string of questions unanswered as to why he never received a single opportunity at RaboDirect PRO12 or Heineken European Cup level.
Ultimately the banishment of 23-year-old Mike Penn – if dropping into another highly exciting club Premiership with Moseley can be referred to that way – must be attributed to a judgment call by Michael Bradley or someone operating above the now deposed Edinburgh coach. But Edinburgh and Heriot’s loss is likely to be Moseley’s gain, with the English Championship side’s coach Kevin Maggs scarcely unable to contain his glee at acquiring a player who arrived at Edinburgh from Worcester last summer.
“He can play wing or full-back and even though things didn’t work out for him at Edinburgh, he was at Nottingham before that and he showed he can be a real attacking threat in this league,” said Maggs. “Mike’s coming to us to get himself back on the Championship map.”
Pre-season friendlies against Newcastle and Northampton, followed by a stint as an unused substitute against Ospreys, was the closest Penn (pictured), whose brother, Russell scored for Cheltenham against Everton in this season’s English FA Cup, came to an appearance for Edinburgh.
And that despite the fact that of the 48 players in the squad for RaboDirect PRO12 League matches only the injured Jamie Farndale and Steve Turnbull along with development pair Sam Hidalgo-Clyne and Phil Cringle failed to get some sort of run.
Even Alex Black and Alex Allan’s solitary sub appearance and Alun Walker’s two shifts from off the bench overshadowed Penn and Heriot’s coach Phil Smith sums up the sense of bafflement around Goldenacre regarding a lack of opportunity at pro level by saying: “I would look at Edinburgh selections and say ‘well, Mike’s better than him, or him ... but I don’t think Mike did anything wrong and would put it down to somebody making an early decision on his abilities and sticking with it.”
“Even those without the insight of a pro coach would point out that Mike was the player who had caught their eye. Mike must have been extremely close to being named as our player of the season because he really was outstanding.”
Among Heriot’s claims to fame are a succesession of attack minded full-backs who went on to Scotland honours.
Smith added: “Mike very much fitted the historical mould so far as Heriot’s and full back play are concerned.Mike’s speed of foot and strength gave us a big advantage. Part of me is really disappointed that Mike will be at Moseley rather than Heriot’s, but I have to accept that somebody desperate to play pro rugby is getting a chance again.”
Heriot’s, stripped of the player they nicknamed ‘The Penn-forcer’, will resume training for the new season on July 8.