Under normal circumstances, Scott Wharton would be strapping on the pads and walking out to the middle at Salesbury Cricket Club, rather than using it to stay fit for the possible re-start of the football season.

As the Rovers players wait on the EFL decision about a date to return to training, it’s the possibility of a League Two play-off campaign that’s on the mind of the defender as he eyes a third promotion from the fourth tier in just two seasons.

Last season Wharton spent the first half of the campaign with Lincoln, promoted as League Two champions, and the second half with Bury, who clinched an automatic promotion spot.

Now at Northampton, on a season-long loan, Wharton is in the mix for a third successive promotion should the green light be given for a League Two play-off campaign to take place.

The Salesbury-born youngster has been a key part of the Cobblers side who look set to secure seventh-place in League Two, which will end its season nine games early, but likely decide the fourth and final promotion spot through the usual play-off format.

The 22-year-old sees his initial loan agreement run until May 31, and while no deal has been struck for that to be extended, talks will likely ramp up once the play-off plan is rubber-stamped by the EFL.

Rovers will be happy to grant an extension were Northampton forthcoming with an expected request, with Wharton unable to play for Tony Mowbray’s side should their Championship campaign resume.

Northampton placed their players on the Government’s job retention scheme last month, as well as a number of staff, so Wharton has been working to a training plan set by Rovers while the season has remained suspended.

Back in East Lancashire, he has used his local cricket club, Salesbury, where his late grandfather was previously president and the club he represents on the odd occasion in the off season, to stay fit.

The suspension of the cricket season has meant the facilities at Salesbury have proved to be the perfect venue for Wharton to stay fit amid the prospect of a play-off semi-final which would likely see them meet Cheltenham Town in the two-legged semi-final.

His cricketing prowess as a youngster saw him play for Lancashire until the age of 13, before turning his attention solely to football. That has meant his opportunities to put the whites on have become limited in recent times, but the cultured, but hard-hitting batsman, does so when his schedule allows, and with the permission of Rovers.

Lancashire Telegraph:

He’s been working alongside brother Adam who is also tipped for a bright future at Rovers, already an England youth international and expected to sign scholarship terms with the club having already turned out for the Under-18s.

Scott, still only 22, is in to his fifth separate loan spell having spent time with Cambridge in the final months of the 2016/17 season, Lincoln in 2017/18 and the first half of 2018/19 before moving to Bury.

There he struck up a friendship with Nicky Adams, now a team-mate at Northampton where Wharton has played 40 times and scored four times.

Northampton chairman Kevin Thomas said the club are ‘comfortable and confident’ over the status of their loan players and said ‘they all want to play and I think their clubs want them to play’.

Wharton shot to prominence in August 2016 when thrust in for his senior debut by Owen Coyle for the 2-2 draw with Burton Albion, scoring three days later he scored in an EFL Cup tie against Crewe. But it wasn’t until November 2017, and a Checkatrade Trophy tie  at Rochdale, that he would next pull on a Rovers shirt.

A first half red card signalled an early end to his night, with that one of just three senior appearances made under Tony Mowbray, the last of which came in December 2017.

However, Rovers have agreed contract extensions with Wharton in each of the last three summers, with his present deal now running until 2022.

They have kept in close contact with Wharton, and his loan club, over his progress, and the defender is expected to form part of the club’s pre-season plans, along with the clutch of young centre halves that includes Joe Grayson, Tyler Magloire and Hayden Carter.

Mowbray, a centre half in his playing days, felt Wharton needed to be tested against the physicality of playing in the lower leagues on a regular basis, but with Rovers facing up to losing Tosin Adarabioyo when he returns to Manchester City,  and doubts over Charlie Mulgrew’s future, gaps have opened up in that area.

Speaking earlier this year, Mowbray said: “Wharton might be an answer to that conundrum and he might come back a man, big shoulders, strong chest, dominating, physically strong, winning headers, and he might be the answer.

“Over the last few years when I’ve looked at him through pre-season I haven’t felt that he would bring the physical domination that central defenders will need to bring in this division and up against the experienced players in this league.

“I think it has benefited him going out and playing in League Two for Northampton Town and doing pretty well by all accounts. Hopefully he can come back in the summer and make things difficult.", come back and say ‘this is the player I am, I’ve grown, a bit stronger and wiser’ and then give us some decisions to make.”

While his long-term future will take care of itself, in the short-term, Wharton is putting in the hard (22) yards with the prospect of another promotion on the horizon.