Scott Wharton puts substance above style, but admits adjusting to a new way of playing will be key to him earning a run in the Rovers side.

The central defender made his first Championship start in over four years against QPR before the international and impressed in the heart of a homegrown back four in the 3-1 win.

Wharton’s development between his Rovers debut in August 2016 against Burton Albion and his next Championship start over four years later has seen him spend three consecutive seasons on loan in League Two.

He’s been something of a lucky charm, winning a hat-trick of promotions, including with Northampton Town in July, some four months after the season was curtailed.

There he ‘grew a pair of shoulders’ in the eyes of manager Tony Mowbray who was keen to see the Salesbury-born defender get regular game-time under his belt.

Having done that, with over 100 appearances to his name, Wharton is now keen to compete for a starting spot at Rovers, but knows being able to play out from the back will be the next part of his development.

But he won’t let that detract from the first job in hand.

He told the Lancashire Telegraph: “I think the way the manager wants to play this year it’s a new style for a lot of players, but one we’ve all bought in to.

“My first thought is to defend, that’s my job and I want to do my job.

“I want to try and keep clean sheets, but the style of play is good and I’m sure we’re going to create a hell of a lot of chances this season.

“With the attacking players we’ve got it’s good for the group.”

Wharton worked under Keith Curle at Northampton, and with his Rovers boss also a former central defender, he says their advice has been key to his development.

“You’re always looking to improve but the managers I’ve been with throughout my career you’re trying to take a bit of knowledge off each of them and improve your game,” he added.

“I’m still young, only 23, I’m looking to learn and get better each day.”

Of the matchday squad against Burton Albion, when Wharton made his debut in the 2-2 draw, just two other players remain at the club. Sam Gallagher, who scored on that day, returned as a permanent player in 2018 after his season-long loan spell in 2016/17, while Darragh Lenihan, then used as a central midfielder, came off the bench.

Wharton went almost three years between Rovers appearances before his Carabao Cup outing against Doncaster in August, and he admits it’s been a long road.

There had been the opportunity to leave on loan before the window closed, and the chance could present itself again in January. But Wharton wanted to battle for a place in the Rovers side and test himself in the Championship. 

“It felt like ages ago and that I’ve really grown up since then to be fair,” the Salesbury-born defender said.

“I’ve had a lot of loan spells but this year I felt like I wanted to stick around, fight for a place, fight for the shirt, and I’ve been involved throughout the season so far so to get my chance, I was delighted, and I felt that I did alright.”

Substitute appearances against Watford and Middlesbrough arrived following injuries to Daniel Ayala and Derrick Williams, both who were unavailable against QPR. A chance of a second successive start will hinge on Ayala’s fitness, though the Spaniard is expected to be fit to face Luton Town this weekend.

The return of Barry Douglas and Amari’i Bell could also end Joe Rankin-Costello’s run at left back, having completed the homegrown back four against QPR alongside Wharton, Lenihan and Ryan Nyambe.

“This club is really good for bringing young players through the Academy. As a defensive four I thought we were good and kept them pretty quiet.

“The good thing about Joe is that he can play anywhere. I feel that he’s doing really well, he’s a good player and doing a job at left back, but doing it well.

“It’s not his preferred position but I felt comfortable with him down that left-hand side.”