HEAD coach James Ford reckons the return of Pat Smith to the York City Knights fold is like signing a new player – and one who will “bring the best out of the team".
Local boy Smith, the Knights’ club captain last year, has not been around the camp this year due to his day job taking him to Germany.
However, he has now landed back in Blighty and, while he will have to play catch-up as he looks to break back into a winning team, Ford believes the 26-year-old playmaker has what it takes to quickly get into the mix.
“It's a big boost for us to have him back,” said Ford of Smith, who watched Good Friday's convincing 46-16 win at Doncaster sat next to the head coach in the stands.
“It’ll be like having a new player with us.
“Not only is he a good player and a good leader but he’s a good person to have in and around the place when we’re training and preparing.
“He will bring the best out of the other boys. He’s got a real drive about him.”
Former New Earswick All Blacks ARLC junior Smith, who has been with his home-town club for two seasons after signing from Sheffield Eagles at the end of 2013, can play either half-back or hooker.
However, the team’s 100 per cent record so far this term - Good Friday's League One success at the Keepmoat made it five straight wins so far - means there will be no easy route back into the 17 for him, especially as he also needs to build up his fitness having missed much of pre-season too.
The form in particular of the pivots makes it an even bigger task. Harry Carter, for example, has been a revelation at hooker this year interchanging with try-machine Kriss Brining, while scrum-half Danny Nicklas earned plaudits aplenty at Doncaster with a commanding performance despite needing stitches in a head wound.
Richard Wilkinson is also another half-back option, having only been shifted to a new full-back role this season by Ford, albeit to great effect so far - including a man-of-the-match rating on Friday.
But Ford said: “Pat’s a very clever young man. He knows what he will need to do to get back into this team.
“It will be a lot of hard graft to get up to speed physically but he’s got the mentality to do that.
“We’ve also changed a few things structurally and technically since last year but he’s smart enough to get up to speed quickly with that too."