THERE will be few more popular deals confirmed this off-season than the return of winger James Clare to Super League side Castleford Tigers.
The fans favourite has rejoined his hometown club from Leigh Centurions on a one-year deal. Some say he should never have left Wheldon Road in the first place.
Having played just around the corner at Lock Lane ARLFC, Clare came through Tigers’ youth system before making his debut in 2012.
Pacey Clare quickly endeared himself with the West Yorkshire club’s support following a series of hard-working performances including the scoring of some memorable tries.
Nevertheless, with competition so strong, he was unable to command regular football and, despite crossing 24 times in 38 games, left midway through the 2015 season to join Bradford Bulls, feeling the need to further his career elsewhere.
It was a move that worked well for both parties at the time but clearly Clare, a lifelong fan as popular around the club as he is with those fans, always hoped to return.
In 2016, he enjoyed a fine season with Bradford in the Championship, scoring 18 tries in 23 games, only to see his time at Odsal end after the club hit yet more financial trouble.
Clare returned to Super League with Leigh at the start of this year but suffered a cruciate knee injury in pre-season and duly missed most of the campaign.
That said, he returned in the Super 8s and proved he is just as prolific as before that setback, scoring six tries in only five matches.
But Leigh, of course, were relegated and, therefore, Clare became available once more.
Cas are the club that I’ve supported for my entire life so to be back here and to have another chance to pull on this famous shirt is great.James Clare
Castleford coach Daryl Powell, having led his side to a maiden League Leaders’ Shield and Grand Final in 2017, has given him another chance although Clare faces stiff competition from Super League’s top try-scorer Greg Eden and Greg Minikin.
The Tigers have also signed Papua New Guinea World Cup winger Garry L0 for the new campaign, but Lo said: “I’m very excited to be coming back to the Tigers.
“Cas are the club that I’ve supported for my entire life so to be back here and to have another chance to pull on this famous shirt is great.
“I’d almost agreed something with another club but I met with (chief executive) Steve Gill and he let me know they could be an opportunity here.
“I pushed for the move as much as I could because I knew I always wanted to come back here.”
Castleford have an option to extend Clare’s deal by a further year and Powell admitted: “James has strengthened and got bigger physically as a player during his time away from the club.
“I think he will really challenge the players on the wings to be right on top of their games, and I am looking forward to seeing how he goes.
“He has got a great opportunity now to show us what he is all about.”