ONCE, life as a No 10 was all a little stressful for Joe Ford, but now, three years after last leaving Yorkshire Carnegie, he returns for the third time a far more measured player.
Undoubtedly, that can only be good news for the club as they approach today’s Championship opener at Ealing Trailfinders, beginning the long road to earning, they hope, that elusive promotion back to the Premiership.
Ford, now 26, originally started at Carnegie when a teenager, when they were still called Leeds and were still in the top flight.
After his debut season in 2009-10, he moved to Northampton Saints but re-joined a year on, only to switch again two years later to Sale Sharks.
After three years with the Premiership club, he has dropped down a level once more, but feels readied to help Carnegie make the step that has evaded them ever since relegation in 2011.
“I think age is important; it’s really matured me as a player and, I guess, calmed me down a little bit, too,” Ford told The Yorkshire Post.
“I feel a lot more in control of my emotions and a lot calmer than in the past.
“I used to get really nervous and wound up, especially kicking-wise, during the week.
“I generally kicked well on the weekend, but I’d go through the same processes the days before and over-kicking probably left me tired.
“When you look at the best 10s in the world, they’re never flustered – they are always in control – and that’s what I need.
“I feel more at ease with the role now.”
He will take over the pilot position from Kevin Sinfield, the former Leeds Rhinos captain who had a brief nine-month spell with Carnegie last season.
Ford – elder brother of England fly-half George – could have stayed at Sale but, with irregular appearances, was ready to link forces with Bryan Redpath, the Carnegie head coach, once more.
“I’ve worked with ‘Brush’ before as he actually signed me for Sale from Carnegie and I had two years with him there,” he explained.
“If I’d have waited a little longer at Sale I could have stayed on again and I did really enjoy it there. But I had a good offer from Yorkshire and, once I’d spoken to Brush and seen how ambitious the club was, I thought it was the right time to come back.
“I feel ready to play week-in, week-out now, too; I wasn’t quite ready for that at Sale as a 10 but I am now.”
The pressure is on Carnegie, though, and Redpath, to secure that return to the Premiership; the longer they are away from the elite, the longer lasting the damage is to their long-term health and prosperity.
Last season, for all they reached the play-offs and a British & Irish Cup final, was, ultimately, a disappointment as they failed in both competitions and were far too inconsistent throughout the campaign.
Carnegie finished third, just a point behind surprise package Doncaster Knights ,who beat them in the semi-finals, but 17 adrift of eventual champions Bristol having lost eight of their regular 22 fixtures.
However, they have since strengthened on and off the field; three other former high-class players have returned – Gloucester full-back Stevie McColl, Doncaster No 8 Ollie Stedman and Glasgow Warriors prop Michael Cusack – among 13 new signings.
Furthermore, Redpath has re-organised his coaching team with ex-Bradford Bulls coach Jimmy Lowes re-joining having previously been in charge at Headingley, and Steve Boden, the talented Jersey forwards coach, plus Alan Tait, the former Scotland defence coach and Newcastle chief, arriving.
“Brush has done a great job,” said Ford.
“He’s put a good squad together and got some great coaches in so it’s all set up there.
“But we’ve just spoken about this as a team; we have to beat Ealing at the weekend, that’s our only aim. Then Nottingham here the week after.
“We have to just take it a game at a time, no more, get to those play-offs again and then it’s down to two ties.
“You’d expect London Irish to be there after being relegated and then three more.”
And what of brother George? “He’s had a great summer with England and we speak two, three, maybe four times a week, firstly about how we are, but sooner or later, the talk turns to rugby.”