FOR Yorkshire Carnegie’s new signing, Chris Elder, it is easy to understand why tomorrow’s swift reunion with stricken former employers London Welsh will prove such a strange experience.
The rangy full-back only joined with team-mate Ben West three days before Christmas, a raft of players leaving the Exiles as the uncertainty around the financially-troubled club’s future continued.
Indeed, they went into liquidation the following day, although they were granted a temporary licence to play their next two Championship games – a Christmas Eve derby with London Scottish duly won 37-5 and, now, a New Year’s Day trip to Headingley.
However, amid all the recent strife – Welsh have been in the High Court four times this year, are due again on January 23 over an unpaid tax bill of £90,000 and entered voluntary liquidation on December 7 – Elder also became a father for the first time as well as starting life at a new club and taking on some extra commuting.
He signed with Carnegie until the end of the season and debuted in their 24-17 Boxing Day win at Nottingham which sees them remain second, behind leaders London Irish.
Speaking to The Yorkshire Post, the talented 24-year-old said: “Florence arrived just over three weeks ago and she is a little wonderful bundle of fun.
“There’s been a lot of sleepless nights recently and long drives, too. It is a bit chaotic but I’m thrusting myself into it all.
“I’ve got family and friends who I have been able to stay with (in the north) and then it’s a case of getting back down there when I can and on my days off.
“Carnegie have been really welcoming and it was great to be running around on the pitch again at Nottingham, a few of the worries of previous games now off my shoulders.
“I’ve signed for six months initially as – with our new arrival – I didn’t want to sign up for too long as I just wanted to get my head around the logistics of everything.
“With Welsh here on New Year’s Day, it is going to be a bit odd playing against them. But it’s always a good experience playing against those you know, if a bit more challenging when you know each other’s game so well.
“There’s been some serious battles between these sides in the past and, hopefully, I’ll be on the other side of it this time.”
Ironically, Elder’s last game at Headingley was in April when he helped Welsh beat Carnegie in the British & Irish Cup final.
Furthermore, he scored the match-winning try when the Exiles won 10-7 there last season, delivering a stylish performance that impressed Carnegie head coach Bryan Redpath.
“The B&I Cup final is one of my favourite memories of my time there,” said Elder.
“We’d gone on a great run in the second half of the season culminating in being able to take something from what had been a very disappointing campaign.
“It is really sad what’s happened to them now and I hope they do manage to get something together and back into shape where they can last in the Championship and make a real fight of it.
“A lot of the lads have coped really, really well; they’ve carried on, embraced the new part-time set-up and just got on with it all.
“They want to play rugby and got a big win against London Scottish on Christmas Eve which is brilliant for them.
“These are really struggling times but, hopefully, they can ride out this storm.”
Welsh now train just two days per week and have lost half their senior players with many of those remaining taking on other jobs.
As a result of liquidation, the famous old club who were in the top-flight barely 18 months ago were deducted 20 points and, therefore, slumped from fifth to 11th in the Championship.
They have until January 16 to supply all the necessary information for the RFU Board to decide on whether the new company can continue to operate in the Championship.
Asked if he considered staying, the former Plymouth Albion No 15 said: “I think the fact it got so messy and guys needed to leave to make it more manageable for Welsh helped my decision.
“But also with Florence I had to take this option as it had more security. Now I’m just looking to impress here at Carnegie.”