JOE FORD concedes it makes him sound “crazy” but he is loving life coaching winless Yorkshire Carnegie.
Approaching December and still awaiting a first victory of the season, the former Leicester Tigers fly-half would be forgiven for thinking he had bitten off more than he can chew at Emerald Headingley.
He was named player-coach in August, his first venture into such a role, and was tasked with director of rugby Martyn Wood with helping cash-strapped Carnegie make the transition to a part-time operation.
With a severely limited budget, it is perhaps no surprise they have largely come unstuck, losing all nine games in all competitions so far.
They are in Championship Cup action against London Scottish at West Park Leeds this afternoon but Ford, 29, insisted: “I am loving the coaching.
“It’s tough when you’re not getting the results but little victories are good to see and the team is improving.
“The way they turn up and train and put everything in, it means I do love it even if that does sound crazy.”
He is in his fourth spell at the club having come through the Academy and made his debut in 2009 when they were called Leeds Carnegie and still in the Premiership.
Ford has had two other spells at Headingley either side of stints at Sale Sharks and Northampton Saints but clearly times are different now. Carnegie make a raft of changes for today’s game with three players set to debut.
Openside Will Smith is a member of the Yorkshire Rugby Academy who has spent time on loan at Wharfedale and played for Sale Jets in the Premiership Rugby Shield last week.
Centre Jack Metcalf is also part of the Academy, playing in the same game for Sale, and has also featured for Sedgley Park this season.
Finally, No8 Thomas Whitehurst joined Carnegie this year having previously played for Romanian side Timisoara Saracens, Esher RFC and Harlequins in the A League.
Ford – who has not selected himself – said: “There’s some younger lads in and also some players who’ve not had much opportunity yet to show what they can do.
“I’m excited. It’s a young team but there will be lots of energy and I’m looking forward to seeing what they do. They’ve got a point to prove.
“Scottish have actually gone pretty strong with their side just because I think they do have a chance of qualifying. But we’ve set ourselves some targets and we’ll see where that gets us.”
In the backs, Joe Carlisle, James Robins and Will Findlay all return to the starting line-up. The rest of the changes come in the forwards, with only Ed Bloodworth who played in the last game against Hartpury included. Yorkshire Academy player Adam Brown returns after making one appearance for Carnegie last season. On the bench, Joe Green could be set for his fourth appearance of the season and former Huddersfield Giants player Ross Whitmore is also included after making his first appearance against Cornish Pirates in the Cup.