Tom Varndell thought he would never wear a Leicester Tigers shirt again.
But, now he has a second chance at the club he made a name for himself, the England international is ready to repay the faith shown in him by former team mate turned Tigers head coach Geordan Murphy.
As for those who think he’s over the hill or here to just make up the numbers, well, you just need to see the passion in the eyes of Varndell and delight at being back where it all began to know that’s not the case.
“I’m here to play rugby, train every day and work as hard as I possibly can, which is what I want to do,” Varndell said, speaking at full time in his first run out for Tigers in almost a decade after the Premiership Shield fixture against Newcastle on New Year’s Eve.
“I’m no different to any other player, I’m here to play rugby and not to put my feet up or have a holiday.
“I’m an old head now at 32 and a lot of rugby has been played between my first stint with the club and now, I don’t think anything is more special than coming back to where it all started for me.”
Premiership Rugby’s record try-scorer didn’t take long to cross the stripe again, scoring one and having a try disallowed in the narrow loss to Falcons at Loughborough University.
As for having the chance to wear the famous red, white and green hoops of his beloved Tigers, Varndell summed it up one word.
“Amazing,” he said.
"It was my first club out of school, so to wear the shirt again, which I never thought I would is amazing.
“It’s so amazing to be back and to get the run out on straight away, despite the result not going our way, I just really enjoyed it.
“It’s just nice being back, the environment is good and Geordan has the boys fired up for some big games coming up.”
When Varndell left, Murphy was still playing and the next generation of Tigers stars making their way through the ranks were young-guns Ben Youngs and Manu Tuilagi, and the 32-year-old is excited to be back in the mix and ready to show his former team mate - turned head coach - what he’s capable of.
“Geordan’s just told me to go out there, do my best and if you’re playing and training well enough, the chances will come,” said Varndell.
“There are still players here in the squad who I played with. Manu and Ben Youngs were coming through the ranks, so it’s nice to have some familiar faces here.
“Everyone has to prove themselves, it doesn’t matter who you are or how much rugby you’ve played and that’s what I want to do here in Leicester.
“I am here to help 100%, Leicester Tigers is a club I hold very dear to my heart and for me it’s a priority that we finish in the top four and make the play offs.”