Neil is back for the champions

Neil Clark and Ben Simon, Steelers
Neil Clark and Ben Simon, Steelers
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STEELERS’ title-winning former boss Ben Simon has turned down a chance to play and coach against his old Sheffield team.

And that is probably a relief for winger Neil Clark - who re-signed for another Sheffield season today - and his championship-defending team-mates.

Simon’s resolute leadership and undeniable playing strength - as well a sense of unfinished business with a club hierarchy that couldn’t ultimately retain his services - would have made for a formidable opponent.

At home in America, he told The Star: “I’ve had a few calls from people at teams over there, but not any I am considering. I was approached both as a player and a player coach but I said ‘No thanks, not back in England!’”

The league winning ex NHLer has yet to find a new club employer in north America, saying the transfer market was moving at ‘glacier pace’ over there.

That’s not the position at his former club, who have completed a deal to bring Clark this week.

Sheffield owner Paul Ragan is installing a smaller - he would say more realistic - salary budget for the coming season.

So to get Canadian winger Clark back on a possibly reduced wage is a coup, and partly due to the fact he is studying an MBA at the University of Sheffield; a deal originally brokered by the club last Summer.

Clark said: “The studying is important but winning hockey games is key to me. I loved being a part of a winning team last season and I fully expect to be coming back to another winning side in September.

“I love this club, the dressing room and guys within it.

“Maybe next year’s side will have some new fresh faces, if so we all trust (coach) Ryan Finnerty and the club to bring in some great talent and winning players.

“My role will be pretty much the same, to work hard and try and contribute in any and every way possible.

“I’ve returned home now after the season and my studies but already I can’t wait to come back and get on the ice again”

Clark scored on his debut against rivals Cardiff Devils last year and was pretty consistent in front of goal - he went on to chalk up 37 strikes and 69 points towards the Championship war effort.

Finnerty commented: “Goals are key and this guy has the habit of finding the back of the net. It’s important that we have a core group of guys back next year and Neil Clark is right at the core of our team. He is well liked in the room, a team guy and a winner. He showed last year that as well as scoring goals he was prepared to stand up for his team and his team mates and drop the gloves when needed.

“We need more of the same from him next year, his goals will be crucial for us. I like his style of play, I like the way he goes to the net and he battles. I think with Neil and (new signing) Colt King we will have two very dangerous and powerful wingers that will create havoc and cause many problems for our opponents”