PHIL Larder admits the chance to give back to Keighley Cougars was too strong to resist after making his return to the club.

The 74-year-old will don a Cougars tracksuit once more after stepping in as the club's new director of coaching.

Larder, who has worked at the top in both rugby codes, says he wanted to repay the faith Cougars and chairman Mick O'Neill showed in him from his days as coach in the mid 1990s. Under his guidance Keighley won the Second Division Championship in the 1994-95 season. However, when Super League was created the following year, Keighley were excluded.

Fast forward to 2019 and the former schoolteacher Larder will act as a mentor to young Australian coach Rhys Lovegrove, but admits he has a burning desire to see the club reach the heights they cruelly missed out on more than 20 years ago.

Larder said: "Mick phoned me up and said he wanted a chat. I didn't know what it was about.

"I have a big soft spot for Keighley from when I was last there. I have a lot of respect for Mick O'Neill and Mike Smith. On Mick, of all the people I have come across in rugby league or union he is up there with Clive Woodward as one of the best. I had a brilliant time at Keighley.

"I always felt when I was coming towards the end of my career, that if I put anything back in the game I would put it back at Keighley.

"I always think I need something to occupy my mind and this all fitted in well.

"I owe Keighley and Mick O'Neill and the fans who were fabulous with me.

"When Mick said 'come and help' I was only too pleased to do so.

"I know what I'm like, I'm very ambitious. Mick wants me to be ambitious.

"One of the things we need to do is to bring one or two more players in. I've been out of rugby league for quite some time and I don't know the players any more."

Larder almost has the ultimate CV in both codes. In league, he coached Widnes, Cougars and Sheffield Eagles. He went on to international acclaim, guiding England and Great Britain. Meanwhile, in union he worked as England's defence coach under Clive Woodward, moving onto Leicester Tigers where the team won four consecutive Premiership titles and two Heineken Cup. He also had two spells at Worcester Warriors and worked as defence coach on the 2001 and 2005 British and Irish Lions tours.

Larder added he is looking forward to the task ahead of not only helping Lovegrove but also trying to get Cougars out of the game's third tier.

Larder said: "I think that Rhys is a young coach, he's very enthusiastic and knowledgeable.

"He is under a hell of a lot of pressure. The team is bottom of the league. This puts a lot of pressure on the coaches and the players. I am there to help relieve the pressure. I'm an advisor and mentor to Rhys. I'm just going to support Rhys and don't want to tread on anyone's toes.

"When I went to the Oldham game I sensed a lot of frustration.

"Cougars are in a tough position and they're not sure they are going to get out of it. The players at times on the pitch had their heads down, which is fully understandable after what had happened.

"I can lift them up and help them play to the best of their ability.

"I am aware the team has been thrown together at the last minute and not had a pre-season. When I was last here at Keighley I had had a full pre-season. I want them to be exceptionally fit.

"The chances of us getting promotion this season are against us, but not impossible.

"We've got to start building for next year and start building a backbone and start recruiting players and start pre-season early and ten we can win the league next year.

"I'm away on a pre-booked holiday for two weeks from this Sunday, but after that I am fully committed to Cougars."