LEE CLARK is confident Damien Johnson will be just as effective in his second spell at Town.
The experienced Plymouth midfielder is the manager’s seventh summer recruit, brought back North on another season-long loan.
Signing on the dotted line hopefully spells the end of seven months of frustration for the former Northern Ireland star.
Captured on the eve of last season as his parent club descended into financial turmoil, the 32-year-old’s campaign came to a premature conclusion when he suffered knee ligament damage in December, having impressed in 23 Town appearances.
Former Blackburn man Johnson, born in Lurgan and capped 56 times by his country after starting out at Portadown, remained at Town until May, returning to Devon while he waited for his future to be settled.
With the salary cap kicking in, it was unlikely any club in League I or II would be able to take over his Argyle contract, agreed in February 2010 when they were still in the Championship and he was dropping out of the Premier, having been at Birmingham for just short of eight years.
And Plymouth’s precarious financial situation – fans had to endure a dismal slide into administration as well as a second successive relegation last season – meant they couldn’t afford a settlement.
In the end, Argyle and Town agreed to split his wages, allowing Johnson to reclaim the No14 shirt at the Galpharm.
“It’s great to have Damien back, and it’s something we’ve been working on since the end of last season,” said Clark.
“All the parties have had to be patient because the situation was that little bit complicated, but we’ve got there in the end, and that’s what matters.”
Johnson’s last Town outing was in the 2-1 home win over eventual champions Brighton on December 11.
He remained at Town as he started the rehabilitation process after knee surgery, so Clark and his physio staff have in-depth knowledge of how his recovery has progressed.
“Damien had a thorough medical before his return was finalised and he came through without a problem, which wasn’t a surprise having seen how he has progressed,” added Clark.
“He’s been training with Plymouth but we’ll take a good look at Damien ourselves, and it could be we put him through some special sessions to get him up to speed with the rest of the group.
“He was a key player for us, probably the best we had over the first half of last season, and I believe he can be just as effective this time.”