Dan Beck’s return to the Rocks ranks has been hailed as a big moment in their season.
The captain of last season’s promotion-winning side has not kicked a ball for the Rocks this term after deciding he needed a break from football.
But he has now registered as a player and resumed training again - just at a time when his club need him most.
Manager Jamie Howell revealed he and some of the players had been nagging Beck to come back - while Darin Killpartrick said Beck had the potential to be one of the midfield stars of the Ryman premier.
Beck was put through his paces at Saturday’s FA Trophy clash with Bridgwater and his presence gave everyone a lift - as did the 3-0 win that followed to lift the gloom after three goalless games in eight days.
Former Brighton player Beck is unlikely to be thrown back into the side for every game at this stage but Howell said he felt ready to return.
“We’ve been working on him behind the scenes. We fully understood he had issues to go off and deal with that meant he couldn’t play, but I’ve been talking to him and so have many of the players.
“We all wanted him back and are delighted he has returned. I asked him if he wanted to come and do some babysitting - in our midfield.
“Suddenly we have a lot of young players coming into the team and they’ll benefit from having Dan alongside them - they’ll learn a lot from him.”
Beck trained with the squad on Tuesday night and looks to have kept himself in shape.
Killpartrick said he was elated to have Beck back in the squad.
“It’s brilliant news - the best news we’ve had in a while,” he said. “I can’t speak highly enough of Dan.
“He’s kept himself fit and in my view he can be one of the best midfielders in this division.”
The other welcome return at the weekend was that of Ashley-Paul Robinson, who tucked away two penalties in the 3-0 Trophy win in his first start for two months after a knee injury.
With Steve Harper also fit again and Mu Maan and Carl Walshe also pushing for places in attack, and Terry Dodd about a fortnight away from match fitness after a broken toe, the management suddenly have options up front again.
Things are still stretched at the back. Stuart Axten is two to three weeks away from fitness and skipper Ben Andrews is due to get scan results on a knee injury but fears cruciate damage.
The Rocks hope they can keep hold of loan duo Louis John and Matt Partidge, who have done well since arriving from Crawley and Reading respectively.
Killpartrick was pleased with the Trophy win over Bridgwater but felt the team’s second-half performance - not for the first time this season - could have been more clinical.
“In the first half we were excellent but our tempo dropped in the second half and Bridgwater were still in the game at 2-0. But we’ve not been scoring many goals at home and it was nice to put that right.”
The Rocks host Thurrock on Saturday and fans are being warned not to be fooled by the visitors’ presence in bottom place.
Howell watched them beat East Thurrock 4-3 in the FA Trophy on Tuesday and said: “They’re a good side and have just bought a load of new players.”
A week later the Rocks will host old rivals Havant & Waterlooville, who are struggling in Conference South, in the third qualifying round of the Trophy.
They beat them in the same competition five years ago - when a certain Dan Beck was on the scoresheet.