BILLY Clarke’s latest return to Valley Parade is “one million per cent” not down to sentiment, says Stuart McCall.

The Irishman is back at City for a third time after signing a one-year deal.

The move for the 32-year-old has attracted some criticism that McCall is just bringing in players he knows.

But the Bantams boss insists Clarke’s capture is purely down to his form for Grimsby last season and not history.

McCall said: “Billy ticks a lot of boxes but if he’d not gone to Grimsby and had the successful period that he did, because they certainly picked up and he was a big part of that, then I probably wouldn’t have looked at him coming back.

“It’s what he did when he went to Grimsby that showed me when I watched all his games that he’s still got the fitness, the hunger and desire and the quality.

“It’s not simply because he’s somebody that I’ve worked with in the past. It’s not an old pals’ act.

“It’s one million per cent nothing to do with sentiment.”

After being released by Gary Bowyer last summer, Clarke started last season with a short-term deal at Plymouth and then signed for Grimsby in January.

He made 13 appearances, scoring twice, before League Two was shut down and Mariners chief Ian Holloway was keen to hang on to him.

McCall sees Clarke as a key figure in the way he wants City to play.

He added: “When you look at what Kenny (Black) and myself have inherited, we’ve got four centre forwards contracted – and they are all number nines.

“I don’t think there’s anyone that can come off a striker or go out and play wide.

“We need to supply them as well and I watched closely what Billy did at Grimsby.

“You look at the way we’re going to approach things and Billy fits into that.”

McCall knows Clarke’s work ethic and feels his character will be important on the pitch and around the training ground as City look to pick up when the new campaign does kick off.

“Billy’s a good role model. He doesn’t like to lose and will certainly bring the level of training up.

“I’m also aware of what he did for me and the club before.

“We played some decent football in that first season when we got to Wembley and he was an integral part of that squad.

“Obviously Billy departed to Charlton at the end of that season and I didn’t even get chance to speak to him. But the owner was happy for him to do that.

“Then he came back for a second spell that wasn’t as successful. It was obviously a different scenario with where the team were in the league and where Billy was playing.

“But if he hadn’t have had the spell he had at Grimsby, this probably wouldn’t have happened.”

Clarke is McCall’s second signing after Levi Sutton. Wolves midfielder Elliot Watt is set to follow and City are also close to tying up deals with Richard O’Donnell and Dylan Mottley-Henry.