LONDONER Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook is approaching his ninth year in the red vee with relish and enthusiasm.

Now one of the longest serving players in the Saints ranks, the mobile packman upped his game enormously in 2018 bringing vigour to the defensive effort and clocking up plenty of yards with his carries.

And he will be on his toes again next year, given the development of the young middles, the return of Alex Walmsley and the signing of Joseph Paulo has intensified competition.

He expects to be playing more minutes as a prop, but has plenty of versatility in his locker if needs be.

He said: "I get told where to play. It is all right because I can pay anywhere, but as soon as the big boss man tells me where to go that is what I do.

"I will probably be more of a prop next year, but I can slot into other positions if we get injuries.

"I am versatile, it is just when they throw me out to centres when we get an injury that I just scream to Tommy to tell me what to do."

He is relishing the chance to play his part in the new-look team as Saints seek to go one better than last term and be in the finals for the two big prizes.

The 32-year-old said: "The new faces in the squad and are getting on well - Kevin (Naiqama), Cootesy and Joseph are looking good.

"They are all excellent acquisitions for the club and when we have done ball work in training they have shown what they bring. They are all very skilful players.

"We have recruited well - and hopefully they can take us to the next step because we fell short in two semi-finals last year.

"The fellas coming in, combined with the extra experience our guys have picked up, will hopefully give us that extra bit of momentum going forward.

"In the pack Tommo has gone from strength to strength - he is like a world beater and he will go again after a sensational year.

"We have a phenomenal pack with Big Al coming back after missing all year and he will be like a new signing. Everyone knows what he can bring to us really.

"Throw in young kids like Matty Lees, Jack Ashworth and Morgan Knowles and we are looking good.

"It is up to us to go that step further and get our hands on the silverware."

Although Saints finished top of the pile, having led all season, that made the defeats by Catalans and Warrington in the Challenge Cup and Super League even harder to take.

"The Catalans one in particular was tough to take. We all wanted to win that game but it did not work out.

"Wembley was in sight - and I really wanted to get there. I don't think we were ahead of ourselves we just did not play well enough.

"The Warrington game, too, and not getting to the Grand Final was a tough one - you are not in this sport to lose, especially when you are at a big club like St Helens."

A relative latecomer to the game, McCarthy-Scarsbrook developed his game under Brian McDermott at Harlequins, where he clocked up 97 appearances and earned an England call-up before heading north at the end of the 2010 campaign.

"It has gone so quick. It has been a real honour to be player for nine years at a club with the history like St Helens, and everything that comes with it.

"As a London boy, not knowing the game when I first started, but to end up playing for one of the biggest clubs in England is amazing."

He will get get two trips to his home patch this year, with Saints pulling out the newly-promoted London Broncos in the loop fixtures.

And he is delighted to see his former club make that surprise return to the top flight.

"It is fantastic seeing London come up, and I am especially looking forward to playing them down there - all the family can come out and see us that day.

"It will be amazing.

"Danny Ward has done an amazing job to get them back up - and David Hughes the owner has kept the club going in London.

"That is important because there are kids who don't play football or rugby union. Just look at me, Clubby and Sargy - we have all come through the system there.

"I'd be working as a plumber now if I did not play rugby league."

Although settled with his wife and two boys in the north, he does expect to return south when his playing days are finally over.

"When the kids see the grandparents and cousins ­— they love it but we don't see them that much.

"We probably will end up moving back down there because that is where the family is, but after six months I will probably look at my missus and say we need to go back up north!" he said.