NEW skipper James Ford is looking forward to the challenge of taking the York City Knights armband – but has stressed team togetherness should be the biggest leader on the pitch.

The Press revealed yesterday that the former Sheffield, Castleford and Widnes centre will be the Knights’ team captain in 2012 as part of a new-look leadership group also comprising Alex Benson as club skipper plus two, as yet unnamed, vice-captains.

But Ford, 29, says there are plenty of leaders in the squad and, more importantly, that mutual respect among all the players is what will stand them in good stead as the countdown continues to the new season.

“I didn’t expect it but it’s something I’m looking forward to doing,” he said of getting his new responsibility.

“It’s a different challenge but we’ve already put a couple of things in place to help bring people together and make sure everyone is pulling in the right direction.

“The players seem to be buying into the idea of a leadership group and in having ownership of your own performance.

“One of the concepts we’ve brought in is that everyone’s input is welcome and valued. Everyone respects everybody else in the group regardless of whether they’ve played one game or 1,000 games.”

As for direction, Ford considers Chris Thorman, the player-boss, to be the organiser-in-chief on as well as off the field.

He said: “Probably the standout leader on the field is Chris himself.

“We’ve had a few chats about things and we share ideas on the game and we sing from the same hymn sheet, so that helps. But he’s the head coach and probably the most experienced player. All the boys look up to him.”

As for Benson, who wore the armband last season, Ford said: “When I came to the club, Alex was captain and he did a fantastic job under some difficult circumstances.

“There were some difficult people to captain and he did a manful job and the boys looked up to him.

“On the pitch he does a lot of tough work and tough carries and, while he didn’t get the credit he deserves from some quarters outside the group, internally the boys all look up to him as a leader and we will continue to do that.

“People like Paul King – their input is vital and very welcome. The likes of James Houston will be important.

“But we’ve put a lot of ownership back on the group. We’ve set targets and we’ve got our goals.”

It will be the first time Ford has been a captain since his academy days and he admits he has a different outlook now compared to back then. Coaching at Wakefield College and now the Knights’ under-18s has also helped.

“I’m certainly a different person and player now than I was when I was younger,” he said. “I’m more responsible, more mature and my mentality has changed. I used to be a more selfish player wanting to score the tries but I understand now it is more of a team thing. I’m more focused towards the group and what the group does. That’s the most important thing.”

As for the Knights’ goals for 2012, Ford says they are staying in-house but revealed: “I’m sure if supporters knew what they were they would be quite excited.

“They’re going to be difficult to achieve but we want to challenge ourselves and under Chris Thorman we’ll do that. They’re tough but they’re realistic and we think they’re achievable.”