JAMES FORD has admitted that there is more pressure from outside the club on York City Knights this year.

Since securing a third-placed finish in the Betfred Championship in 2019, York have had two off-seasons, following the cancellation of 2020, to add further quality to their squad.

The Knights have signed Super League stars Adam Cuthbertson, Danny Kirmond, Ryan Atkins and Ben Jones-Bishop as well as established Championship talent, like winger Kieran Dixon.

In total, head coach Ford has around 900 appearances in the top-flight among his squad.

Given the eye-catching additions and the club’s well-publicised off-season bid for Super League, to which they pipped by Leigh Centurions, expectation now rests with York.

“I think there’s more expectation from outside the group, absolutely,” said Ford. “I don’t think many people outside of York will have known too much about our players before 2019.

“But they’ll know about our players now. There’s always pressure at this club. We have really high standards and the players are challenged to those throughout the week and if they don’t (deliver), they know about it.

“That’s pressure (there), to hit those standards. We’ll set our own goals and we’ll do everything we can to hit them goals.

“It’s a bit of a corny phrase, but pressure is a privilege. We’re a growing club and we’ve recruited some really good players and therefore it brings some expectation on us.

“But I’d rather than be in that position than in 2015, when I didn’t know if I’d have enough balls for a training session.”

The aforementioned 2015 saw the Knights homeless, playing home matches at Featherstone Rovers’ Post Office Road, York RUFC’s Clifton Park and Heworth ALRFC’s Elmpark Way. The club also had several different training bases and, as Ford’s debut season, it was certainly a baptism of fire.

“I think that period has made me appreciate just how good I’ve got it now,” reflected the coach. “I turn up for training and the University (York St Johns) can’t do enough for us - the facilities are first-class.

“I’m enjoying it, (but) it’s a challenge, working with players of that level because they expect a certain standard because we want to deliver that and beyond.

“I do feel that the earlier days when things were a real challenge have shaped me as a person and as a coach and hopefully will help us get success this year.”

For all the recognisable names and impressive CVs that a number of the squad boast, Ford says he’s been most impressed by the characters he’s recruited and the advice they’ve given the crop of youngsters at the club.

“I think the club’s done a magnificent job in building a top Championship squad with a number of Grand Final winners, Challenge Cup winners,” Ford said.

“It’s a really talented squad and most importantly for me, there’s really good people in there as well.

“I’ll stand back and watch Cuthbo, Clarky (Chris Clarkson), Bish or Spearsy (Tim Spears) working with some of the younger players and giving up their time to help improve those members of the squad.

“They’re willing to come and talk to me about how we might look to improve certain things in our game.”

Some trade press outlets are tipping York to finish in the top three once again in 2021.

Asked just how good this squad is, ex-Castleford back Ford replied: “Well I don’t think I’d get in it!

“It’s a good squad with a lot of pace, some guile in the middle - Cuthbo is different from what we’ve had previously - and we’ve got lots of experience in Kirmo and Clarky.

“It’s a really good squad and I’m delighted to be working with it and looking forward to getting the best out of it.”