EXCITEMENT is the emotion coursing through the York City Knights camp as they prepare to take on Hull FC in a pre-season friendly.

It has been more than a year since the last time James Ford’s men took to the field in earnest - and to add to the buzz, they will do so on Thursday (7.30pm) at the brand-new LNER Community Stadium.

In the year since the Knights last played, the squad has also taken on a new look, with a host of players bringing Super League and NRL experience to York.

And this will be one of head coach Ford’s first chances to see how his new recruits have bedded in as he looks ahead to the first competitive fixtures of the season.

Coming up next Friday is a Challenge Cup tie at Sheffield Eagles before the Betfred Championship curtain-raiser at Monks Cross against Toulouse Olympique on April 3.

Asked if there was some excitement in the air, an enthused Ford responded: “You took the words out of my mouth. I think everybody at the club is excited.

“The club itself has waited a long time for this facility to be finished and for us to be in there to play our first game.

“The players are incredibly excited to be a part of that.

“We’re also really keen and really pleased to be back. We’ve waited a long time to be back out playing rugby league.

“The players are competing for a starting spot and that’s been made clear to them - ‘I’ve been impressed with what you’ve all done in training. If not, I would have said something’.

“Adding to that excitement is that they’re all going in for a spot against Sheffield.”

Against Super League outfit Hull, Ford is hoping his men will give him plenty to consider.

Last week, the Knights travelled to Leeds Rhinos for an opposed training session to build up the intensity of preparations.

Ford commented: “Leeds are a world-class outfit in terms of how they operate and to me they’re a benchmark for a rugby league club. It was great to be there and experience where they’re at. That was a good experience for us all.

“They’re a good side. It’s not for me to give details on who Leeds had out but the combinations they had out were strong and they look like they’re going to be a good side in Super League.

“I’m really pleased with what we did. There were some areas where we looked really strong and a couple of areas where we weren’t quite as strong as I hoped.

“But that’s what that exercise was for - to go up against a top-class side and they exposed one or two areas where we needed to focus on. They did, and we have done, and we’ll be a better team for it.”

Thursday will be a further step to returning to competitive rugby league after 367 days without a fixture. The last time York were out on the pitch, London Broncos were the visitors to Bootham Crescent on March 8, 2020.

“We’re looking forward to seeing them under pressure against a good team, trying to embrace our game model and the philosophies we’ve got,” said Ford.

“We think we’ve made them really clear. We’ve been stress-testing them in training.

“Ultimately, we’ve never seen them against an opposition in a full game.

“At this moment in time, I don’t know my best 17 or the 17 I’ll play against Sheffield and I’m waiting to be impressed.

“It’s been a long time since I’ve coached a game and I’m really looking forward to it.

“I’m really looking forward to seeing my players put their best foot forward and making it impossible for me not to select them.”