JAMES FORD is expecting a riled up Sheffield Eagles to meet his side head on, amid the recent media attention surrounding York City Knights.

York have grabbed the headlines over the past week after delivering an impressive display in last week’s 28-22 friendly defeat to Betfred Super League side Hull FC in the club’s first game at the LNER Community Stadium.

The Knights have also made plenty of noise over the off-season too, producing a vocal campaign to be promoted to Super League and bringing in plenty of ex-top-flight stars such as Adam Cuthbertson, Ryan Atkins and Danny Kirmond.

Having previously been coached by Sheffield coach Mark Aston during his playing career, Knights boss Ford knows all about the Eagles chief ahead of tomorrow night's Betfred Challenge Cup season opener between the two sides (7.45pm).

Ford said: “They’re a good team and Mark is obviously a very experienced coach. He’ll have seen the press that York are getting and rightly so.

“Knowing Mark as I do, I think that will rile him a little bit and he’ll get them coming after us. But that’s something that we’re going to have to get used to because we can’t help what people say about us and we can’t help that we’ve got a new stadium.

“If that’s a motivation for other sides, then so be it. I’d rather be in the position I am now than the position I was in 2015 and 2016, so I’m not going to moan about it.

“I’m delighted that we’ve got a fantastic facility to play in and a fantastic facility to train in and I’m delighted that I’m getting to work with the calibre of players I’m working with.

“If that means that teams grit their teeth against us, then so what, that’s rugby league isn’t it?”

In 2019, Sheffield finished seventh in the Betfred Championship and also won the inaugural 1895 Cup at Wembley Stadium.

The Eagles were won of only four clubs to beat York in a league game that year too.

“Absolutely,” said Ford when asked if he foresees the Eagles challenging for a top six spot in 2021.

“They’ve got a strong side. They finished seventh in 2019 and they’ve added a couple of signings to that, plus they’ve got James Glover and Matt James back, who are really good players.

“James gives them some contact in the middle and Glover is a centre that can score a try out of nothing.

“They will be a strong side and we’ll need to be good but ultimately it’s about us. They haven’t played for a year, we’ve played once in a year, so I’m not sure you can go back to 2019 and take too much from it.

“We just need to focus on us, make sure we complete high, kick well and chase hard, and have good shape and have no knock-offs in attack or defence and transition well and if we do that I’m sure we’ll come up with a positive performance.”

If the Knights are to book a spot in the second round of the Cup, where they would then play the winner of Saturday’s tie between London Broncos and Keighley Cougars, they may have to stop Sheffield half-back Anthony Thackeray.

The playmaker, 35, has been one of the most potent players at Championship level for several years.

Ford said: “He is probably their main attacking threat. When things aren’t quite going to plan for Sheffield, he steps up, gets on the ball and, to be honest, I think he makes it up as he goes along a little bit.

“But that’s when he’s at his strongest, when he has the ball off the deck and he’s running into us, rather than sitting out of the back of the middles.

“I think Anthony is a player that’s probably learnt his trade playing in the streets and he’s better with the ball in his hands.

“There’s some strengths to Thack’s game, but there’s some weaknesses too and he knows that we’re aware of that and we’ll be testing him out.”