“I HAVE really enjoyed it. I’ve loved every minute I’ve had at the club.”

So said York City Knights head coach James Ford, who celebrated a decade with the club this week.

Ford arrived at York as a player back in 2011 from Widnes Vikings. He went on to make more than 50 appearances for the club and captain the side.

Following spells as under-20s coach and then assistant to Gary Thornton, Ford took the reins ahead of the 2015 season.

Since then, he has led the club’s turnaround in fortunes, alongside new chairman Jon Flatman, by winning the League One title in 2018 and securing a third-placed Championship finish the following year.

The Knights have now established themselves as one of the leading contenders for promotion to Super League this year and are one game away from a final at Wembley in the 1895 Cup.

“It doesn’t feel like a couple of minutes since me and Thacks (Anthony Thackeray) walked through that door,” Ford said of his arrival.

“It was certainly an eye-opening experience when I arrived as a player. There’s been some subtle changes to the club and the team over that period.

“I think that I’ve grown as a person since I’ve been here as well and I’ve met some fantastic people. I wouldn’t change it for the world.”

Asked about the biggest change over the course of his 10 years at the club, Ford replied: “I would say the level of professionalism. I was shocked really when I came from Widnes to York at that time with the things that did and didn’t go on.

“I remember at my first training session, I’m pretty confident in saying that there were some free pies for us afterwards, which I was a bit surprised at.

“The club has come a long way (since then) with the training facilities, the stadium and how the club is perceived by the public and the people in and around York. 

“I feel like the team has improved as well. There are a lot of people that have worked hard to move the club forward - it is not just about me - it is about everybody that is involved. The players are central to that too.”

Ford may be able to crown his decade at the Knights by leading the club out at Wembley Stadium in the final of the 1895 Cup on July 17. To get there, they will have beat Swinton Lions - whom they thrashed 64-16 last weekend - at the LNER Community Stadium on the weekend of June 5.

York have not played at the national ground since the 1931 Challenge Cup final defeat to Halifax and have not won a cup competition since lifting the Yorkshire Cup in 1936/37.

On the cup draw, Ford commented: “To be honest, I haven’t really thought much about it because we’ve been thinking about Dewsbury and getting our preparation and performance right for that.

“We would have played anybody that came out. I’m sure that the semi-final will bear no resemblance to the game last week.

“It’s a different competition, the 17s, I’m confident in saying it will be a little bit different when we play one another and it’s at a different ground.

“When it comes to that, we’ll have to have a really good week, make sure our focus is right and prepare for Swinton, because if you don’t play well against Swinton, they’re a side that can really hurt you with the ball.

“We’ve got a number of games to come before then, Dewsbury being the first one of them.”