HEAD coach James Ford has said he will be a proud man to lead York City Knights out at Wembley tomorrow against Featherstone Rovers in the 1895 Cup.

York’s game (noon) tops the bill ahead of the Betfred Challenge Cup final (3pm), which will pit Super League big guns St Helens against Castleford Tigers.

It is a high-profile day in the history of a team who not so long ago were playing home games at community club Heworth ARLC’s Elmpark Way. To say the club has come a long way since then “is an understatement” said Ford.

“Those days are well behind us now,”he continued. “We’ve got our new stadium, fantastic training facilities and the guys off the field do a tremendous job in building a good platform for the club to continue to succeed, develop and grow.

“Now it’s up to us on the field. We’ve got a great opportunity at the weekend to turn our season around by competing against a very good Featherstone side.

“I’ve not thought too much about it. But, thinking off the top of my head, I think I’ll be really proud.

“I’ve been at this club for a long time, having started here as a player and been fortunate enough to be given the coaching role. I have had some difficult periods as a coach. In 2019, to be in the Champion-ship play-offs, I was really proud, although that didn’t quite go to plan. Thinking about walking out at Wembley now and competing against Featherstone, I think I’ll be really proud.”

Not only is it a special occasion for the players and backroom staff who have got the team to within 80 minutes of silverware, but York fans have waited a long time for a day like this to come around.

“It’s great for the players, it’s great for the sponsors who’ve supported the club and the staff and board who have worked tirelessly to help the club grow and develop," Ford added.

“I’m really looking forward to it. I wasn’t a good enough player to play at Wembley so it’s fantastic to be able to coach there.

"As a club, we want to use this as a springboard to keep on growing and hopefully this can help us find some league form.”

The two sides head into the meeting on completely contrasting form. York are winless in six Betfred Championship games, while Fev are flying high with 12 wins from 12.

“They’ve got strength across the field," commented Ford. "They’re a very big side and they’re a side that takes some handling, so our one-on-one contact needs to be good.

“Their two hookers make big impacts on the game on the back of the ruck wins or destructions from some of their big fellas.

“They’ve been stand-out performers for me, week in, week out, their two nines. And they throw a lot of shape at you through the spine of the team, with (Dane) Chisholm, (Nu) Brown, (Craig) Hall and Tom Holmes.

“They ask lots of good questions and they’re a really strong side, especially when you factor in Gaz Gale on the wing, who has been an absolute revelation for them.

“They’re a tremendous job and James (Webster) has done a great job, let's not miss that out. He followed Ryan Carr, who was a great coach and did a tremendous job there, so he had a challenge and he’s gone better.

“Having said that, do we want to beat them? Absolutely.”

York are without Joe Porter for the clash but have the services of Adam Cuthbertson, who has recovered from a knee knock, and Mikey Lewis, who is back on loan from Hull KR. Youngsters AJ Towse, Myles Harrison and Toby Warren also make the squad.

York: Marsh, Bass, K Dixon, R Dixon, Jubb, Teanby, Clarkson, Scott, Cuthbertson, Brining, Stock, Kirmond, Spears, Whiteley, Jones-Bishop, Towse, Harrison, Warren, Washbrook, Dow-Nikau, Lewis.

Featherstone: Hall, Welham, Hardcastle, Gale, Chisholm, Kopczak, Brown, Harrison, Ferres, Lockwood, Davies, Cooper, Field, Sweeting, Summers, McConnell, Doyle, Spence.