JAMES FORD has revealed that a significant number of York City Knights players will retire at the end of the 2021 season.

York prop James Green has already announced his retirement intentions and Ford said others are set to leave the sport shortly, although he would not name them at this time.

Knights head coach Ford was in a reflective mood after his side’s defeat to Bradford Bulls confirmed that they were unable to make the Betfred Championship play-offs.

This year has been one of Ford’s toughest since taking charge of the club after the success of the last two completed seasons, in which promotion from League One and a third-placed Championship finish were secured.

Ford insists that he has learned plenty of lessons from this year, including that of not having too many players in their final years as a professional.

“I think I’ve learned a bit about putting a squad together,” reflected Ford.

“We came into the season with two really good recognised halves in Morgan (Smith) and Brendan (O’Hagan), with Matty Marsh at full-back, with probably not much behind that really.

“I think that we’ve got to learn from that as a club.

“I’ve also learned that you probably can’t have too many players in the last year of their career.

“We have had some brilliant players in the back end of their career, like Graeme Horne and Ben Cockayne.

“But when you’ve got a significant number of players sat there who are going to retire, it’s a challenge.”

The York boss added that while he recognised the value of experience in his side, that also needs to be complemented by hungry younger players.

“I think it’s about striking a balance,” Ford continued. “There’s positives that the senior players have brought to the group and they’ve helped the younger players and me as a coach move forward, absolutely.

“It’s just that on occasions we’ve probably lacked a little bit of competitive energy and some youthful exuberance.

“We’ve obviously made some changes to that through the back end of the season when we brought in Mikey Lewis, Corey Johnson, Corey Hall and James McDonnell and I think it’s had an impact.”

While the play-offs are no longer achievable for Knights, Ford has stressed that York want to finish the season strongly, starting with a trip to Newcastle Thunder tonight (7.45pm), particularly for the club’s retiring players.

“The blokes that are retiring, they don’t want to go out with a whimper,” he said. “We’re talking about players that have had really good careers.

“They don’t want to go out with a couple of poor performances. I spoke to them about it and said, ‘When you retire, you do miss it and you wish you could play another season or another game’.

“My advice to them would be to enjoy every second on that pitch because when it’s gone, it’s gone.”

Newcastle sit just a place below York in the league standings and could overtake them with victory.

Assessing the Thunder, Ford said: “They’ve got two talented half-backs (Jake Shorrocks and Josh Woods), who’ve come through the Wigan system together so they’ve got a good relationship.

“They kick the ball well and both have got a running threat. (Bob) Beswick has got great deception and is still a really good nine.

“Ukuma Ta’ai, as we saw in the home game, is a real handful and we need to do better on Ukuma.

“And they’ve got some big fellas in the middle like Trouty (Kyle Trout) who are difficult to handle. They’ve put a really good side together and it’ll be a challenge.”