JAMES FORD admits that the timing of York City Knights’ first pre-season friendly against Midlands Hurricanes is “not ideal.”

York begin their 2022 season against the newly-rebranded Betfred League One club on Friday, less than a week after returning from a break over the festive period.

The match at the LNER Community Stadium is the club’s first of the year, with the Knights due to host Betfred Super League side Castleford Tigers the following week before their Betfred Championship round one clash with Featherstone Rovers on January 31.

Speaking about York’s season opener against Midlands, head coach Ford conceded: “It’s not ideal because we’re coming off a Christmas break of two weeks and then after two sessions we’re going to play a game.

“Part of me is frustrated by that, but we don’t live in a perfect world and you’ve got to make the best of things, and we are going to do.

“What I’m looking for is the players implementing things that we’ve worked on, I want to see combinations growing and I want to see players competing and showing the characteristics that I believe a York player should show.

“I’m really confident that they will do.”

While the scheduling of York’s first friendly may not be to Ford’s satisfaction, the club’s preparations behind the scenes during pre-season have been.

The Knights chief described the winter as a “much more York-like pre-season” following the end of restrictions in training limiting the number of players in particular groups.

“We’ve had plenty of meetings and discussions about last year and we wanted to learn some lessons from that,” said Ford.

“One of those (lessons) would be the amount of preventable injuries that we picked up.

“I’m not saying that all of them were preventable, some of them were just absolutely unfortunate.

“But we wanted to minimize the impact of that on the start of our season and we’ve been really successful in that area.

“I’m really pleased with how the new boys have settled in and how the combinations have worked and are growing.

“Up to now, there’s been no restrictions to what we can or cannot do in training, so it’s been a much more York-like pre-season, I’d say.”

On the current precautions in place amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Ford added: “We test once a week and we take sensible precautions, but in society there’s not that many (restrictions).

“We’re being sensible but we’re not going to let it impact on us as we did last year.

“It’s been a lot more like a York pre-season and they look much more like a York team.”

York’s friendly with Midlands Hurricanes is one of two friendlies before their league season opener with Featherstone.

For Ford, the games are a chance for his players to stake their claims for starting places when competitive action gets underway.

“There will be plenty of players out there competing for a place,” insisted the coach.

“I’ve always said that the players pick the team. I don’t know what my best 21 or 17 is, let alone my best 13 at the minute.

“Their behaviours and actions will help me decide what that team is.”

York’s Betfred League One opponents, Midlands Hurricanes, are an unknown quantity this year having made several changes to their squad amid their off-season rebrand.

“I don’t know what to expect, to be honest,” Ford admitted. “Coventry, the team they’ve evolved from, started last season really well.

“I watched them play a couple of times because we loaned them AJ Towse for a couple of games.

“I thought that they were a decent side but I’m not sure how many of those players they’ve retained. But they’ve got some decent young players from around Hull.

“It’ll be interesting to see where they’re at, at the minute.”