JOE BROWN is relishing the chance to face former club Bradford Bulls on Sunday (3pm) and revealed the clash is one he has been looking forward to ever since the 2022 fixtures were released.

Brown made the switch to York City Knights from Bradford in the off-season, having spent three seasons with his hometown club and established himself as a regular starter in the latter as the Bulls secured a play-off finish.

While York missed out on a top-six finish last year, the two club’s fortunes have diverted since then.

The Knights sit third at present after eight wins from 10 matches while Bradford’s 50-50 record from the same number of fixtures leaves them eighth.

Facing Bradford for the first time since his departure, Brown expressed his excitement at his Odsal return.

“It’s a funny one going back and playing your old club but it’s definitely something that I’m looking forward to and it’s one I’ve been looking forward to ever since the fixtures came out,” Brown revealed.

“I’m really excited about it. It’ll be a funny one to come up against some of my mates really but that’s part of playing rugby and I’m sure they’re just as excited as I am.”

The 2022 season has been a huge struggle thus far for Bradford, who had hoped to build on last year’s fifth-placed finish, but currently find themselves in the bottom half.

A three-match losing run saw head coach John Kear sacked by the Bulls late last month with assistant Mark Dunning since stepping into the breach.

Despite the gloom surrounding Bradford, Brown is not expecting an easy afternoon.

“We’re expecting the very best from Bradford,” the winger insisted. “They’ve got some good players and some players that are hard to handle.

“We’ll have to be at our very best. They’ve not had the best of starts but that doesn’t count for anything at the weekend.

“Bradford had a solid win at Cumbria (against Whitehaven) last time out so they’ll take confidence from that.

“We’re excited by the challenge, we know what threats Bradford have and we’re looking forward to going toe-to-toe with them.”

The last time York made the trip to Odsal, much of the pre-match talk was dominated by the shortening of the ground’s pitch in order to accommodate the stock car racing track around its perimeter.

A similar field once again awaits the Knights on Sunday, although it’s a surface that Brown knows well from his time with the Bulls.

“It’s very different compared to what it was (previously),” he said. “It’s a lot tighter and it’s a bit shorter as well.

“That does cut your space out but you can’t really go away from doing what works for you best.

“It changes things a little bit but it’s the same for both teams. It’s a factor but it’s not a massive talking point for us.

“We’re not too struck upon about the pitch because both teams have got to deal with it.”

Should James Ford’s side prevail at Odsal, they would open up an eight-point lead in the table over their opponents.

An away win would also see York go some way to avenging the double Bradford managed over them last term.

Prior to 2021, the York-Bradford rivalry had produced both a compelling Betfred League One title race in 2018 and several close contests.

Three matches between the pair from 2018 to 2019 were decided by two points or fewer.

“When I re-signed for Bradford (in 2019), I made my second appearance against York and we got beat by a point (in a 25-24 defeat at Bootham Crescent),” Brown recalled.

“I knew from then that there was a rivalry building between Bradford and York after both sides were in their first years back in the Championship after being promoted.

“It’s a rivalry that has built nicely and they are big games. It’s hard to know how to fully explain it but they’re big games and both clubs go all out to win them.

“It’ll be an interesting, intense and tough game at the weekend.”