JAMES FORD'S surprise at being nominated for Kingstone Press League One coach of the year honours says much about the man's modesty.

Whether he picks up the gong at a prestigious awards ceremony in Manchester on Monday night or not, his shortlisting still reveals a lot about the tremendous challenges he and his squad have overcome to make the playoffs.

Ford, his coaching staff, and his players have performed something of a sporting miracle this season.

With no training facilities through a chunk of the season - shuffling from gym to gym and begging for pitches - and no permanent home ground, the Knights have still managed to keep themselves in the hunt for Championship promotion.

Add in Ford's status as a rookie head coach and you have a story that could end in Grand Final glory in a few week's time - a tale that would surely get Disney executives excited.

The man at the helm, though, would rather focus on the achievements of his players than wallow in self congratulation.

But even he concedes that the year has panned out in an entirely different direction to the way he anticipated when he first stepped in to the hotseat following Gary Thornton's departure at the end of last season.

"It certainly wasn't what I was expecting," he said looking back at his tenure so far. "It has been a challenge and it has been trying. I am really lucky that I have got a group of players who have just got on with what they have been asked to do. They have been inspirational, really.

"I am a big believer in doing something right and doing it to the best of your ability. As a coaching team we did that and made some promises to take the club forward. But the ability to use those plans was taken away from us.

"We were asking the players to deliver week in and week out and the club was not in a position to provide them with a fair opportunity to fulfil their potential. That was really hard. A lot of the players are really close friends of mine.

"I have played with them for a number of years and I felt we weren't doing them justice. They deserved an opportunity to kick on and I found that trying. I suppose it comes with the territory."

While some events have been unexpected, Ford still did his homework.

He put together his squad based on some key principles. What he was looking for was the right attitude and, because he made it a guiding focus as he put his squad together, he found he had assembled a unit that could cope with whatever was thrown at them - on and off the pitch.

Ford also learned plenty about himself.

"When we recruited, and retained certain players, one of the first things I looked at was what they were like as a person," he added. "Attitude was key and doing what they could to get to the next level. Regardless of anything that has gone on - the argument between the board and supporters and the council and the board - they have always maintained their standards and they should be very proud of themselves.

"I have done a lot of coaching over the last few years but the other side of things is managing people and dealing with issues. It has been a very steep learning curve and I have used a lot of people this year as sounding boards.

"I have got a great support network around me and I am very grateful to all those people.

"I learned very much that you can't do it on your own. You need a good team behind you. Mark Applegarth has done a terrific job. He has done a much better job than I did last year. Will Leatt (team manager) has held the club together and gone above and beyond the call of duty.

"I have had to learn some patience and I am probably not renowned for being the most patient and tolerant of people but I feel like I have improved as a person. That owes a lot to the players and coaches. They boys deserve it with what they have been through.

"You don't always get what you deserve. You have to take it. We have had nothing guaranteed and they need to keep focused and make sure they take their opportunity. They have worked hard enough for it."