HEAD coach James Ford goes back to his old Widnes stomping ground tonight for the first time since leaving for York City Knights exactly eight years ago - and he will be hoping both he and his club have a happier experience there.

Ford, then aged 27, had joined the former World Club Champions from Castleford Tigers in late 2009 but had a disappointing 18 months in Cheshire, suffering two hamstring tears and a broken foot in a stop-start period.

He made only 15 appearances for the club, scoring six tries, before joining York in April 2011 - one of the players to be moved on as the Vikings began preparing for their return to Super League after their "franchise" was granted a top-flight berth for 2012.

The Knights' last visit to Halton Stadium, meanwhile, came earlier that same month - a 76-12 Championship hammering. It was also the scene of their memorably painful National League Two play-off final defeat to Halifax in 2004. Indeed, they have yet to win there, albeit in few visits.

Asked about going back, Ford said: "I'm not fussed by that really. It's not about me or how I performed or how I felt when I was there. It's about what we do now and what both clubs are aiming for.

"Both clubs are looking forwards and what happened in 2010 is irrelevant."

Ford added of his injuries while with Widnes: "That's not an excuse - I didn't play particularly well when I was there. I was moved on to York - and the rest is history."

Asked about the "bad omens", Ford pointed out that game in April 2011 saw the debut for Kriss Brining - "and he's become a top player for York."

Brining, now back at York following his spell with Salford, became the youngest-ever Knights player that day when entering as a sub, aged 17 years and 148 days.

Ford, meanwhile, was in the Knights team - playing at full-back - the last time the two clubs met, when Widnes won 22-18 at Huntington Stadium later in 2011. He hung up his boots and took over as boss at the end of 2014.

Fast forward to April 2019 and both teams have six wins from eight Championship outings this term, the Vikings' five-match winning run ending with a 20-18 defeat at Batley last week.

Whereas hosts Widnes will field a strong line-up tonight including plenty of Super League appearances, Ford is throwing in several fringe players, with one eye on the Easter double header in the league, which includes a quick rematch with the Vikings at Bootham Crescent on Bank Holiday Monday.

He said: "Widnes are a quality side with a quality coach. They're a big club at Championship level. If they hadn't had their points deduction, we'd be on the same points in the league. We're looking forward to it and to seeing where we're at."

Asked if his team were big underdogs given the experience in the respective line-ups, Ford said: “I would assume so but I’ve not thought too much about that.

“I’ve just thought about getting our preparation right and making sure the attention to details is where it needs to be.

“I’m looking for levels of performance, and I also want to see where a few of these players are at. We have high standards at the club and I’m looking forward to seeing these boys obtain those standards.”

Asked which of the two upcoming meetings with Widnes he would prefer to win, Ford said: “I’ve not thought about that second meeting. I’ve not looked further than getting things right for this week.”

He added: “Widnes are a well-supported team and they (the home fans) will make a lot of noise and get behind their team.

“The York fans will be loud as well. I’m sure they'll do their best to get over there. I know it’s a challenge given the kick-off time and the change to the schedule.

“I really appreciate – and the squad do too – that these fans go all around the country supporting us.”