BOSS James Ford says York City Knights could hardly have been handed a tougher Easter programme as he prepares to kick it off against old mates down the road tomorrow evening.

The Knights begin their gruelling sequence of three Championship fixtures in nine days away to Featherstone Rovers (6pm), before hosting Widnes Vikings on Bank Holiday Monday and then playing away in Toulouse next Saturday.

Ford lives within two miles of the Post Office Road ground he graced early in his playing career, but he and his players will still clock up nearly 2,000 miles of travel come next weekend given the long haul to south France and back.

The buoyant Knights currently sit third in the table after an eye-opening start to the campaign of six wins from eight games, with Featherstone eighth and Widnes bottom.

However, Rovers are regular top-four finishers in this tier, the Vikings, who beat a fringe York team in the Challenge Cup last weekend, would be above the Knights on points-difference but for their 12-point deduction, and fellow full-timers Toulouse are flying high in second. York, promoted from League One last term, could well be underdogs for each game.

"We've got to manage expectations," reasoned Ford, whose side also still have injury issues, albeit eased over the past couple of days.

"We've got three challenging fixtures - Featherstone away, then Widnes, backing up Fev, then Toulouse away, backing up those two games.

"It could not really be a bigger challenge. Maybe if they threw in Toronto away on the Wednesday it might have been a bit tougher.

"But we're excited by that challenge."

On whether the club had a points target for these next three games, he said: "We haven't set a goal.

"We're just looking at Featherstone and going as hard as we can at Fev. To look beyond them would be disrespectful to them.

"They will come at us very hard. We respect them and we will have to be at our best."

This is the first time Ford has been coach for an Easter double-header - it not being included in the League One programme in recent seasons.

"It's a challenge but I'm enjoying it," he said. "Trying to book different facilities and trying to get a schedule that works for players, players' families, the staff - it's a challenge.

"But I'm surrounded by like-minded people who want to be good players and play for a good team. They're willing to make sacrifices and I appreciate that."

Asked if he had to consider bumps, bruises and fatigue for Monday when selecting the side for Friday, or if Featherstone was the sole focus, he said: "The first game is the priority then the game after that is the priority.

"We have prioritised the league (over the Challenge Cup). That has not been a secret and it's why we've let players rest niggles and knocks in the cup games, to make sure they're available for the league.

"We want to accumulate as many league points as we possibly can."

Ford played for both Featherstone and Widnes before joining the Knights from the Vikings in 2011. He hung up his boots and became head coach at the end of 2014.

Asked if he had any additional desire to beat them on a personal note, he said: "I don't think there is (a personal element). It's not about me as a player. Playing and coaching are two completely different occupations.

"I enjoyed my time at Fev, I didn't enjoy my time at Widnes. So what? Everyone is past it.

"I bet 99 per cent of Widnes fans don't even know who I am, and I'm fine with that. Possibly some Fev fans do but if they don't, fair enough.

"It's about the teams and for me it's about getting the preparation right and serving up a good spectacle."

However, he quipped of local friends around Featherstone: "I've had a few texts from Fev supporters. They could be interpreted as being encouragement... or maybe not. I believe they were well-intended, if you want to read them that way."

He added: "They want to get one over on us, there's no doubt about that. It will be a big challenge.

"But I enjoy that we're here, competing against sides like Featherstone and Widnes. We're not just here to compete either but also to get better and to fulfil our goals."