York’s future might still be up in the air but Knights head coach James Ford has insisted he wants to stay and help the club progress as much as they can.
“I am ready to roll my sleeves up and start again and build a new team which will hopefully give the city another team they can be proud of,” Ford told Love Rugby League.
“My motivation is I want to grow my own reputation as well as help develop York and the players within it.
“In my mind I am still very unproven as a Rugby League coach. I have not won anything and that still really frustrates me.”
With everything that went on off the pitch at York last season, Ford admitted there were still positives.
The Knights reached the semi-finals of the Super 8s, but were comfortably beaten 62-10 by Toulouse.
“I thought we started really well,” he said.
“We played an attractive brand of rugby and we were certainly shaping up to be promotion contenders.
“There was a positive feeling within the camp and we were aware that there was still a lot more improvement within us.”
Ford, who only started his management career a couple of years ago, insisted there were various factors which caused their season to falter.
“We lost a few good players through injury, a couple of loan players returned to their parent clubs and then there was the issue with the ownership and how the club was being run.
“It did impact on us and we fell away if I’m honest.
“I felt disappointed in one or two in the squad because as a group we made a massive commitment to each other, in terms of the amount of time and energy invested.”
There has been a lot of speculation surrounding the future of the club but Ford maintains positive progress is being made.
“I am aware that discussion are ongoing,” he said.
“I have had the opportunity to speak to the potential new owners and it is a very exciting time for the club and the city in general.
“They’re making a commitment to bring back a scholarship programme to enable us to continue to bring young players through like Greg Minikin and Kriss Brining which is a massive part of a Rugby League club for me.”
Ford aims to take the Knights into the Championship and thinks the new owners share the same enthusiasm.
“We want to put together a really competitive team on the field and grow the club and become, in the short to medium term, a competitive Championship team,” he said.
“It just needs the sufficient time, energy and resources and from the chats I’ve had with the new owner that’s very likely to be the case.”
A number of players, including hooker Brining, have recently departed the club which was disappointing, according to Ford.
“It will be a massive loss,” he said.
“His try record speaks for itself. I am absolutely ecstatic that he is getting a chance to play in Super League.
“He’s worked really hard in all our preparation, taken all the feedback on board – good and bad – and has constantly come back and demanded more and wanted more guidance.
“Salford have got themselves a good player but they have got someone with an awful lot more potential than what we have seen.”
During Ford’s time at the helm of York, he has faced plenty of adversity which he explained has been an invaluable learning experience.
“The two years that I’ve had as a head coach have both been interesting,” he said.
“I have been met with a couple of challenges, in terms of managing the players on the back of one or two things that I weren’t in control of.
“I certainly don’t hold a grudge. The things that I have had to deal with over the last two years has been a fantastic learning opportunity for me.”
Approaching the business end of the season, the owner threatened to fold the club which was a huge distraction.
“There were a number of rumours flying about on certain aspects of the club and the players had questions,” he said.
“As a head coach you’re the person they come to for answers and you’ve got to broach these subjects and put clarity to the players as to what’s happening.
“That was really hard because I didn’t know myself what was genuinely happening or why it was happening.”
Even though the future is uncertain for the League One club, Ford was full of praise for Knights chairman John Guildford.
“He has run a Rugby League club for 14 years and he has invested his time, his family’s time and probably his own personal resources as well,” he said.
“He has given a fair bit to Rugby League and York and people probably don’t give him as much recognition as that deserves.”
When the RFL announced York could not be promoted, it was a feeling of frustration for Ford.
“The news just meant the amount of time we’d invested into York over the last two years was insignificant,” he said.
“That’s not just me that’s the players and the rest of the coaching staff.
“At the mid-way point we still believed we had a chance of winning promotion.”
In terms of recruitment, a number of targets have already signed for other clubs.
“Throughout last season we were formulating a list of players that we thought had the right attributes to take the club forward both on and off the field,” he said.
“A number of them have signed elsewhere and that doesn’t surprise me because they are good players and they are going to be in demand.”
Even though players that he wanted have signed for other teams Ford insisted he has alternatives in mind.
“I have kept in contact with a number of people and kind of reassured them that when the ownership of the club is resolved I would certainly like them to be part of my team and my squad,” he said.
“Hopefully that is enough to keep people hanging on for next week or so.”