York coach James Ford has hailed this year’s pre-season as the best there has been at the club since his arrival in 2015.
With the Championship season edging closer, York are set to start their 2021 campaign against Toulouse on Good Friday in what will be the club’s first league match at the brand new LNER Community Stadium.
It’s now close to a year since York’s last fixture, which came against League 1’s Rochdale in the fifth round of the Challenge Cup, resulting in an impressive 70-12 victory for the City Knights.
And Ford believes the club have continued to grow on and off the field, building a squad that continue to work hard in pre-season.
He said: “I think we’re all really excited (to return). It was a very unique period with part of 2020 being written off. I think the players are just so desperate to get back and train.
“It’s been a challenge. We’ve had to adjust our planning because we thought we had so many sessions then it changed two or three times and so we’ve had to amend our overview and details of sessions. Then the guidance came out from the RFL in terms of how to best manage your sessions to reduce risk in transmissions.
“They’ve been pretty good in terms of trying to guide us and trying to help us. We’ve had to adjust things as I said, but you know what I would say – Covid or no Covid – this is the best pre-season we’ve had since I’ve been at the club.
“I think that we are fitter and what I mean by fitter is aerobically fitter and that’s intentionally based on the game and how it looks and the changes such as six again. That’s how we want to play, we want the game to be flowing and not stop-starting, so we’ve adjusted things based on that.
“I think there’s more clarity about philosophy of play, our systems and I think that’s down to the players. I think they’ve worked really hard in training and asked some questions and there’s been the right amount of challenge there.”
York have added the likes of Super League and Challenge Cup winner Adam Cuthbertson and former Wakefield skipper Danny Kirmond, while announcing the appointment of Chris Clarkson as captain heading into the new season.
Ford said: “I think the club has done a magnificent job in building a top Championship squad.
“We have a number of Grand Final winners and Challenge Cup winners, I think Jon (Flatman, York chairman) said this morning there’s over 900 Super League appearances in that team.
“It’s a really talented squad and most importantly for me, there’s some really good people in there as well. I’ll stand back and watch Cuthbertson, Clarky (Chris Clarkson), Bish (Ben Jones-Bishop) or Spearsy (Tim Spears) working with some of the younger end of the squad and really giving their time to help improve other players in the club and willing to come to me and talk about how we might want to look at improving certain things in our game.
“We’ve got good players and good people and there’s a lot drive there too.”