The ambitious side of the league, York, has brought in several Super League players to help them gain high profile experience as they push for promotion into 2021. “There is a lot of ability in that side.” said head coach James Ford
By Marc Bazeley
Last updated: 24/02/21 05:59 am
When James Ford reunites to decide on his final matchday 17 for the York City Knights’ season opener against Sheffield Eagles next month, he will potentially pick a squad with around 900 games of Super League experience.
Although their candidacy to join the Super League for 2021 has been overlooked in favor of Leigh Centurions, the ambitious league club are well placed to challenge on the pitch this year thanks to everything that has been put in place on and off. ground.
A new home at LNER Community Stadium, shared with York City FC, and improved facilities at their York St John University training base have given the City Knights a perfect platform to lean on, while their recruitment matched these promotional ambitions.
Former Leeds Rhinos forward Adam Cuthbertson, who quickly joined pre-season training for his new side despite the effects of the shoulder injury suffered in the Rhinos’ Challenge Cup final victory. last October.
“I had the opportunity to step away from the game and take a little break, but I chose to jump into the deep end and go straight to training, even though I was still coming back from my shoulder injury before Christmas, because of the thirst for wanting to get involved as soon as possible, ”Cuthbertson said.
“We are preparing so well and it was evident from the day I walked through the doors that the attitude of the players and the general morale are excellent.
“It’s as professional as any club I’ve been to, from the facilities at the stadium and the way we train – the only difference is we do it three times a week. It really opened up to me. eyes to see how things are done at this level. “
Forward Cuthbertson joins former Leeds team-mate Jimmy Keinhorst, signed from Hull Kingston Rovers ahead of last year’s finally scrapped Championship season in York. They also picked three players from Wakefield Trinity, Danny Kirmond, Ryan Atkins and Ben Jones-Bishop.
The change from winger Jones-Bishop was confirmed in January after declining an offer to stay at Wakefield and is eager to move to his new environment after missing part of the 2020 season due to illness.
“The first few sessions have lagged behind the speed at which we are training, but it’s been good,” said Jones-Bishop. “The facilities are first class, and for me they are just well organized and the standards are high.
“I could have stayed in Wakefield and it would have been the easiest thing to do but given my free time recently I felt a new challenge was needed and it seems like the perfect challenge.
We have recruited some really good players, we have very good facilities and so that brings us expectations – but I would rather be in this position than in 2015 where I didn’t know if I had enough balls for a session.
James Ford, York Head Coach
“It’s an ambitious club with great facilities, and it looks like everything is in place with a great team. It’s a challenge for me and I can’t wait to take it on.”
Another former Super League player will also captain the City Knights this year, with ex-Leeds, Castleford Tigers and Hull KR Chris Clarkson – another player who joined for the aborted 2020 campaign – having been named skipper after that Tim Spears has stepped down from the role.
“It’s been a long year and the guys have kept themselves motivated to train throughout this year and over the past 12 months,” said Clarkson.
“We’ve started this preseason and now we’re nearing the end, and it will be great to see how far we’ve come from last year with the new entries there and the different squad lineup.”
It’s not just for York to simply recruit renowned Super League players and their experience will be vital in developing young squad members such as local talents AJ Towse, Myles Harrison and Toby Warren.
Head coach Ford is well aware that there is a lot more outside interest and expectations in the 2021 Knights than before, although he wouldn’t have done it any other way – especially since he remembers the days when the team sometimes had nowhere to train and the very existence of the club. was in doubt.
“There’s quite a bit of capability there, I really appreciate and love that,” Ford said. “It’s a challenge to work with players at this level because they expect a certain standard and we want to deliver beyond that.
“We’ve brought in some really good players, we’ve got a really good set-up so that brings us expectations – but I’d rather be in this position than in 2015 where I didn’t know if I had enough balls for a session. “