BOSS Gary Thornton says he has been so impressed with the young guns in York City Knights’ squad that he would have “no qualms” about throwing them in at the deep end when the new campaign starts.

Highly-rated centre Greg Minikin has continued on his upward curve during pre-season after breaking into the first team at the back end of last term aged 18, and he could well win a shirt for the Championship One opener at home to Gloucestershire All Golds on March 2.

The other half-dozen players who have been promoted to the first-team ranks after taking the under-20s to last year’s play-off semi-finals – such as Harry Carter, Tim Stubbs, Luke Tomlinson, Adam Dent, James Morland and Scott Talbot – are also “knocking on the door” and Thornton admits he has food for thought.

Some of these youngsters are likely to get game time during first-team friendlies against Castleford, a week tomorrow, and Gateshead, but they will all be thrust under the spotlight when the Knights play an U20s friendly against Championship big-guns Halifax, which has been penned in for Thursday, February 6, at Huntington Stadium, kick off 8pm.

Said Thornton: “They’ve been involved in everything we’ve done in the first team and by no means have they devalued the quality of the sessions. They’ve all stepped up.

“They’ve all been given targets to achieve in the gym, for example, and they’re all achieving them, in some cases over-achieving.

“Greg Minikin and James Morland are doing particularly well in the gym, showing up well in tests especially for where they are in their development.

“They’re all doing well – the likes of Harry, Tim, Tyler Craig, Luke Tomlinson and Scott Talbot.

“Whether they’ll be ready for regular first team just yet remains to be seen, but their development as athletes and individuals is tremendous.

“It’s too early to say if any of them will go straight in or if they’ll play week in week out – we have to remember they’re still young, we’re talking about 18-year-old kids with some of them.

“Greg has broken through, though, and has had a chance, and they’re all knocking on the door. He’s kicked on again from where he was last year.

“How many games any of them play remains to be seen but we’re monitoring them all and, given what we’ve seen so far, I would not have any qualms about putting them in when we need to.”

He added: “People like Harry and Tim have tasted first team already and we’re fairly confident if and when they play they will be all right.

“We’ll see how they perform in the matches but the door is not closed because of their age. If these guys are ready and are good enough, they will play.

“They’ve got good conditioning programmes and they’re becoming bigger and stronger athletes. Their attitudes are first class as well. It’s great that they’ve got that desire.”