HEAD coach James Ford says his new-look York City Knights squad are "much further ahead" in pre-season preparations than this time last year - and has intimated they will soon be boosted too by further notable additions.

Ford's class of 2017 reached the Kingstone Press League One play-offs this year before losing in heartbreaking fashion at Whitehaven deep into golden point extra time of an epic semi-final.

And they enjoyed such an encouraging campaign despite the off-field strife 12 months ago, when the club nearly closed down under the old regime and had to start the year playing catch-up following the successful takeover by the consortium fronted by current chairman Jon Flatman.

Ford, now heading into his fourth season at the helm, says things are looking better than ever at this time of year.

"I'm really happy with how they're training. The culture and attitude to hard work is fantastic," he said, the squad having begun training last month.

"In comparison to last year, with the skill levels and understanding being shown, we're having to progress things quicker.

"We're much further ahead than where we were this time last year and where we expected to be.

"That's a really positive indicator of the boys' attitude towards hard work and improving."

Asked if the squad had been working predominantly on fitness - traditionally the predominant feature of early pre-season training, with such things as horrible hill sprints - Ford said: "There's much more to it than that these days.

"There is a time and a place for physical work, obviously. You plan to improve the players' physical qualities but you also work on mental qualities and an awful lot of time is spent on improving skill and decision-making and building relationships. Then you test all that under fatigue.

"The players are in good nick. Everyone is lifting the culture of the club and things are coming on really well, certainly when compared to this time last year. We're really happy."

Ford, meanwhile, says chairman Jon Flatman is "close" to tying up two new signings, though he has remained tight-lipped on names.

"We're always looking to strengthen the team and the squad, and this period is no different to any other," he said.

"Jon and I are working hard behind the scenes on that. Jon feels he's close to concluding a couple of deals that will certainly benefit the squad and the team, and they won't be the last two either.

"In sport you never have certainty so we don't want to release details yet but I'm confident, knowing the players as I do, that we will soon conclude things."

As regards signings, Ford admitted he had spoken to Kieran Moran about staying at Bootham Crescent before the prop signed for Championship side Sheffield last week.

Hull KR forward Moran played 18 times on dual-reg for York last season, impressing enough to win a place in the Scotland squad for the World Cup.

Ford, however, said he preferred to spend contract money "in other areas".

"He's somebody we had spoken to," said Ford. "He had done really well and contributed to our performances in a positive way.

"However, we've got to cut our cloth accordingly and, as much as we'd like to have him here, I felt it was more appropriate we used those funds to strengthen other areas. That's no slight on Kieran at all - he has plenty to offer as a player and I'm sure he will do well at Sheffield."

Ash Robson (quad) and new recruit Jake Normington (ankle) have picked up minor injuries but are expected back in full training next week.