YORK City Knights boss James Ford says he is keen to keep the majority of his current squad at Bootham Crescent next year - no matter which division the club are in.

The Knights yesterday morning announced homegrown hooker Harry Carter as the latest to pen a new deal, with Ford adding that a number of other first-teamers are also close to agreeing terms as preparations for 2018 go up a level.

The plan is to build a squad that can compete in the Kingstone Press Championship or challenge even more strongly for promotion from League One if they don't go up this year. And Ford believes that, with the addition of "more quality in one or two areas", the bulk of the current group, given their young age, can develop more than enough to hit those higher standards.

Ford said: "We are close to agreeing terms with a number of the current first-team squad and we're still yet to sit down with another group.

"We want to keep the majority of the squad - they've shown they're a resilient bunch who are keen to develop and improve, and they've represented the club with distinction in my opinion.

"At the same time we're looking to add more quality in one or two areas for next year as we continue to grow on and off the pitch."

He added: "We want to put a team together that will be challenging for promotion next year or able to survive in the Championship.

"With the performances against the likes of Toronto (beating the full-time League One champions elect) and Rochdale (knocking the Championship side out of the Challenge Cup), we're probably not that far away from that level.

"If we strengthen in one or two areas and add depth in one or two areas, we'll give ourselves an opportunity.

"We have a number of young players who have a lot of improvement in them still and if we add a little bit more experience and quality at the side of them, hopefully we can develop into an even better team."

As reported on thepress.co.uk/sport yesterday, Carter has signed a two-year extension to his contract, keeping him at Bootham Crescent until the end of 2019.

The 23-year-old, who rose through the old academy and reserve ranks, made his first-team debut as a teenager in 2013, became more regular in 2015 and enjoyed a real breakthrough season in 2016.

He has missed the last eight games this term after needing an emergency hernia operation in June but is in contention to return to action next Sunday when York host Doncaster in a key League One Super 8s match at Bootham Crescent.

Ford - who tutored Carter at Wakefield College as well as bringing him through the Knights' youth system - said: “I’m delighted Harry is staying with us long term.

"I've got a really good personal relationship with him having taught him as a 16-year-old at college.

"He's got huge loyalty to the club and is always willing to go the extra mile. I'm sure he will mature into a really good player if he continues to work hard.

“It’s great to see him happy and also taking up plenty of leadership responsibilities despite still being one of the younger members of the group.

“I do feel there’s even more levels in him and it’s up to me to get that out of him. When we do, we’ll have one heck of a player.

"We've still seen only glimpses of his ability in my opinion but he's indicated what potential he's got with his pace, tenacity and ability to work hard and put the team first.

"It will be great to see him back playing to a good level now he’s recovered from his hernia injury.

"Our expectations are high for him. He can be a senior player and influence games in a really positive way, not every once in a while but weekly."

Carter is the sixth player to agree terms for next year and beyond, following Ronan Dixon, Adam Robinson, Brad Hey and local favourites Ash Robson and Joe Porter.

Carter said: “I’m excited to sign for a further two years at the Knights. The club and fans have shown me nothing but support since I first made my pro debut here.

“The club has real passion and intent to be successful and I want to be part of that journey.

"It makes it 10 times easier to sign a two-year-deal when some of your good mates have also signed.

"The playing group is getting better each week, and securing my future with York means I can focus on improving my game further and contributing to the team.”