YORK City Knights boss James Ford has called on the city's sports fans to back him and the club as they plan a big assault on Kingstone Press League One next year.

The Knights, outsiders for promotion at the start of this season after nearly going under 12 months ago, only just missed out on this weekend's play-off final when they lost 21-20 at Whitehaven last Sunday to a golden-point drop-goal after a world record 25 minutes of extra time.

Ford predicts an exciting future for what is now a settled and energised outfit on and off the field. But he says he needs the supporters "more than ever" to buy into the club as he steps up negotiations with potential signings - arguing the team will have "no excuses" in 2018, even though the likes of relegated Bradford Bulls will be in League One next term.

"The season has been a positive step forward," said Ford, who insisted he and the players would "come back stronger" from Sunday's heartbreak.

"As a club we've given strong intimations we can progress and that the sport in this city can have an exciting future.

"The supporters will be disappointed after Sunday but the club needs them more than ever. We're really close to bringing in a couple of positive signings and to retaining a few more of the squad.

"We need the supporters to back us - to back me - in terms of getting season tickets and packages and helping however they can when it comes to sponsorship.

"It all contributes to the budget and me being able to produce an even more competitive team.

"In the last three years I've had a smaller budget, nowhere to train, nowhere to play.

"Now there'll be no excuses. We've a fair crack at it.

"I'm really excited about the potential here but we need the sports fans to get behind us.

"The supporters have been brilliant and they have a massive role to play in what we do.

"I'm immensely grateful to them, not just for the growing numbers this year but with how they've all got behind the players. They're an incredibly passionate bunch.

"They want to see good rugby league, winning rugby league. Hopefully we can give them what they deserve."

Ford has now led the Knights to the play-offs in each of his three seasons in charge, despite being homeless in the first, having no confirmed training base for much of the second and starting this year playing catch-up after the club nearly disappeared prior to the December takeover.

He added: "The potential for this sport in this city is frightening. We've taken a big step forward this year but there's so far we can go.

"We could be averaging 1,500 in this division at least. We play the right brand of rugby and the reputation of the club off the field is now superb.

"We have very good up-and-coming players and if we can add to that I'm confident the future looks really bright."

On the season as a whole, he said: "I don't think many people outside the playing group and coaching staff expected us to be anywhere near the level we have been at. But I did. Chris Spurr (assistant-coach) did. The players did.

"We're bitterly disappointed we haven't quite got where we felt we could have done.

"But it has been an amazing journey - a real rollercoaster.

"We effectively started without a club and no say on which players we signed.

"We slowly evolved and improved a few blokes, and we used the loan market pretty well.

"As disappointed as we are now, at the same time we have reason to be proud.

"We beat Toronto (a full-time otherwise undefeated team who ran away with the title) and Rochdale (a Championship side, in the Challenge Cup), and it took nearly 106 minutes for a strong Whitehaven team to beat us at their place in the play-offs, with a bit of fortune too."

York had begun the season with five defeats in the opening nine games, including a shock reverse at minnows Oxford, before a run of nine wins in 11 - including that memorable victory over Toronto - helped them bag a play-off place with two games to spare.

"Our start was not great, but it was never going to be given where we finished last year and where the new club had to start from," said Ford.

"If anybody had said after we lost at Oxford that we shouldn't worry as we'd be in the semi-finals and get to extra time with a couple of opportunities to win it, you would've thought they were a madman.

"I'm gutted still but genuinely excited about what we can do next year."