"THE lads are enjoying coming into work every day."

So said York City centre-back Sean Newton, who has heaped praise on both manager Steve Watson and his teammates after a tough campaign last year.

Newton admitted to struggles during previous manager Sam Collins' tenure, which almost culminated in the long-serving defender - who made his 550th career appearance on Saturday - leaving the club.

With Watson's arrival midway through last term, Newton says both he and the dressing room have picked up.

The current City chief's influence on the players and their style of play is even more evident this season. York sit top of National League North following an unbeaten start to term.

Notably, this turnaround has been achieved with a minimum of personnel change at Bootham Crescent.

Asked what the difference has been, Newton said: "I think, as a player, you get stuck in a rut and you don't know how to get out of it.

"Sometimes it's just a new gaffer or going out on loan and coming back. For me personally, it's been the gaffer.

"I was struggling, to be honest, I think at one point I was nearly leaving the club because I wasn't in the favour of Sam Collins when he was picking his team and all I wanted to do was play.

"The gaffer came in and he was a breath of fresh air for me. He got me back to my best, got me fit and enjoying football again.

"I think that's the difference. The lads are enjoying coming into work every day."

Of the four summer signings, one has made a particularly big impression on Newton - fellow Scouse centre-back Steve McNulty.

The double promotion-winning Tranmere Rovers captain's level-headedness was a big help for Newton during Saturday's 4-1 win at Spennymoor Town.

York went into the break 3-1 up - with Newton getting the opener on his milestone game - but had to ride a lengthy period of home pressure after the restart.

"His name League One down speaks volumes," said Newton on McNulty.

"Just being on the pitch - even if he was injured, you could just put him there.

"He's just cool and calm.

"I was losing my head second half thinking they were going to score and he said 'Just calm down, they're having a bit of pressure, they're not going to score'.

"He just brings calmness. He's a winner."

On how he feels he and the team have been performing, Newton said: "It's easier this year. I've got big Macca next to me and Fergy on the left. Them two have been on it and it keeps me on it.

"When people around you are doing their jobs it makes it a lot easier.

"I think the whole team is playing well because everyone's doing their jobs.

"Nobody's turning up thinking 'We'll win today'.

"Everyone's on it in games and training."

The Spennymoor win was York's fifth from their opening seven games. The run was halted on Bank Holiday Monday by a 1-1 draw with Gateshead, in which McNulty played only 10 minutes before having to be substituted.

"Winning games breeds confidence," said Newton after the Moors victory. "The lads who were here last year finished on a high.

"We were in a rut and struggling to pick up results and play well. The gaffer's come in and he's been a different class, to be honest.

"He's got the lads who were here last year playing out of their skin and brought players in, who - no disrespect to the lads that we had - are better than what we had.

"The side at the minute feels solid all over."

On his milestone and goal in County Durham, Newton said: "It makes me feel old, that.

"I've been saying to the lads before the last couple of games, I fancy myself to score soon.

"I've hit the post and made the keeper make a few saves.

"I wasn't even going to take the free kick but, with the way the wall set up, I said 'Lads, I fancy this' and they were like 'Go on, do it, make sure you score'.

"We conceded a sloppy goal, but if I can counteract that with a goal then I'll take that.

"When you're winning, you don't feel tired. If anything, you can't wait for the next game."