NEW York City Knights signing Ben Johnston believes he’s rejoined his hometown club at the peak years of his career and says he’s excited to join the team which is “going from strength to strength”.

Today it was announced that Johnston has penned a deal with York from fellow Championship side Halifax after six seasons with the Blue and Whites.

The former Castleford half-back grew up in York and played for amateur side York Acorn from the age of four to 11.

He also regularly attended Knights games as a fan in his youth.

Now, Johnston is back at his hometown side and he thinks it is the perfect time to be back at the club.

“I think at 27, the best years of my career are still ahead of me,” said Johnston.

“I always wanted to return to York at some point in my career and I think this is the best possible time to do that.

“I know a lot of the lads in the York squad and I get on well with them. I grew up in York and I used to go the Knights games as a kid. It’s a really exciting time to be a part of the club, especially with their new stadium - I can’t wait to play there.

“It was a hard decision to leave Halifax after six years there because it is a club that I’ll always love. But, for me the time was right for me to move back to my hometown club and to come back to the York City Knights.

“I knew quite a few of the lads before deciding to join and they’re a real good group, with a good attitude and I want to try and add to that and build on the success that the team has already had.

“I do think that this club is going places and heading in the right direction.

“York are going from strength to strength and I’m excited to be a part of that.”

Johnston is also familiar with his current coach James Ford having played alongside him at York in 2012 and 2013. Ford also coached Johnston while he was an amateur at Lock Lane.

The former Ireland international said he wouldn’t have played in the Super League were it not for Ford’s influence.

“Fordy has always been a good friend of mine and he was my amateur coach at the U18s at Lock Lane,” explained Johnston.

“I’ve long said that if it wasn’t for him then I wouldn’t have played in the Super League. We’ve remained good friends.

“I was released by Castleford at scholarship level at 16 and then two years later I was making my Super League debut.

“I got a good grounding at York when I was here before. But, unfortunately in that season that I was here before we got relegated.

“I still enjoyed my rugby personally though. I do remember having to defend outside Fordy!

“It is special to play for the team which is in the area that you are born and raised in.

“I’ll certainly be giving it my all and I do think I’ll be able to get that extra five per cent out of my game because I’m playing for my local team.”

The Knights finished third in the Championship table last season, defying the pre-season odds and their rivals' superior budgets.

Like many, Johnston says they surpassed his expectations.

He said: “To be honest, they did take me by surprise with their performances last season even though Fordy’s obviously a great coach and they didn’t brilliantly in 2018 to get promoted.

“They proved everyone wrong and credit to them for that. Their work ethic, desire and belief has been there and I think in the Championship that can take you a long way.

“When they’re on song, completing sets high and fighting for one another, they can achieve big things.

“I think they are a little bit similar to Halifax in that regard. They are a work-man-like team, without meaning any offence by that.

“They are willing to go that extra yard. Obviously, we didn’t have the best season at Halifax last year.

“But at York I think there is still that same underdog mentality. Lots of people did write them off last season and they proved everyone wrong.

“I played against York at the Shay but by that point I already knew that I’d signed for York for next year so it was a bit of a strange one.

“It was a little bit of a dead rubber game too because I don’t think that York could go any higher in the table and neither could Halifax.

“But from facing them you can see that they’re a very tough side, you’ve got that work ethic for one another and that’s a big part of how they play.”