YORK City Knights signing Ben Johnston is hoping to make sure the success of 2019 was not a flash in the pan and for the Knights to establish themselves as “serious contenders” next season.

Following their League One title win over fancied Bradford Bulls, York again defied the odds to reach third in the Championship last season ahead of their much wealthier rivals.

They fell at the final hurdle with play-off defeats to Toulouse and then Featherstone, but it did little to dampen a memorable year which saw them receive the Championship Club of the Year award.

Head coach James Ford has insisted that the club will not rest on their laurels as they look forward to 2020 and Johnston - who joined from Halifax last week - backed up his boss’ assertion.

“From speaking to a few lads in the team, we know that it’s a big year next year,” said the half-back.

“Obviously people will know what York are about now and we’ll have that target on us this year.

“Now it’s up to us to prove in 2020 that last year wasn’t just a flash in the pan or a one-off and that we are serious contenders.

“I think doing that comes down to hard work from everyone in the team and always wanting to be better than before.

“I don’t think that the team can settle for a good 2019 because by the time that the new season comes around, no one will remember that.

“We’ll be pushing for the play-offs as a team and to be better as individuals.”

For Johnston himself, his return to hometown club York offers the chance to link up again with former team-mate and good friend Connor Robinson in the halves.

He thinks that their friendship could prove beneficial to their success on the field.

“Connor Robinson is a good pal of mine and he was a big reason that I decided to come to York,” added the former Super League player.

“We’ve kept in touch over the past couple of years and we’re big mates.

“But obviously Fordy will have a lot of options so my place isn’t guaranteed and I’ll be working hard to try and nail down a spot alongside Connor.

“I think our games can complement each other’s. We’re good pals, so I think I’ll enjoy my rugby and have a smile on my face while I’m playing. I think that when I’m enjoying playing, that’s when I’ll play to my best.

“I think it might help our cohesion as a half-back pairing because we are good mates, but as I said, selection isn’t up to myself, it’s up to Fordy.

“I think in any team it is good to enjoy each other’s company and it always helps you to go the extra mile as you don’t want to let your mate at the other side of you down.

“We didn’t play together that much at Halifax. Connor obviously went to York and that’s proved to be the best thing for him.

“He played regular games and he had a great season in 2018 when he won League One Player of the Year.

"He had another good season in the Championship last year too.

“I think it shows what you can do when you’ve got the belief and the backing of the coach."

So far, York have announced the signings of Johnston, Hull FC veteran Danny Washbrook, ex-England Knights forward Chris Clarkson from Castleford, Bradford’s James Green and Johnston’s old Halifax team-mate Will Sharp.

Key players from last season such as Robinson, Jack Teanby and Kriss Brining are also among those to already commit for next season.

Johnston continued: “I speak to Fordy quite regularly - we talk a couple of times a week.

“From what he’s told me about signings and recruitment, we’re going to have a brilliant squad next year and I’m really excited by that and what they will add to what we’ve already got.

“But, one of the big things that Fordy talks about is attitude.

“You can be the best player in the world, but you’ve still got to be willing to graft for the team and that’s what I’ll be looking to do next year.”