YORK City Knights head coach James Ford has said that the club’s decision to run with a small squad is an intentional move.

Earlier this week, the Knights announced their squad numbers for the 2020 season with only 22 players handed first-team jerseys - a decrease from the previous season.

Ford dropped a strong hint that the club would be signing a new centre to take the vacant number three shirt and five local youngsters are currently on trial with the club.

And Ford went on to say that the Knights would be looking to recruit during the season and had confidence in the club’s hierarchy to fund the moves.

“The club and I feel like we’ve probably got the highest calibre of player that we’ve had as a whole,” said Ford.

“We have got slightly less numbers this year, intentionally. There’s nobody in that initial 22-man squad that I haven’t got the greatest of confidence in.

“Previously, we’ve had two or three players in the back end of the squad who I’ve known have needed to improve and kick on before they’d be at the levels of everybody else.

“We’re under no illusions that we are going to have to recruit during the course of the season. We’ll be using the loan market and seeing which players become available to us.

“I think that Jon (Flatman, chairman) and the club have shown historically that they’ve done a great job in terms of their contacts in the game.

“They’ve got their fingers on the pulse on when good players do become available. I don’t think that Jon has ever said no when I’ve made a request.

“We’re hopeful that we’ll be able to further supplement what I believe is a very, very good squad.”

York finished third in the Betfred Championship table last season despite their reported inferior budgets in comparison to their rivals.

So far during the off-season Will Sharp, Ben Johnston, Danny Washbrook, James Green, Chris Clarkson and Elliot Wallis have joined the club - the latter on loan from Hull KR.

Ford said that the Knights were offered plenty of players, but only choose to sign those that fit his and club’s direction.

“During the course of our recruitment process, we were offered a number more players this year,” added Ford.

“I believe that we are a more attractive team to play for now than we’ve ever been.

“Obviously last year the performances of the side were fantastic. We’re soon to be moving into the new stadium and the leadership and management of the club - the people above my head - is fantastic.

“Players are noticing that and they want to come and play for the York City Knights.

“But, we won’t sign anybody that we don’t believe will fit our criteria. They’ve got to be a good person and someone that is willing to put the team first.

“My definition of a good player is someone that is going to make the team better and I won’t budge from that philosophy.”

As well as the six first-team signings, York have brought in five local youngsters on one-month trial periods.

Stephen Gibbs, Lewis Brown, Josh Parker, AJ Towse and Myles Harrison are the trialists who will be aiming to earn permanent deals with the club.

On EXCEL programme graduates Towse and Harrison, both 16, Ford added: “Their attitude and commitment was first-class and they were incredibly coachable.

“We’re under no illusions that they’re young players and I don’t see them featuring for us in the Championship this year as it’s such a big step-up.

“But if they keep working hard to improve their game, then hopefully they will get better and be closer to making their debuts for the club.

“Gibbs, Brown and Parker have come in too. We want to make it clear that there is a pathway for young lads in York, if they have the right attitude and commitment as well as ability too.

“Ultimately, I want to see more lads from York playing for the Knights and I’m sure that the fans do too.”