TEENAGE midfielder John McReady is being backed by York City manager Gary Mills to hold down a first-team starting place at Bootham Crescent next season.

Mills has insisted age will prove no barrier for his new signing, who only turns 20 this month but made his debut for Darlington more than two years ago in the Football League.

The South Shields-born, 5ft 10in midfielder has also experienced loan spells in the unforgiving Northern League with Billingham and Whitby Town, leaving Mills with no doubts about his readiness for the club’s 2012/13 League Two challenge.

“John McReady is someone I tried to bring in from Darlington back in January but there were a few professional clubs looking at him then, including Middlesbrough,” the City boss revealed.

“He’s a good attacking midfielder who is exciting and will thrive on the way my teams play.

“He’s 19 now but one who I feel will get in my team.

“I believe in him because he has excellent ability and he is capable of scoring a lot more goals.

“The way we play will also benefit him in that respect and he’s hungry and ambitious.”

McReady only netted three times in 56 outings for Darlington and Mills is also predicting that fellow new recruit Michael Coulson can improve on a return of 34 goals from 178 appearances as a winger or centre forward at previous clubs Scarborough, Barnsley, Chester and Grimsby.

The City boss added: “Michael Coulson has played an abundance of games in the Conference.

“He has great ability on the ball and makes things happen.

“He assists in a lot of goals but can contribute more goals himself.”

Former Norwich and Oxford winger Oli Johnson is another new signing bracketed as “exciting” by Mills, who feels he will respond to joining a club close to his Wakefield home.

Said the City boss: “Oli Johnson is a northern lad who has been down south to play and not really settled despite doing decent jobs at all (his clubs), in particular Norwich, where he did well.

“Being a Yorkshire lad, he maybe just needs to settle down somewhere and coming to us will help him show what a consistently good player he can be.”

Meanwhile, City have released their squad numbers for the npower League 2 season.

They are: 1 Paul Musselwhite, 2 Lanre Oyebanjo, 3 Danny Blanchett, 4 Chris Smith, 5 David McGurk, 6 Daniel Parslow, 7 Jamie Reed, 8 Scott Kerr, 9 Jason Walker, 10 Ashley Chambers, 11 Michael Coulson, 12 Lee Bullock, 14 Oli Johnson, 15 John McReady, 16 Jamal Fyfield, 17 Matty Blair, 18 Tom Platt, 19 Michael Potts, 20 Jon Challinor, 21 Liam Henderson, 23 Chris Doig, 24 Michael Ingham, 26 Patrick McLaughlin.