THE exodus from troubled club York City Knights is continuing with local lad Tyler Craig the latest to go through the exit door.

However, while doubts remain over the club’s future as the December 1 target date for the planned takeover draws ever closer, there is big new cause for optimism that a successful resolution is imminent - with a squad of players having secretly begun pre-season training in readiness for the green light.

It is thought former Heworth ARLC junior Craig, like Danny Nicklas, is set to follow Jack Aldous and Brett Waller in making a move to League One rivals Newcastle.

Additionally, it has been confirmed that veteran former Featherstone forward Matty Dale is retiring after an injury-hit season, while prop Jack Anderson has also been released.

These exits take the number of notable departures since the end of the season up to 11, while currently only four players - Ed Smith, Jonny Presley, Tommy Saxton and new boy Danny Sowerby - have been publicly named in the Knights' provisional 2017 squad.

However, it is now almost certain that several more players - some from the 2016 ranks and some from elsewhere - have either agreed deals behind the scenes or are close to agreeing terms, given that The Press understands no fewer than 20 began pre-season testing and training behind closed doors this past week.

That is the clearest sign yet that the prospective new owners have been pressing ahead with preparations for 2017, in the firm belief that agreements will be reached with City of York Council over playing at Bootham Crescent, that the takeover will go through and the team will be allowed back into League One.

Head coach James Ford would not comment on training dates or how recruitment was shaping up, the club having been left playing catch-up after finishing last season enveloped in off-field crisis amid threats of closure.

But it is already known that any provisional player contracts are to be rubber-stamped if and when the takeover is completed.

Should that happen, fans can expect a raft of announcements in the coming weeks.

Ford, meanwhile, wished the latest to depart well.

Homegrown talent Craig, 23, made his first-team debut in 2012, and, while he never nailed down a shirt long-term, he made 40 appearances for his hometown club, predominantly at centre. He scored 17 tries and 18 goals.

Said Ford: "He's had an offer too good to turn down and one we wouldn't have matched.

"I really like Tyler and he's contributed a lot here. I hope he fulfils his potential at his new club as he's got plenty of it. He'd be welcome back any time."

Nicklas, who played nine times on loan for York in 2013, returned this year and was a regular at half-back under Ford, with 25 appearances, nine tries and 61 goals.

Ford said: "He's taken an offer up elsewhere. Danny had a good season here having come back from injury.

"We invested time in him and he was getting close to the player we thought he could be.

"I'm disappointed he's leaving but players come and go and we'll put time into the next one that comes along."

Former York Acorn ARLC junior Jack Anderson enjoyed a successful trial last pre-season but went on to make only seven appearances, bagging one try, while Dale played only six times, a stop-start campaign ending prematurely as he needed a knee operation.

Said Ford: "Matty's had a good career but was really unlucky with injuries here.

"He was nowhere near fit, although when we needed him he put his hand up and put his body on the line. I was disappointed for Matty that he couldn't get himself to the fitness levels he wanted. If he had, we would've had some player.

"If he wants to change his mind (about retirement), we'd have him back."