HEAD coach James Ford has spoken of his excitement at bringing Super League starlet - and hometown lad - Ash Robson to York City Knights on a long-term contract.

Fleet-footed Castleford Tigers full-back Robson has been training with the Knights for some weeks but his switch has only now been completed - just ahead of their opening pre-season fixture at Featherstone on Sunday, when he will make an immediate bow.

The major coup was announced at the Knights' packed fans' forum last night.

Ford, who has seen homegrown starlets Greg Minikin and Kriss Brining leave for Super League in the past 16 months, thought it notable that the new-look Knights club were now bringing a leading York talent the other way.

"I'm really excited to bring in someone with as much potential and ability as Ash Robson," he said of the former York Acorn ARLC junior.

"It makes a refreshing change for a club like York to bring one its best young players back to the city from Super League while he's heading towards his peak, rather than the player going the other way.

"If his circumstances away from the game hadn't changed, he would still be a Super League player."

Robson, 21, had been tipped for big things at Cas and, after breaking into the first team as a teenager in 2015, he agreed a contract extension keeping him at the Jungle until the end of 2017.

However, work aims outside of rugby made leaving the full-time arena a preferred option, and the Knights were quick to pounce, bringing him back to the Minster city on a three-year contract.

The League One club, aided by funds from the fans' Squad Builder Fund, have also paid an undisclosed fee to the Tigers, who had to think hard about losing Robson, especially after prolific winger Denny Solomona's controversial departure to Premiership rugby union side Sale.

Asked if Robson was the Knights' "marquee signing", following the notable recruitment of Featherstone Rovers captain Tim Spears and Halifax packman Adam Robinson, Ford said: "I would not put that pressure on him.

"He's a quality addition but we've made a number of eye-catching signings, some with outstanding potential and some with an outstanding history in the game.

"We're building a pretty good squad and Ash is part of that - someone we have high hopes of on and off the field.

"Once he settles into League One, I'm sure you will see we've got a really good player on our hands."

Robson made three first-team appearances for Cas in 2015, scoring a try against Salford. However, after eye-catching displays last pre-season, and being readied for a breakthrough year in Super League, he ruptured a kneecap in the last minute of the Tigers' friendly against Bradford in February and sat out the entire 2016 campaign.

Asked if Robson would have got into the Tigers' team this year, Ford said: "It's not for me to pick any other club's team. However, I've seen him play live a couple of times and he has obvious ability.

"Against Featherstone in a friendly last year, he was the best player on the field - incredibly quick, well-balanced and able to beat people, and that was in really heavy conditions too.

"I thought he was potentially in line for the full-back spot at Cas, even though Luke Dorn had been arguably the best attacking full-back for a number of years.

"He suffered that injury (last year) but he's overcome that and was surpassing standards he'd set before, according to people over there.

"We're looking forward to helping him get even better and fulfilling his potential because the potential he's got is enormous."

Ford believes agreeing a three-year deal highlights a mutual respect between player and club.

"It shows our belief in him and what he can do for his hometown club and it also signifies his belief in this club and the direction we're going," he explained.

"From the conversations I've had with him about our operation, he's happy with how things are going and he's pleased to be in an environment similar to the one he's been in."

Tigers CEO Steve Gill said: "After discussions between ourselves, York City Knights and Ashley Robson a decision was made to facilitate Ashley with a move to the Knights.

"Ashley's personal circumstances have changed somewhat over the past few months, and as a club we understood his request to leave. We have a good relationship with the Knights and wish Ashley all the best with his new club."