YORK City Knights veteran Tim Spears has hailed the growing number of “leaders” in the 2018 squad – believing it will all aid a promotion assault on Kingstone Press League One next year.

Former Featherstone Rovers captain Spears became one the older heads in a predominantly young squad 12 months ago after making the switch from Post Office Road.

He was later joined by former Super League hooker Andy Ellis, while in this off-season head coach James Ford has brought in the likes of Hull KR stars Ben Cockayne and Graeme Horne, plus former Knights Player of the Year Sam Scott.

Spears believes they are already having a positive impact in training, while he says the likes of Joe Batchelor and Brad Hey are taking on a leadership mantle too following their development over the course of last season.

Explained the 33-year-old loose-forward: “Graeme Horne coming in with his wealth of knowledge and experience from a top-flight career has been great.

“The work he’s been putting in with the blokes is really good. He’s knuckled down and worked hard.

“There are no egos or air of superiority about him or Ben Cockayne. They’ve joined in and been one of the boys from day one, and that can only stand us in good stead.

“All of a sudden, from being one of the few older boys, I now look around and we’ve got leaders across the board.

“Andy Ellis joined part-way through last season, Ben Cockayne’s joined us, Graeme Horne’s joined us, Sam Scott’s here. Then the likes of Joe Batchelor and Brad Hey have grown into being leaders themselves.

“We’ve not only got good players but blokes with experience, real leaders in a variety of positions.”

On full-back/winger Cockayne, he added: “I know him from the Featherstone days. He’s a top player and a top professional. He knows the game and he wants to win.

“He’s a perfect role model for people like Ash Robson who has got all the ability. Ben’s been there and done it. He knows what’s required to play at the top level.

“What’s good also is that the likes of Ben, Graeme and Sam have all been really impressed themselves by the facilities, the coaching, the strength and conditioning here.

“Everything we do in training is tough and challenging mentally and physically. But it’s not mindless hard work – it’s all done for a reason. The strength and conditioning staff are constantly recording data, then there’s the food after training and the supplements – we’re really well looked after.

“The club ask a lot of us but they invest a lot in us as well, and all the new guys have been really impressed by it and have bought into it.”

He added: “People like Joe Batchelor and Brad Hey – this time last year they were promising young players but you can see how well they’ve aged.

“For example we’re doing hill sessions (this weekend). They’re not just working hard but they’re also encouraging the blokes to the side of them – becoming leaders really.

“Joe was a bit of an unknown last year but he swept the board at the awards night at the end of the season and rightly so.

“He’s clearly going to be not just a really good player but a good bloke around the club and a leader as well.

“There are a few in that category – the likes of Brad and Harry Carter too, who have all grown a lot in 12 months.”