THE launch of York City Knights ' Excel player development programme was even better than expected.

As reported by The Press, the Excel scheme – effectively the club's new scholarship system – has been set up by the club's new hierarchy via the Knights Foundation, and was launched this week with the likes of Greg Minikin, the former York youth team ace who is now starring at the top of Super League with Castleford Tigers, in attendance.

Organisers expected about 70 youngsters to go down, but instead 100 showed up for the introductions and a first on-field session.

Also there were Knights club legend Mick Ramsden, who was a stalwart player, assistant-coach and scholarship coach, current Knights captain and former scholar Ed Smith, and Alex Foster, another former scholar who is now playing for Castleford.

The 100 youngsters were all from under-12s to U14s and will embark on a six-week training block, with U15s and U16s following in September, with the groups thereafter continuing in alternate six-week blocks – ultimately with the aim of producing talent for a planned academy team with which to feed the first team.

The Excel programme – which uses the same state-of-the-art York St John University sports facilities that are used by James Ford's first team – is free and open access, meaning they are open to all and are not elite or selective.

Adam Prentis, York City Knights Foundation delivery manager, said of the launch: “It is fantastic to see so many young players who have travelled from all across the area to develop themselves as players, and to register over 100 players on our first block is outstanding.

“I would like to thank all the coaches and volunteers, York St John University, SBL Machinery, Digicab media and the kind individuals who have made donations – without their support we would not be able to run this programme.”

Minikin said: “For me the Excel programme is really important, it’s really good to see everyone getting involved. It’s a pathway into higher rugby. If it wasn’t for York City Knights and the coaches here I wouldn’t be playing Super League now – I can’t thank the club enough.”

Foster was likewise enthusiastic about the Excel programme. “There’s been a lot of kids here – participation levels look massive,” he said.

“They have been enjoying themselves doing the drills and watching the slideshows that Adam has been putting on to show the ethos of the York City Knights. I’m sure there are a few lads here that will go on to big things and be playing Super League one day.”

Knights chairman Jon Flatman said: “I would like to thank the staff, volunteers, players and parents for making the launch such a success.

“Delivering a player pathway for local players is a key objective for the club and we have made great strides towards achieving this aim.

“Our sport is in a good place right now in York and North Yorkshire and, with the continued support of community clubs, players and parents, we will achieve our aims and celebrate the successes of all component parts.”

* A REUNION of former York Colts players from 1973 to 1977 is planned at tomorrow's home match against Workington. It is being organised by Tony Brown, who can be phoned on 07944 788946 for details.