Cougars chairman Gary Fawcett is confident the club’s new signings will enable them to compete at the top end of the Championship this coming season.
Player-coach Paul March has made over a handful of signings during the winter break, bringing Paul Handforth, Jack Lee, Lewis Graham, Ash Lindsay, James Craven and Chris Watson to Cougar Park.
Former Huddersfield Giants junior Ross Peltier has also returned to the club after a spell in Australia playing in the Queensland Cup.
Heading into Sunday’s opening pre-season friendly at home to Rochdale (3pm), Fawcett believes Cougars will be a far stronger proposition in 2014.
The Keighley chief, who was left disappointed after last Sunday’s friendly at Halifax was postponed, said: “I’m very happy with the signings we have made.
“Everybody is also talking very positively about Ash Lindsay.
“He’s come into the squad with a lot of energy, work-rate and enthusiasm so I think he’s going to be a revelation this season at loose forward.
“Looking at the squad that Marchy was going to put out at Halifax, there are some young lads like Jack Lee, who is very highly regarded.
“He faced our Under-20s last season and caused us all kinds of problems.
“He’s one for the future and James Craven will play this weekend, so we’re looking forward to seeing how he shapes up as Craig Moss’ replacement at full back.
“He’s slightly different to Craig in that he’s a bit bigger and likes to make decent yards with the ball.
“I know the Dewsbury fans were very disappointed when he left because he was a bit of a crowd favourite.
“Lewis Graham, who was in the Under-20s side at Huddersfield last season, is another big lad who I think will make a real impact in the second row.”
Fawcett is looking forward to seeing former Halifax ace Handforth in tandem with Danny Jones at half-back.
Fawcett said: “I certainly think that Marchy will be trying out that Handforth/Jones half-back combination against Rochdale on Sunday.
“The last time we played Rochdale, when they were in the same league as us, we played them four times and won three of them.
“I’m hoping we start the pre-season friendly campaign with more wins than losses as opposed to last year, when we only won one narrowly up in Barrow.
“I want to see us start the season in winning form and with a winning habit, so that when White-haven come down on February 16 we have a bit of confidence and consistency behind us.
“Last season was all about a lack of consistency, so we’re looking to correct that this year.”
Fawcett has outlined mimimum targets ahead of the new campaign.
He said: “I’m certainly looking for us to finish in the top eight, and Marchy and I have had a conversation about this.
“The unofficial target is a minimum of 42 points – that’s what we’re looking for and that would get us into seventh or eighth position.”