YORK CITY Knights boss James Ford admits he is disappointed to see vice-captain Mike Emmett leave the club and join Cougars.

Emmett, after one season at Bootham Crescent, has penned a deal with Keighley, becoming Craig Lingard’s fifth new signing since replacing Paul March as head coach at Cougar Park. Conversely, the Knights, with their future still uncertain, have not been in a position to sign anyone on for 2017.

"I really enjoyed working with him and felt he brought a lot to the team on and off the field," said Ford of the 29-year-old, who had been seen as a key recruit 12 months ago, adding much-needed grit to the forward pack.

"I'd like to think I have helped him improve in one or two areas but that has probably more to do with him and his attitude and how he approached training. He raised standards – he's a really good player and an even better leader."

Emmett follows Knights skipper Jack Aldous, who left for Newcastle Thunder, out of the exit door as the off-field strife at York remains to be sorted.

Ford suggested Emmett had similar concerns. "I am disappointed but I understand why he's gone," he said.

"A few clubs have been interested in him for a while. He's put it off for as long as he could, which shows how much he enjoyed it here, but he's got a young family. I tried to get him to postpone a decision but I can understand and appreciate he has to make that call and do the right thing for him and his family.

"I wish him all the best. If we do play against Mike next year we will be coming up against a really tough player."

Loose-forward Emmett played 27 of the Knights' 29 games this year, more than anyone else, scoring seven tries.

Prior to this last season, he spent four years with Doncaster, helping the club to promotion from League One in 2012 and a shock fourth place finish in the Championship in 2014.