CRAIG Lingard believes the club's faith in youth has helped make Cougars an attractive proposition for promising youngsters.

The Keighley coach, whose side begin their pre-season friendly schedule with a trip to Barrow on Sunday (2pm), was willing to blood a large crop of young players in his first season at the helm.

And his squad-building for the forthcoming campaign has seen him pick up players still at the fledging stage of their careers, the latest one being utility player Dan Parker who signed from Newcastle Thunder last weekend.

Others include Liam Senior and Harvey Hallas from Wakefield's academy while Lewis Fairhurst was with Salford under-19s before last season with Dewsbury and Hemel Stags.

Lingard, who also snapped up Davey Dixon from Castleford's academy in his first season, says a willingness to give youth a chance has helped in their recruitment.

He said: "The philosophy we brought in when I joined is that we're not bothered about people’s ages.

"I wanted people who wanted to achieve something in the game, people who wanted to improve and people who wanted to get back into a higher league.

"I’m not particularly bothered whether you are 28 or 18 if you are good enough and have got the right attitude.

"I think people have seen that. Last year we had 16 players under the age of 24 in our first team.

"When people are getting released from Super League clubs at 19, 20 years old because they have not been offered a full-time deal, these players have got to look at where they going to get a chance.

"If we can identify that we have given 'x' amount of players their debut or their chance that are not at a particular age or have particular experience of Championship or League One, then it is a big tick in the box for us and I think that certainly helps."

Utility back Fairhurst has been brought in to provide cover and competition for half-back pair Benn Hardcastle and Matty Beharrell.

Lingard said a major attribute of the youngster – who became a bit hit with Dewsbury fans when he kicked the golden-point drop goal to clinch victory over derby rivals Batley in last season's Challenge Cup – is his pace.

The Cougars coach said: "My next-door neighbour is Tom Hemingway, who played with him at Dewsbury.

"Tom spoke really highly of Lewis and said he is absolutely lightning. Once he gets through the line, he’s not going to be caught and I think as a half-back you either need a bit of pace about you or you need to be able to boss a team around the park and Lewis has certainly got that pace.

"When he gets through that line he is going to be difficult to stop."

Having made 13 signings ahead of the new campaign, Lingard's squad looks complete as he looks to build on a seventh-place finish in his first season by breaking into League One's top five.

He paid tribute to chairman Gary Fawcett, who has led negotiations during the recruitment process once Lingard outlined his targets.

The coach said: "It is worth highlighting the work that Gary has done in the background which people don't see.

"He has been the one making the calls to the agents and the players negotiating their contracts, which you don’t do over one phone call. It can be five or six calls with each player.

"Some of them come off and some don't, and Gary has done a lot of work in the background during the off-season."

Lingard is keen to blood as many of his new faces as possible in Sunday's trip to Cumbria to take on newly-promoted Championship side Barrow.

* Cougars are holding their annual sponsors evening at Cougar Park tonight from 7.30pm.

A presentation will form part of the event, with supporters welcome.

A number of player/staff sponsorships remain available.