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York City need Cup cash more than giantkilling glory

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Chris Bevan | 08:13 UK time, Thursday, 31 December 2009

As a teenage York City fan in January 1985, Jason McGill leapt over the crowd barriers at Bootham Crescent and ran on to the pitch to celebrate Keith Houchen's famous last-gasp penalty that gave the Minstermen victory over Arsenal in one of the biggest FA Cup shocks of all time.

Twenty-five years on, the Cup is again giving McGill - who has been on York's board since 2003 and became chairman in 2006 - something to get excited about, albeit for slightly different reasons, as his club prepare for this weekend's third-round trip to Premier League side Stoke City.

Under ambitious young manager Martin Foyle, York are flying on the pitch and lie in third place in the Blue Square Premier after a run of 10 wins in 11 games, a run that suggests they could trouble a Stoke side that are without a victory since 22 November and have not scored in five of their last six matches.

But, although stewards at the Britannia Stadium should be warned that McGill would jump at the chance of watching York cause another Cup upset, he will be looking at the bigger picture when he takes his seat in Staffordshire on Saturday.

Securing the club's future as a self-sustaining business, seeing it return to the Football League and sealing a move to a new ground all take precedence over a one-off success. That is why, despite York's rich giant-killing heritage, being drawn away to a top-flight team was preferable to a home tie against opponents who might be more beatable.

"It's quite difficult to weigh it up," McGill told me. "I've been a York supporter all my life so you do do look at the romance of the Cup but the other side of it is that we have to balance the books.

"In my opinion the FA Cup is the best football competition in the world and it would have been a lovely story had we got a home draw but we have to be realistic and look at the financial rewards we can glean from a match against a team like Stoke."

martinfoyle595.jpgManager Martin Foyle has led York to 10 wins in their last 11 games

It is an outlook which is understandable given that, seven years ago, York almost went out of business altogether and that McGill, who runs a packaging company in Malton, still faces a yearly battle to keep the club's head above water.

That fight is very much hands on too, with him turning up at 8.00am on Boxing Day morning to spend around an hour-and-a-half helping around 100 supporters (and referee Robert Madley) clear snow off York's pitch to ensure that afternoon's game against Mansfield went ahead - something I can't see many of his counterparts in the Premier League ever contemplating.

"That was just wonderful for me," McGill said. "It was very emotional to see all the supporters and even the ref chipping in. We were all out working together and there was a fantastic spirit. It was worthwhile too because we won 3-0 in front of a crowd of 4,600, and got three points and the gate receipts."

Hard work has been a constant theme of McGill's time on the Minstermen's board, along with his fellow Trust members, since they first got involved to try to safeguard the club they love at the end of 2001. In a turbulent 16-month spell, City's future was threatened twice; first by former chairman Douglas Craig - who formed a holding company to separate ownership of the club from that of Bootham Crescent then moved to close the club down - and then by touring car driver and team owner John Batchelor who promised investment and co-ownership with the Trust when he took over but instead only introduced a series of increasingly bizarre ideas, such as renaming the club and changing its badge and playing strip.

As McGill says, York were "half an hour away from oblivion" when the Trust stepped in again to take the club out of administration in March 2003, but he is the first to admit that things initially continued on a downward spiral when he and his fellow fans initially took control. York were relegated into what is now the Blue Square Premier in 2004, meaning they were not only still without a ground of their own but also out of the Football League for the first time in 75 years.

Fortunately, those dark days now seem a long time ago, even if the team's on-field achievements have only recently started to match the club's progress off it and the club's home remains a controversial topic, if you pardon the chocolate pun.

I'm guessing you probably already know about McGill selling the naming rights for Bootham Crescent to local confectionary giant Nestle in 2005, which saw it gain its current moniker of KitKat Crescent, but you might not be aware that the £100,000 the club received as part of that deal allowed them to buy back the ground from Craig's holding company for £2.1m at a crucial moment.

boothamcrescent595.jpgKitKat Crescent will officially be known as Bootham Crescent again in 2010

KitKat Crescent will revert to being called Bootham Crescent at the end of January when the Nestle deal ends, but the good news for York is that they are likely to be moving on soon in any case, and this time for the right reasons. They have been working with the City of York Council to find a site for a new stadium that they will share with Rugby League side York City Knights. McGill tells me three potential locations are to be unveiled at the start of 2010, with the decision on which one will be chosen set for April.

There are rumbles of discontent from York fans about the time it is taking for the stadium plans to be laid, let alone for the new ground to be built, but McGill, who took 75% of ownership of the club from the Trust in 2006, is confident that things will move quickly in the next few months and that this is the right road to take.

"The new stadium will be the catalyst for the club's future," McGill explained. "Hopefully it will bring with it new commercial opportunities. At the moment we are in a ground with high maintenance costs that was built in the 1930s when there was no idea about a need for hospitality. Famously, our executive boxes face the car park, not the pitch and we have only got three of them. That obviously limits what we can do commercially.

"The income we generate at the new stadium will not just be from every other Saturday and the odd midweek night, it will happen seven days a week and that money can be put into York's professional clubs - us and the Knights. That is the way ahead for the whole city."

The involvement of the local community is clearly important to McGill, who was born and bred in the area. He has stepped up links with schools in recent months and hopes to do the same with businesses but fears they have been put off from associating with the club because of the controversy of previous regimes.

There is still clearly much work to do to complete York's revival but the signs are they are heading in the right direction. As well as the team's resurgent form under Foyle, the club posted a profit this year for the first time since 2004, thanks to their run to last season's FA Trophy and the sale of midfielder Martyn Woolford to Scunthorpe in the summer.

But without that twin windfall, York's annual accounts would have been closer to those of 2008 when they made a loss of more than £400,000 - further highlighting the importance of their trip to Stoke.

More than 4,000 York fans will travel to the tie, with the Minstermen set to receive 50% of all gate receipts after costs, and McGill estimates it will bring around £75,000 into the club's coffers. That will not be enough to immediately put them in the black again for the start of 2010, but it should allow Foyle to bolster his squad for the second-half of the season.

"It's not mega-money but for a club like us it does make a significant difference. It all goes into the squad and will help Martin improve the team to take us to the next stage. I never want to say the 'P' word because I don't want to tempt fate but that is our aim, to get promoted back to the Football League."

From speaking to McGill it is clear he realises there is no quick fix to turning round more than a decade of decline, and York are undoubtedly better off having a realist in charge following the false promises given by past owners. Still, will the usually pragmatic McGill allow himself to dream of another shock result at Stoke to go with the win over the Gunners he witnessed a quarter of a century ago?

"All we can ask of the players is that they give 100%," he said. "If they do that, you never know in the FA Cup. It's one of those competitions where shocks abound - we will be giving it a really good go."

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  • Comment number 1.

    York City will always suffer from being sandwiched between Leeds United and Hull City. As a reader of the Non-League press the masinations outlined in the article are all too regular across the spectrum.

  • Comment number 2.

    it was not so long ago we were playing clubs like hull! went we got relegated the first time it was of course to none other than manchester city, and in the same years we were sharing the league with the likes of fulham and watford just to name a couple. mcgill has got his head screwed on tho, and give it time, we will slowly rise again!

  • Comment number 3.

    Historically, York City have never suffered from the proximmity of Hull City. Even with the gap between the two clubs being as big as it's ever been not many people from the city go to Hull instead of York for their football.

    However, having Leeds United 20 miles down the road does have an affect on attendences. Always has and always will.

  • Comment number 4.

    Really interesting article. My girlfriend lives in York, and won Miss York a few years back. She had to do a shoot with the other "miss's" and they asked them all to get football shirts from their areas. When she went to York, they gave her an unwashed used shirt, and made her give it back! Hard times indeed!

    Good luck to York in the future

  • Comment number 5.

    As a Port Vale fan living in York I read this article with interest, and am pleased to hear of the hard work that is evidently being applied at Bootham Crescent. Not only that, but it's reassuring, and even inspiring, to see that the true heart of football continues to beat strongly below the superficial veneer of the Premier League. So, well done to Mr McGill and those doing so well at York.

    Another romantic aspect to the Stoke v York tie, for me, is that Martin Folye and his assistant Andy Porter are both Port Vale legends, who have each endured a number of intense encounters with local rivals Stoke City as players - so both will be highly motivated to get one over the Potters this weekend! As such, I'd just like to offer them the best of luck for the game - and my thanks for everything they did at the Vale!

  • Comment number 6.

    I am a Leeds fan, but my Gran lived in York and when Leeds were away i would go watch York as a kid. I was mascot vs Southend back in January 1990 and a ballboy on countless occassions. Great club, which has sadly fallen on hard times, but is hopefully getting back to where it belongs.

    I still remember York beating Man Utd over two legs - 3-0 at Old Trafford anyone! I was on the pitch after the second leg which York lost 3-1 but progressed 4-3. If memory serves me, Scott Jordan scored the goal at BC, which sent City through. Classic. And also turning Everton over 3-1 at Bootham Crescent. Fantastic. (Aresnal '85 is probably the most famous, but i still think 3-0 at OT is most impressive, even if it was against the second string) York have a history of giant killings and lets hope we see another one this weekend!

  • Comment number 7.

    I'm a Hull City fan, and have been since the days spent 6 points adrift at the bottom of the old Division 3 and was an hour away from the club shutting down.

    I have always been passionate about lower leagues and local teams. I have a lot of respect for York City and McGill. A couple of questionable business decisions are taking their toll now but lets hope that you boys can get promotion back into League Two and build from there.

    McGill has the right attitude and I wish York City all the best. Things can turn around, and I hope they do. No one wants to see a club as historic as York City dissolve.

  • Comment number 8.

    #1 Eh? York is not 'sandwiched between' Leeds and Hull; it is way north of both. You might more accurately say it is 'sandwiched between' Leeds and Middlesbrough.

  • Comment number 9.

    York City is the only professional football club in North Yorkshire and nowhere near sandwiched between Leeds and Hull.

    We spent many a season in the same league as Hull, the only difference between where they are now and where York are is the fact that they had a decent council who built a staduim for them and secured their future instead of a council intent on driving both the football and rugby team out of the city in favour of horse racing!!

    The so called second string when we beat Man U at OT was Pilkington, Parker, Irwin, McGibbon, Pallister, P Neville (Cooke 46), Davies (Bruce 58), Beckham, Sharpe, McClair, Giggs. A second that consisted of 9 internationals!!

  • Comment number 10.

    Thank you Martin Foyle and your team, you are doing a very good job, there is always some one in the crowed
    that pick a better side than your self . I used to watch York play in 1945-1955 but then moved to south wales
    but l listen to BBC radio York to all your home and away games. Good look at Stoke, and not to forget one week later you have a hard game at Newport, thats one game I will be at.

  • Comment number 11.

    During my only visit to a York game (so far), which was back in August, the fans that I spoke to were still unsure as to whether or not Foyle was a good appointment. I'm just wondering whether or not the jury is still out, or whether he's now been accepted?

  • Comment number 12.

    Exeter City fan here. May I just say from first hand experience it seems York are in a strong position to rise back into the Football League again. A few years back when we were relegated to the conference, staring bankruptcy in the face, and wondering what we could do to correct years of decline and mis-management, through the use of the clubs trust we managed to sensibly consolidate our position and slowly build for the future in a sensible manner rather than going gung-ho at it and risking living beyond our means.

    Sensible stewardship, as is being demonstrated by McGill at York is crucial. It may take a few years (we spent five in the conference), but by slowly building a more sustainable assault great things can be achieved and maintained, as we have demonstrated by now reaching League One just six years after our relegation! Admittedly you need a bit of luck along the way (we had a plum FA Cup tie at Old Trafford which wiped out most of our debts, and recently have sold three young prospects to higher level clubs all for six figure sums) but it is more than just possible using this sensible long term approach, and from what I can gather Exeter City FC hasnt been in such a healthy state since the early 90's.

    So I guess all I'm trying to say is well done McGill, you are doing things the right way, and good luck to you. Keep the faith York fans!

  • Comment number 13.

    I will be at the game on Saturday and I cannot wait!! I don't care if we lose 15-0 or we pull off a shock result, I will be proud of the club no matter what, and I'm sure our fans will make a lot of noise.

  • Comment number 14.

    I am going on Saturday having supported York since 1973.I remember a lot of the good times, the 2 years in the championship in the mid 70's, the year we won the division 4 championship by being the first team to reach 100 points, the cup runs when we ended up playing Liverpool 4 times when they were the best team in Europe and our play off win against Crewe. I was shocked when looking through my copy of the York City complete history to find that it is over 4 years since I have seen York, the last time being when we lost to Grays in the FA Cup.
    As I now live in Chesterfield I have brought my tickets in the Stoke end but got tickets as close as possible to where the York fans are. Really pleased to see that over 4000 fans going, almost like the old days, still remember the thousands that went across to Anfield to see us lose 7-0.
    In regard to the proximity to Leeds it makes a massive difference to York's support, I used to live in Leeds, and whilst I wanted the Kids to support York, they insisted on supporting Leeds, and I ended up having to go with them to see Leeds on many occassions, even had a season ticket for 10 years.

  • Comment number 15.

    As the previous Port Vale fan did (post #5), I'd like to wish Tinny, Andy and the lads all the best for their game against Stoke.

  • Comment number 16.

    And BTW, BBC, I'm NOT a new member!

  • Comment number 17.

    #9 how many of them were internationals at the time? I remember Pilkington had an off night and was a shocking keeper anyway. Back at Bootham Crescant they had their first team out and won 3-1. But back in those days even dropping 1 or 2 players was frowned upon, unlike today. That night there was half a team that would not normally play and that really was a reserve team. Also look at the central areas, only Pallister was a regualar - Pilkington in goal, Mcgibbon centre back, Neville and Davies in midfield and McClair as the only recognised forward. Yes there were some good individuals but this was their reserves. Nevertheless it was away and a 3-0 scoreline is unheard of against them, reserves or not.

  • Comment number 18.

    Happy New Year folks...

    1 & 3/ Yes, York's ambitions have to take into account their fan-base which is why they are looking to extend that with their work in the community with schools etc. Jason McGill told me they currently budget for crowds of two-and-a-half thousand and their average is above that at the moment - but not by much.

    9 & 17/ Great memories - people tend to forget about the 3-1 win over Man Utd in the second leg too, not just the famous one at Old Trafford.

    I'm not a York fan but had a mate who was and we went to Loftus Road for the third round tie at QPR following those wins over United. York lost after making a decent start but I still remember the game well for the amazing atmosphere in the away end of the ground. We were all stood up singing for the entire 90 minutes, even when QPR were home and dry - it was a great night (I seem to recall that half of Shed Seven were in front of me too).

    York still have a decent away support but, after dropping out of the Football League, McGill feels that sort of backing in the city just needs kickstarting again by some good times on the field... and you can kind of understand why, given the way previous regimes treated the club.

    As well as the side's good form in the BSP, the Cup game against Stoke should lift everyone - I'm sure there will be a cracking atmosphere in the away end at the Britannia Stadium too... not sure whether Shed Seven will be at this one though!?

  • Comment number 19.

    Hi.As a Hull City supporter I used to look forward to the christmas match against York City.Both teams were passionately supported and I cannot recall any ill feeling-except for the merciless taunting of one of the york stewards who,it has to be said,did appear to have eaten a good number of pies.
    I remember at half time at Hull an announcement was made on behalf of the York fans thanking the Hull fans for donating so much to their survival fund.This was followed by applause from the York contingent which was obvoiusly followed up by the Hull crowd singing "It"s nice to know you"re here....etc"
    A mate of mine took me to watch York win a place at Wembley in the play-offs(pitch invasion and tears).He was then able to taunt me for years that Hull had never been to Wembley.
    Fast Forward a few years:WE played Man Utd at Xmas with one of the worlds top managers who is also orange.YOU are about to be the first group of supporters to out sing Stoke on their own patch.Remember if you can wind up Pulis and Beattie-They don"t like it up "em!!
    Good luck York City-you truly represent the spirit of local football

  • Comment number 20.

    18 - Chris, City LOST the second leg v Man U 3-1, to win 4-3 on aggregate.

    We had to field a reserve 'keeper, the untried Andy Warrington because first choice Dean Kiely had been injured (playing Hull iirc). he did a sterling job, protected to the best of their ability by our defence, and it proved to be just enough.

    11 - I think a minority of City fans are still hostile to Martin Foyle because they dont trust his tactics, especially our tendency to sit back on a 1-0 lead, as if we were playing away in the Champions' League ;o)

  • Comment number 21.

    ...anyway, looking forward to to tomorrow with great anticipation.

    Win, lose, or draw, I'm sure we'll end tomorrow proud of our team, club, and city.

  • Comment number 22.

    To Martin Foyle and the York City team and supporters good look at Stoke, just do your best.
    Regards Pete in Australia.

  • Comment number 23.

    20/ Oops, sorry Grovesred, I guess that's why people forget about it... it didn't actually happen!

  • Comment number 24.

    18 - The reason people tend to forget it is because it was 3-1 to Man Utd.

    Good luck tomorrow lads, think we've got a real chance...

  • Comment number 25.

    Ah - sorry for raking over old ground - there was a delay in my comment going up.

  • Comment number 26.

    There is only one pro' team in the North RIDING of Yorkshire & that is Middlesbrough

  • Comment number 27.

    19 - can't remember any ill feeling between the clubs. So you don't remember putting every window through down Newborough Street after a top of the table clash in the 80's??

    That said Hull and number of other clubs, notably Sunderland, did help us through our darkiest hours. The McGills have done a lot of good work but should never underestimate the amount of work the Supporters Trust did to save the club in the first place!!

    11/20 - totally agree, MF's tactics off sitting back has to be questioned especially when we have goals in the team.

    Can't wait for tomorrow - City till i die!

  • Comment number 28.

    #26. York City are a professional football club.

  • Comment number 29.

    Good look to York City. Fantastic city and fans.

    Be warned! Happens 'the potters' have 'ball drying issues' at throw-ins.

    The ball boys don't like giving towels to opposing teams. Make sure your throw-in takers are aware of this and take full advantage of it! Their crowd gets wound up and stops singing 'my delilah' for at least a minute.

  • Comment number 30.

    I think Martin Foyle is doing a great job. Look where City were last season. Managers take all the criticism when teams do badly so Foyle should be given huge credit for improving City's fortunes so thoroughly.

    I am also a big fan of Chris Bevan after he described Foyle as, "young." At 46 he is the same age as me so cheers Chris!

    There is a lot of talk about York beating Man U a few years ago but, despite being young, I remember watching York play Man U in the league (division 2). It was 1974/5 and I had to get my Dad to take me, despite his preference for rugby league, as Man U fans had a bad reputation at the time. City went down 1-0 at home and 2-1 away but it is amazing how far apart the two teams are now. By the way, City also played Aston Villa (promoted with Man U), Sunderland, Fulham, Hull City, Portsmouth and Bolton in the league that season. Ebbsfleet just doesn't seem to have the same ring to it somehow...

  • Comment number 31.

    Just had a shock!

    I think I remember the last time City played Stoke (40 years ago, hence the shock). Standing at the Crescent end I recall Ted McDougall's battle with Gordon Banks and the elegance of Stoke's George Eastham in midfield. I wonder if these recollections are correct. Pity City lost.

    At the Man U game mentioned above, I had my umbrella confiscated and had to reclaim it at Clifford Street police Station.

    Best of luck to City today though; (I still follow City's fortunes though now resident in France)

  • Comment number 32.

    It will be great to watch Manchester City tickets , i have bought tickets from
    [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator] looking forward to it.


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