This article was penned by Dave Flett and first appeared in The Yorkshire Evening Press, thanks to our leading local paper for allowing it to appear here.
JEERS turned to cheers in 2009/10 as York City won back the support of the Bootham Crescent faithful. Although the campaign ended at Wembley in tears, next season should hold no fears for a club rejuvenated by the understated management team of Martin Foyle and Andy Porter. The ex-Port Vale pair both deserve great credit for overseeing a valiant improvement that exceeded pre-season expectations.
Having only staved off relegation in the penultimate game of 2008/9, the omens did not look great when City’s last friendly of the summer ended in a depressing 3-1 defeat at UniBond League neighbours Halifax. Recent signing Craig Nelthorpe was also sent off in that game and, later that night, became one of four players arrested in a city-centre altercation.
One win during the first five league fixtures further dampened optimism despite an encouraging opening day performance during the unlucky 2-1 defeat at Oxford United.
A turning point seemed to be provided, however, when a ten-man City side recovered from another red card for Richard Pacquette to steal a 2-1 victory at Gateshead. Exhilarating back-to-back home victories over Histon and Crawley then propelled the Minstermen up the table and underlined the potential of Foyle’s newly-assembled squad.
A hat-trick of draws in high-quality contests against Stevenage, Oxford and Luton only helped to lift the growing belief in the City boss and his players and, as winter loomed, the team discovered a defensive resolve that would serve them so well in the challenge for a play-off final place.
Seven successive single-goal margin of victories in all competitions and eight consecutive league wins saw City battling on three fronts as automatic promotion suddenly looked a possibility.
With Richard Brodie rattling in the goals and the acquisition of Luke Graham helping to tighten up matters at the other end, the Minstermen developed a winning habit that saw them enjoy a dramatic 3-2 FA Cup triumph over Crewe.
The start of the New Year provided the wonderful high, however short-lived, of taking the lead at Premier League side Stoke. City eventually lost the tie 3-1 but gave an impressive account of themselves and hammered Hayes and Yeading 4-1 in their next league match.
But then came the wobble. Without warning, Brodie’s name disappeared off the scoresheet for 16 matches due to a dip in form and suspension. A seven-match run without a win, including five defeats, extinguished all title hopes, saw the club dumped out of the FA Trophy and also threatened to derail their play-off push.
Gutsy 1-0 victories at Mansfield and Kidderminster, however, saw City back on track after Foyle decided to steady the ship by employing a 4-3-3 formation.
Reverting to 4-4-2 for the crucial home game with AFC Wimbledon, the Minstermen went on to cement a top-five spot in memorable fashion, playing with freedom and purpose during a scintillating 5-0 win.
A defensive masterclass, especially during the second leg at a hostile Kenilworth Road, then saw off the challenge of free-scoring play-off semi-final opponents Luton after another pair of 1-0 victories, City’s 12th and 13th of the season.
Finishing the campaign as it had started against Oxford, the Minstermen’s dream of promotion back to the Football League then came to an agonising end in the most famous of surroundings.
Having been beaten by a bigger club and better team on the day, Oxford’s victory at least means one less rival as City aim to go one better in 2010/11.
With Darlington in disarray and Grimsby, also relegated from the Football League, likely to take time finding their feet under an inexperienced manager, the Minstermen should be confident of challenging at the right end of the table again, especially considering the gap between the top five teams and the rest at the end of last season.
Foyle is now concentrating on strengthening his squad over the summer. As he looks to improve his options, the City chief will probably recognise an over-reliance on Brodie to score goals and might look for a little more attacking dynamism from midfield.
It is obviously hypothetical, but nevertheless worth pondering, what Martyn Woolford would have added to this group of players if he was still at the club.
Foyle will also be looking to address the team’s struggle against the division’s lesser lights and 4-3-3 formations but, as he pointed out himself, his summer surgery will be minor compared to recent years.
In the meantime, if "Chasing Rainbows" can be adopted by a club desperately in need of its own anthem then so much the better.
Nobody ever needs reminding about York’s past but local boys Shed Seven, as witnessed by the song’s rousing reception at Wembley, would provide a fitting theme tune to usher in another potential golden era for the Minster city.
Dave Flett’s ratings of the Minstermen of 2009/10
A total of 25 players made senior appearances this season – the least number since 1994/5. In 2000/1, 38 players were used – a club record.
There were no ever-presents with James Meredith (55 + 1) and Michael Ingham making the most appearances.
City completed five league doubles over Gateshead, Kettering Town, Kidderminster Harriers, Mansfield Town and AFC Wimbledon. Eastbourne Borough and Salisbury City twice beat the Minstermen.
City suffered only ten league defeats, the best since 1992/3 when they were beaten nine times.
Richard Brodie’s tally of 27 league goals, including play-offs but not including the three against Chester, equals the best since 1983/4 when John Byrne netted 27.
Brodie’s overall record of 34 goals has only been bettered twice in the club’s history. In 1928/9 in City’s last season in the Midland League prior to their election to the Football League, Scottish centre-forward Jimmy Cowie netted 56 times (league 49/cup 7) and in 1954/5 Arthur Bottom scored 39 goals (league 31/cup 8).
The total number of league goals conceded, 35 (44 games), is the lowest in the club‘s history. The previous best was 38 in 1973/4 from 46 games.
The average home league attendance of 2,664 is the third-best since the club dropped out of the Football League.
Compiled by David Batters
Speaking on York Hospital Ball (April 2022) Sophie Purves remembered the Luton tension dating back to the 2010 play off semi final when The Archbishop Of York was abused and the City directors were locked in the boardroom after the game for their own safety. The Luton board didn’t do anything to support York.