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Bootham Crescent - Memories

Bootham Crescent holds many memories for many people. Here are just a few. Please email your Bootham Crescent memories to us for inclusion

The Good Old Days

  1. Chocolate and cream striped shirts
  2. Shirts without logos (they existed until the 1960s)
  3. The announcement, "Will the duty electrician please switch on the floodlights”
  4. Maroon Y Fronts
  5. Shirts without sponsorship (they existed until 1984)
  6. Half time scoreboard, originally on the perimeter fencing in front of the Main Stand and later a scorecard at the top of the Shippo
  7. Getting wet on the Shippo
  8. Waiting for 25 minutes into the second half to get into the Pop for free when the gates opened
  9. Flag going down with 5 minutes to go (and the number of late goals missed by a quick get away)
  10. Beating Bournemouth 4-1 on a Tuesday night in March 1974. Topping got 2 as the top 4 became a top 3. The night promotion became more a than just a possibility
  11. Beating Bristol Rovers 2-1 a few days later as we cemented our top 3 (and promotion) place. Ian Holmes penalty, 2 visitors sent off and what seemed like all their team booked. At the time, had never seen an afternoon game finish as late as that day
  12. The late comers who waited in the car park until the gates were opened 20 minutes from the end
  13. The aroma from the British Sugar (and Rowntree) factories when the wind was in the right direction
  14. Silly me, when I first drafted this page, I had shirts numbered one to eleven as one of my long lost memories.

Reaching 100 Points
Turn up, win, go home
Happy days.

Keith Walwyn
Power personified, he never gave less than 100% and often it was much more
Ungainly yes, when I saw him make his debut, I couldn't believe how clumsy he was and came away convinced Eddie Flood, the other debutant, was our best left back since Phil Burrows
First impressions were wrong. Keith reguarly terrorised defences, no more so than a rain sodden pitch when he absolutely pulverised Gillngham during a 7-1 win
One regret? He never had the opportunity to play at a higher level and show he could mix with the best.

The Old Shippo
No roof, grassy banks at the top and a scoreboard which provided some protection from the rain for a few in the pre Longhurst Stand days.

Big Wins
I’m far too young to remember when City beat Southport 9-1 in 1957 to record our biggest win to date
I do remember a number of 7 goal wins in the 1980s. My highlight being a 7-1 win over Gillingham in 1984. Torrential rain meant the pitch was a bog, somehow, Keith Walwyn kept his feet throughout, he terrorised the Gills and was instrumental in Keith Houchen's hat trick. I recall big Keith mesmerising the Aldershot defence, particularly their keeper Glen Johnson, around the that time on 3 consecutive seasons leading to 3 big wins
Somehow I missed a Tommy Canham hat trick when we beat Darlington in 1985
More recently we beat an abject, cash strapped Kettering 7-0 in The Conference
Roll on some more big wins.

Butch Wilkins
1976, City are struggling badly in Division 2 and Chelsea are the visitors. In the midst of a financial crisis, they’d introduced many young players into their side named 18 year old Ray “Butch” Wilkins as their captain
One moment sticks in my mind. Butch as he was commonly known in those days showed composure beyond his years as he picked up the ball on his own goal line inside the 6 yard box and dribbled along the goal line for about 10 yards, turned infield and dribbled out of the penalty area, he looked up and played an inch perfect pass to a teammate on the half way line
Pure class
2 other pieces of skill stick in my mind
1985 and Liverpool take the lead in our FA Cup tie. Liverpool had what looked like an innocuous free kick inside the centre circle. The ball is played to Ian Rush. With his back to goal, he collects the ball around the “D”, cushions it, spins and shoots 1-0. From behind the goal, it looked spectacular, the ball was in the net in an instant and showed the gulf in class between the 2 sides
Number 3 on the list is Gary Howlett. A nondescript league game with City struggling. A City attack broke down, he ran back, tackled an opponent from behind and won the ball cleanly on the half way line. He went forward with the ball, playing the ball with outside of his foot, it swerved around the defence, inch perfect for Phil Wilson whose shot hit the side netting. Later, when I spoke to Howlett, he said he didn’t tackle very much but recalled how Dave Sexton, when they were both at Coventry, had always encouraged him he to tackle more often.

Quirks Of BC
Its strange to recall how Bootham Crescent came about. Spring 1932 and the directors felt our Fulfordgate ground wasn’t up to scratch, being distant from the city centre with very poor tranport links (a single tram line and no buses), in need of substantial renovation and just a small catchment area. After a lengthy debate, the directors agreed to move to Bootham Crescent, the main stumbling blocks being moving to a rented ground (we didn’t buy the freehold until 1948) and poor drainage at Bootham Crescent
It took just 4 months to build the new ground and we opened with a 2-2 draw with Stockport
Fast forward 87 years and we’re on the move again. Our home is once again in need of renovation and is considered not fit for purpose in the 21st century. We’re moving from our own ground to a rented stadium. The city centre location that was appealing is now considered a handicap
Roll on the days when we can celebrate promotion and cheer on wins over the likes of Arsenal at our new ground.

1974-76
Having been brought up on lower league football, 1974 saw City promoted to Division 2 (now The Championship) for the first time in our history. The ground was spruced up, seats in the Pop Stand, Y fronts and a go ahead image to welcome the big boys
That season, Aston Villa, Sunderland and Manchester United were teams we played in the league for the first time ever. We welcomed our World Cup winning captain, Bobby Moore and did the double over his Fulham side. In the FA Cup, we welcomed Arsenal in 1975
The following season, we bowed out of the cups with home defeats to Liverpool and Chelsea and ended our stay in Division 2 with a home league defeat to Chelsea. The first season, we held our own but in year 2, our age old problem of not being able to refresh a side that was breaking up saw us relegated.

Seat Creep
Bootham Crescent has changed a lot over the years. About the only thing not to have changed is the relentless seat creep
When the ground opened in 1932 (built in just 4 months), the ground had about 800 seats
When we set our ground capacity record attendance of 28,123 in 1938, that meant, less than 3% were seated, fans spilled over the barriers and stood on the old cinder perimeter track
In 1955, we had 21,000 inside Bootham Crescent for our FA run, barely 1,000 (5%) were seated. Later that year, the final quarter of the Main Stand was built using finances from the cup run. Look carefully and you’ll still see the join in the brick work
The next seat creep occurred in 1974 when seats, bought second hand from Manchester City, were installed in The Popular Stand, more than doubling the number of seats in the ground
Subsequently, the seats at the Longhurst end of The Pop were removed to provide covered standing accommodation but were eventually re-instated
Nearly every ground development has seen an increase in seated capacity. The only major ground development that didn’t add seats was the Roof Appeal for David Longhurst Stand
The Enclosure disappeared in 1994 as The Main Stand was extended down to touchline
Later, health and safety regulations (meaning each person must have more space) and weak foundations which resulted in the Grovsenor Terrace end gradually decrease in size as sections are deemed unsafe, have seen Bootham Crescent reduced to today’s capacity
Today, around we have about 3,400 (40%) seats in an 8,000 capacity ground
2018/9, with a much reduced capacity from its heyday, about 40% of the capacity is seated
August 2019, 100%.

28,123 – Record Attendance
It is hard to imagine 28,123 fans packed into Bootham Crescent, but that’s what happened in March 1938 when gripped by FA Cup fever, City reached the quarter finals for the first time and hosted local rivals Huddersfield,. Then a top team, they’d been England league champions for 3 consecutive seasons in the 1920s
If you look on the York City South web site, the TV page has film from the game. It was pay on the day and crowds poured in, spilling over the barriers and massing on the cinder perimeter track. The fans saw an action packed game but no goals. City lost the replay but that run capped earlier cup runs and really put City’s name on the football map
The gate receipts? Just £2,735., making the average admission price just 10p, well worth it.

Bobby Robson
1989 and Bobby Robson takes his England squad to play a warm up game at Aylesbury. Fast forward to 1990. Italia 90 is approaching and The Shipton Street Roof Appeal is in full swing
Unbeknown to the club, we write a letter to Bobby Robson and The FA asking if they’d send the England team to Bootham Crescent to play a fund raising game as part of the team's prep for Italia 90
Club Secretary, Keith Usher’s high regard for Bobby Robson is well known to the City's youth team coaches, the likes of Gary Naylor and Colin Sanderson, who regularly play a trick on Usher. From outside, they ring Keith and pretend to be Robson. Keith plays along and then tells them where to go until they tire of the joke
One day in spring 1990, the phone rings, “Hi, its Bobby Robson”, Keith plays along; the caller insists he really is Bobby Robson. Keith continues effing and blinding down the phone in true Keith fashion
“But it is really Bobby Robson, I’m afraid we can’t’ bring the England squad to York for the friendly”
Finally, Keith realises it really is Bobby Robson on the phone and apologises. Its the first ever time he’s spoken to his boy hood hero. He’s told him where to go in no uncertain fashion. Ever the gent, Bobby Robson takes it all in good humour and once again apologises for being unable to help the appeal. A true gent.

The Tunnel
Probably the most iconic part of our ground is the tunnel
It runs the length of The Popular Stand. Originally built to provide a means of exit after the game, it also allowed fans from behind both goals to transfer to the other end, depending on the way City (and our opponents) were kicking
Traditionally, The Grosvenor Road end was the home end where most City supporters congregated. Come the pre match toss, if we were defending that end, we’d see a mass exodus via the tunnel to the other end. Equally at half time, the tunnel got busy again
The tunnel was closed in the very early 1970s, putting an end to always being behind the goal City were attacking
At the time, the enclosure provided an alternative means of transfer. A wooden gate being opened to cross the path the players took from the dressing room to the pitch. Time makes my memory a little hazy, but I seem to recall doing that route as well, and not having to pay any extra to go into the enclosure
Come 1974 and our promotion to Division 2, at a time of increased football hooliganism, City decided to make the Shipton Street end the home end. Meaning away fans didn’t have to pass through the car park to get into the ground
With advancing years and eyes getting no younger, I sometimes think it would be nice to get behind the goal City are attacking in each half, sometimes I wish we could still transfer ends and always be behind the goal we’re attacking.

The Last Non Floodlit Games
We had our first set of floodlights installed in 1959 and 3 matches are remembered as the opening match (first switch on during a game, first evening game played entirely under floodlights and official opening)
With industrial unrest across the country, the1973/4 season saw a 3 day week, factories and schools were affected, unnecessary usage of electricity was discouraged and everyone suffered several blocks of electricity outage during the week for several months
October 1973, we beat Orient during the October half term holiday in The League Cup tie to secure a home tie against high flying Manchester City with a mid week 2pm kick off to ensure a daylight finish. Tickets went on sale during half term and they were quickly snapped up, by both City supporters and those wanting a half day off school
Back at school, we got a stern lecture from the headmaster. However, he relented and granted time off for anyone who had brought a ticket as long as it was brought into school and signed by a teacher
The tie followed, a 0-0 draw, probably best remembered for Rodney Marsh coming onto the pitch without his shorts (his tracksuit bottoms spared his blushes). Saturday games kicked off early, a portable generator was installed and football continued throughout the winter. The law was changed to allow Sunday matches. On Sunday February 10 1974, we played our first ever home game at Bootham Crescent. It ended in a 2-2 draw with Watford. We beat Cambridge 2-0 2 Sundays later. The season ended with our first promotion to what it is now known as The Championship. Happy days.

1983/4 – Best Ever Season?
My nomination goes to 1983/4 when we were Division 4 champions and the first team ever to gain over 100 points in a season
We’d ended the previous season strongly, Denis Smith had hung up his boots and Sean Haslegrave joined us to add midfield grit
We started the season with 3 successive wins,following a sticky mid October we ended the month with a 2-1 win at Northampton, to go top. A position we retained for the rest of the season, That day, a Keith Walwyn braced earned us the points, but he and strike partner, John Byrne terrified defences, teams seemed beaten as soon as they ran out onto the Bootham Crescent pitch
If it wasn’t Walwyn with his power and strength and 25 goals, it was John Byrne with his silky skills and 27 goals. Not that we were a 2 man team, Roger Jones, in the twilight of his career, was a more than capable keeper, not that he was kept too busy as in front of him, the back four, ably lead by John MacPhail and Ricky Sbragia (City’s best ever centre back partnership?) dealt comfortably with most opponents
As winter faded, we stretched our lead at the top. Crowds increased, 11,297 saw us play Doncaster in April. A week later, we secured promotion and confirmed the title when we beat Hartlepool, eventually ending 16 points clear of second placed Doncaster. A season long feast of good attacking football.

Blanket Collections
Anyone remember when we used to have blanket collections at Bootham Crescent? The club designated 2 games a season for charity collections, St Johns Ambulance invariably being one as a thank you for the match day support they provided at every home game
A group of the chosen charity's team would walk around the pitch at half time with a large outstretched blanket. Fans would throw coins into it. The group was invariably supported by more people who would pick up coins that missed the blanket. It was a common sight to see keepers picking up the leftover coins during the second half
I recall, as time went by, the occasion became more of an occasion for aiming coins directly at the collectors (usually pensioners and children) rather than the blanket, hence the introduction of bucket collections in the 1980s

Bootham Crescent - Other Uses
For many years (1881 – 1932), York Cricket Club played at Bootham Crescent before moving to Wiggington Road (on what is now the site of the District Hospital) and then onto their current Clifton Park home
Bootham Crescent’s first sporting use was as a cricket ground. In 1891, Yorkshire beat Kent at Bootham Crescent, Yorkshire’s CCC’s only ever first class game to be played in York
Baseball was tried and failed to take off in the 1920s
A one off rock and roll concert was held on the ground in 1979, music failed to take of due to noise complaints from the local residents
Later, as City’s Junior Reds became established, the ground hosted a Bonfire Night firework display for several years
1989 saw a one off rugby league game at when York lost a cup game to Leeds. Bootham Crescent became York City Knights’ home ground in 2016.

Cup Glory / Gory
Too young to remember 1955, my first cup memory is playing Southampton, then in the top 6 of Division 1 (the top flight) whilst we were mid table in Division 4. With all 6 goals coming in the last 15 minutes, City twice came from 2 down to force a 3-3 draw. No stars, just a solid all round team performance, just what you’d expect from a Tom Johnston side
1973 saw a League Cup run with wins over Villa and Leyton Orient demonstrating the form that was to see us gain promotion to play both of them in Division 2 the next season
Our next promotion side also enjoyed famous cup games at Bootham Crescent beating Arsenal on a frozen pitch in 1985 and drawing with Liverpool that season and the next. Then at the height of their European powers, Liverpool seemed a class apart from City in 1985 as we desperately held on for a draw. A season later, despite losing the replay 7-0, we more than matched them, both at Bootham Crescent and the Anfield replay
1995 and 1996 saw cup exploits turn to The Football League Cup, knocking out Manchester United and Everton in successive seasons
PS I’ve expunge some of the bad defeats from memory.

FNobby Clarke
Raymond “Nobby“ Clarke was a well known City supporter. I always thought of him as the “Button Man”, he would parade around the ground, wearing a suit covered in buttons, waving his walking cane at the City supporters at every cup game. I don’t recall him doing the same at league matches. He died in September1974.

1970s: What Might Have Been
With promotion to Division 2 in 1974, there were grandiose plans to develop the ground and surrounding area
At the time, we could squeeze over 15,000 into the ground and that wasn’t deemed sufficient for a second flight club (although we didn’t fill it very often when we were in Division 2)
A plan was floated to rebuild the ground. The plan involved buying the Territorial Army grounds behind the Pop Stand and turning the ground through 90 degrees. I seem to recall only The Main Stand would remain untouched. With the ground turned through 90 degrees, The Main Stand would be the behind one of the goals
In the era of railway special trains for travel to away games, the other proposal was to build a railway halt on Scarborough Terrace meaning away supporters could decamp from their trains right outside the ground, thus avoiding the need for them to walk through the city centre
With our second tier stay lasting just 2 years, we never had the time or inclination to see those plans come to reality.

Away Games

  1. Wigan 2 City 5. 2 joy o f 2 old Wigan codgers parsinsg their side in the first half as they lead 1-0. We changed ends at half time and ended up winning 5-2. Always wondered what they they had to s ay. at full time
  2. Port vale away, their fans ran at us but XLB shook his wooden leg at them
  3. Spending the whole game in Millwall’s old Den ground as the only City supporter constantly looking over my shoulder for the Millwall crew after Steve Senior had blown my cover during the pre match warm up
  4. Wembley, Old Trafford, Highbury, Craven Cottage, Kenilworh Road (several times) and many more.
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