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Martin Gray

Martin Gray was appointed York City's manager on October 1st 2017, a day following City's FA Cup exit at lower league South Shields.

Much later, David Ward, of Radio York indicated that it was a done deal even before the South Shields game.

Gray arrived as a manager who had gained 3promotions in 5 seasons with phoenix club Darlington and had been denied possible promotion to The National League the previous season as their ground did not meet the required standards. With his own successful footballing academy, I’m sure there was an expectation of uplifting City’s own junior set up.

He quickly set about re-shaping his City side. David Ferguson and Adam Bartlett followed him shortly afterwards from Darlington and an on off deal for their lanky striker Mark Beck eventually fell through.

There was little discernible improvement in City's performances; some impressive results were mixed with more big disappointments.

As the turmoil of the YCST SGM and possible sale of their shares to Jason McGill built, City's form slumped dramatically and City missed out on a play off place. With a top 2 budget, possibly the top budget in the division, City finished 11th.

That summer, with Jason McGill resuming control as Chairman, rumours of a move up a division for Martin Gray to be re-united with his former Darlington chairman at Hartlepool came to nothing.

For the 2018/9 season, Gray was lumbered with almost a full team of his predecessor’s players on long term contracts. Despite indicating that some were available for transfer, all remained with City for the start of 2018/9 season, presumably their lucrative wages could not be matched by any club showing an interest.

However, Gray did make a number of signings, 4 players dropped down a division from Gateshead, 2 of Spennymoor's better defenders, Jake Wright and Tom Allan returned to his home town club. new frontiers said at the start of the season that it seemed a slightly misbalanced mix, the midfield problems didn’t seem to have been addressed whilst none of the many strikers signed seemed capable of bagging 25 goals a season at our level. Whatever, Gray started the season with a large, and quite possibly, the most expensive, squad in the division.

The season started poorly, a defeat at Chorley although with hindsight, Chorley's early season form suggested as a home side they should be capable of winning any home game.

A splendid midweek win against Stockport raised hopes, but just as quickly, City fell away. A number of players didn't seem to be enjoying their football or showing their full potential. Neither Darlington signings seemed to play as well for City as they had done for Darlington, whilst many players seemed eager to get rid of the ball as quickly as possible.

The end came quickly. Gray was sacked on August 19th 2018, a day after a disappointing 1-1 home draw with Curzon Ashton, 5 games into the season. Despite some criticism of Gray, many supporters were surprised at the speed of his dismissal, which is believed to have been around 2 months before the end of his 12 months' contract.

Throughout his tenure, Gray came in for much criticism for his extensive backroom staff, although he stated at times that he was paying some of their wages and others were working on a part time basis.

As at Darlington, Gray’s style and tactics came in for criticism, they were often one dimensional with a big target man.

As Dave Penney noted, “The performances haven’t been good enough either and have led to unrest among supporters. You obviously listen to the boos at half-time and at the end of home games and that has an effect because, as a board member, you can’t ignore it and they have been vocal at other grounds as well. We gave Martin a chance to bring his own players in during the summer to see if there was an improvement, but we don’t think there has been. While the results have been poor I honestly believe had the crowd been behind Gray he would have had longer than five games this season.

It is difficult to disagree with any of what Dave Penney had to say. The difference this year as opposed to every year since 2015 when we‘ve sacked a manager before Christmas? This time it has happened in August, hopefully before a terminal seasonal malaise has set in and time enough to turn the season around. It is difficult to disagree with any of what Dave Penney had to say. The difference this year as opposed to every year since 2015 when we‘ve sacked a manager before Christmas? This time it has happened in August, hopefully before a terminal seasonal malaise has set in and time enough to turn the season around.

Now Martin's Gone

Orginally written for new frontiers #30 (November 2018), due to pressure of space, the following didn't make the final cut.

The end of Martin Gray came far quicker than many people imagined. A couple of wins, including Ashton United in his last away game followed by a home draw with Curzon Ashton sealed his fate.

The 2-0 win at Ashton United, albeit gained after the home side had a man sent off, was hard fought. We ground out a win against a team with fewer resources than ourselves, just the sort of game we might have lost in recent seasons. Likewise, the draw against Curzon Ashton was a drab affair and it sealed his fate. It is the first time we have sacked our manager after gaining 4 points in his last 2 games.

However, the style of play wasn’t what we expected.

Mixed feelings. Certainly, the style wasn’t what we hoped for, some of the play left much to be desired. However, once again we’re left expecting a new manager to take over someone else’s team; it is becoming an annual habit.

Gray’s last couple of games weren't great. The players seemed tense and to be to be playing with some fear, note how many were keen to get rid of the ball much too quickly. That said, Gray seems to have made a number of good summer signings. Joe Tait and Kallum Griffiths have been a big improvement in defence. Macaulay Langstaff and more latterly Jordan Burrow’s early performances have shown an eye for goal.

Quickly, under Sam Collins, the atmosphere seems much improved, the football is slightly better and the defence is a little stronger, If only we could sort out the midfield and the attack. Possibly the biggest plus is that the players seem to be enjoying themselves more under Sam Collins. If you’re not happy, you’re not going to do a good job. However, results were still mixed.

At the time of writing (early October 2018, a week before Collins was appointed full time manager), there seemed to be no rush to find a permanent replacement. Billy Sherrington and Tom Lockie lasted 552 days as caretaker managers in 1954-6, taking us to The FA Cup semi final Billy Hodgson lasted 76 days in 1968 as caretaker before Tom Johnston was appointed, so long term caretaker managers aren’t always a bad thing. The less said about Kevin Randall and his 3 months as caretaker the better.

Perhaps the way forward at this level is to give our manager a season long contract, the same as many of our players. Add a one season extension guaranteed if he achieves certain targets, otherwise, let them go. I like to think that whatever we pay our manager compares very favourably with many managers at our level, so any manager worth his salt should be happy to take the job on that basis of an extension if successful and if he isn’t, then maybe he’s not the manager for us.

Gray leaves Darlo

Gray / Penney - 1st City Press Conference

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