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York City's Keepers: 1970-94

4 promotions, cup giant killing acts and numerous contenders for City's best ever keeper
Intro 1929-39 World War 2 1946-1970
1970-1994 1994-2015+ City Long Serving Career Long Serving
The Best - Numbers Outfield In Goal On The Bench Pen Pics

The 1970/1 season saw City promoted to Division 3. A solid defence, with a young Ron Hillyard establishing himself in goal in preference to Gordon Morritt, was the foundation for promotion City kept 17 clean sheets that season and equalled a club record by conceding only 14 home league goals.

Promotion saw City struggle in a higher division. Hillyard who had looked so confident in Division 4 looked vulnerable in Division 3, his blunders costing City valuable points. Graeme Crawford was signed on loan from Sheffield United. Eventually he was to join City on a free transfer. He quickly established himself as a firm favourite with his tremendous performances. I think it is fair to say that if anyone player saved City from relegation in 1972 and again in 1973 it was Graeme Crawford. City avoided relegation on goal average in both years.

Astute signings saw City in promotion race in the 1973-4 season. A place in the old Division 2 beckoned. Early season performances were marked by a remarkable run when City went 11 league games without conceding a goal, a feat that equalled a long standing Football League record. After Aldershot scored at Bootham Crescent on September 29, Graeme Crawford kept his goal intact for 1,039 minutes of league football. Ironically, it was Aldershot who brought the sequence to an end in the return game on December 22, both goals being scored by Jack Howarth. The defence of Barry Swallow, Chris Topping, Phil Burrows and John Stone stood firm. When they were breached, Graeme Crawford proved a mountain in goal. That season also saw Crawford become something of an expert at saving penalties. Promotion was gained due largely to a solid defence. On only 10 occasions did City score 3 or more goals in a game. On 19 occasions did City keep a clean sheet. Facts and figures tell one story, sometimes pictures can tell another. But not this time. City appeared twice on national TV. In April, on Match Of The Day the featured in a goalless draw at Hereford. Hereford dominated the game, but Crawford stood firm as City sneaked a 0-0 draw. The other time when national exposure beckoned was when over 16,000 turned up at Brighton's Goldstone Ground for Brian Clough's first game as their manager. Again, Crawford spoiled the home side's day as he kept a clean sheet in a 0-0 draw.

If Graeme Crawford had been the one player to have saved City from relegation in each of the previous 2 seasons, then it is fair to say that it was he who contributed more than anyone else to promotion. Indeed, as the season ended, in certain parts of York, disappointment was felt when he was overlooked for Scotland's 1974 World Cup squad.

Phil Burrows became the inaugural "Billy Fenton Memorial Clubman Of The Year" in 1974. A fitting reward for 8 loyal seasons from a dedicated and skilful player, but Crawford ran him very close for the award.

Promotion to Division 2 saw City play the likes of Manchester United, Aston Villa, Norwich, Sheffield Wednesday, Nottingham Forest and Southampton. In the FA Cup, City played (and drew) at Arsenal. Graeme Crawford was an ever present as City achieved a comfortable mid table position. In the 1975/6 season, City struggled badly and were always in a relegation position, eventually finishing bottom but one, some way adrift of safety. Crawford and Chris Topping were the only 2 players to play in all of those Division 2 games.

Graeme Crawford felt that if the board had backed manager Tom Johnston then City could have flourished in Division 2. Although he felt that Wilf McGuinness was a good coach and a great likeable character, as a manager, he didn’t hold Wilf in high esteem, especially when he said the team weren't good enough and that he would have to bring in his own men. I think Graeme Crawford finally lost all respect for Wilf one day at training. As the players were jogging around the training ground doing laps, Wilf laid down and positioned a large branch near him. When the players didn't burst into fits of laughter, Wilf ordered them to do extra laps. The pair were also at loggerheads (no pun intended) after the Arsenal FA Cup defeat in 1975 when McGuinness publicly criticised Crawford and held him responsible for 3 of the 4 goals City that conceded in the 2 games. Crawford asked to be dropped for the next game, McGuinness didn't oblige and Crawford went onto be an ever present for City in Division 2.

Another relegation campaign followed. By this time, Graeme Crawford was becoming shell shocked. He was dropped to make way briefly for Stuart Walker. A young Joe Neenan, a former Manchester United junior and English Catholic Schoolboy international, took over for the last 6 games of the season.

After football, Stuart Walker stay in sport as a physio. He was Castleford's physio when they played on the 1985 Challenge Cup Final at Wembley. He then returned to football and worked with a number of clubs, including Aston Villa and Derby when John Gregory managed them.

Summer 1977 and Graeme Crawford failed to report back for pre season training. He was fined and claimed he'd taken a part time job outside football with a “typewriter firm and a motor car company”. Early bids from Scunthorpe and Darlington were rejected as being too low. So highly rated was Joe Neenan that Graeme Crawford was eventually allowed to join Scunthorpe in July 1977 in exchange for Graham Brown. Neenan started the season in goal but was dropped after 10 games. Graham Brown, a much travelled keeper whose last port of call had been Portland Timbers in The States took over and held the position for most of the rest of the season as City had to apply for re-election.

Incidentally, Charlie Wright, City's manager at the time (1977-80) was a respected keeper who numbered Charlton and Bolton among his clubs after starting at Glasgow Rangers. He was also a Hong Kong international. Many years later, Crawford named Wright as being the first person to seriously coach him in the arts of goalkeeping.

Graeme Crawford - 2017 interview

The following season saw Neenan and Brown share the number one jersey. Joe Neenan's early promise was still evident but consistency wasn't his strong point as he was liable to make the occasional costly mistake. Brown started the 1979/80 in goal but had thrice lost his place to Neenan by January. Neenan regaining his place for the game against Newport. The following week, City arranged a swap deal with Scunthorpe. Neenan being swapped for Graeme Crawford who immediately took over in City's goal. He kept his place until injury forced him to miss the last 2 games of the season. Richard Taylor, on loan from Huddersfield, taking over. Incidentally, in the second of those games, Taylor received a piece of advice when Crewe were awarded a penalty. The penalty taker told Taylor which way he was going to shoot, he stuck to his word and beat Taylor to help his side to a 2-0 win. The penalty taker was a certain Bruce Grobbelaar.

Joe Neenan is probably best remembered for his life after City. At Scunthorpe, he teamed up with team mate Ian Botham and wreaked havoc in Scunthorpe, one ended in a crown court appearance for the pair. Later, as Burnley keeper, he's best remembered for kneeing an Altrincham player in the "groin" when holding the ball and trying to clear upfield resulting in a penalty against Burnley and a red card. It doesn’t quite tallt with his appearances in goal for England Catholic Schoolboys!

Unfortunately, Neenan's career never reached the heights that his potential promised. He later played for Burnley, Peterborough and Scarborough. Crawford, released by City made a further 70 appearances for Rochdale. On leaving The Football League, he played for various non league sides, including Scarborough, Goole and Rowntree Mackintosh. As a 42 year old, he kept goal for Goole in an FA Cup tie. Later, he was to play local soccer in the York area with many of his former City teammates in a veteran's league.

City's sad decline was presided over by Charlie Wright, the former Morton, Glasgow Rangers, Workington, Grimsby, Charlton, Bolton and Hong Kong international keeper. Always a bit of a character between the sticks, he usually held a lively conversation with the opposing fans behind his goal. Unfortunately, he couldn't translate his flamboyance into his managerial career. Appointed in November 1977, his abrasiveness often caused problems during his 30 months as the manager at Bootham Crescent. He later returned to Bolton for a spell as manager and also coached on the continent.

City started the 1980/1 season with high hopes. Eddie Blackburn, a £6,000 signing from Hull, impressed in goal as he kept clean sheets in City's first 3 games. Crawford was allowed to join Rochdale on a free transfer. City's bright start soon petered out. They finished the season bottom of The Football League. In goal, Eddie Blackburn usually impressed playing behind a shaky defence. His consistency was rewarded when he was voted "The Billy Fenton Memorial Clubman Of The Year", the first keeper to win the award. He missed just one game when going down ill before the away game at Bournemouth. That day, City blooded their youngest ever goalkeeper (and second youngest ever player), 16 year old Mike Astbury in a 1-1 draw. Blackburn and Astbury kept goal for City during the following season, Astbury showing promising form when he got the chance. However, Blackburn's form again belied City's lowly league position.

As a junior, Mick Astbury turned down an offer from Leeds to join City.

Various online forums name Mike Astbury as the worst player ever to play for Chesterfield. Maybe on the short side for a top class keeper, he was definitely good enough for Chesterfield. Another ex City keeper to win that club "honour" was Mark Cartwright at Wrexham. A YTS keeper with City at the end of the 1980s, he wasn't offered a professional contract, but went onto play for Wrexham, Shrewsbury and Halifax. In later life, he was appointed Stoke City's Technical Director in December 2012 and was believed to be instrumental in Stoke's decision to relieve Tony Pulis of his managerial duties in 2013. Incidentally, other ex City players to win the honour were Keith Walwyn (Carlisle), Dale Banton (Walsall) and John Williams (Darlington). Paddy Atkinson and Paul Atkin dead heated for the York award.

Denis Smith arrived in May 1982 and set about rebuilding the side. It came as something of a surprise when he signed another keeper. However, Roger Jones played a full part in Denis Smith's new side. Although at the veteran stage of his career, he retained all his ability and was to play a full part in City's progress under Denis Smith. Blackburn was allowed to leave on a free transfer in January 1983. Astbury reclaiming his spot as reserve keeper and making a further 9 Division 4 appearances for City during Denis Smith's first 2 seasons at the club which cumulated in winning the Division 4 championship in 1984. As captain, 37 year old Roger Jones proudly received the championship trophy from Ian Jones, a member of The Football League Management Committee.

Niggling injury problems were to rob Jones of more glory during the following season. Mick Astbury being recalled for the 4-0 Boxing Day win over Burnley. Astbury was to play in the next 6 league games. His spell in goal coincided with City's FA Cup run. A 3-0 win over Walsall was followed with the Arsenal tie. Some brave keeping by Astbury kept the score at 0-0 until the 89th minute. Then Keith Houchen struck and City were through to Round 5. Liverpool visited Bootham Crescent and, again, Mick Astbury played his part as City drew 1-1, the first goal Astbury had conceded in his last 8 appearances in goal. City lost the replay 7-0, but in no way could Astbury be blamed for any of the goals. On the night, Liverpool would have beaten many better teams than York by 7-0.

Smith dropped Mick Astbury for the next game. Roger Jones being recalled, he kept his place until the end of the season when he announced his retirement. He returned to his native Stoke, playing at centre half in local football before joining Denis Smith at Sunderland as goalkeeper coach. Later, in his autobiography, Smith recalls watching Steve Senior having trouble collecting Jones' clearances and getting his eyes tested, no problem was found, but when the whole squad later had eye tests, Jones was found to be blind in one eye.

Mick Astbury started the 1985/6 season in goal but lost his place after receiving a depressed fracture of his cheekbone at Bristol Rovers in November. He was never again to play first team football for City. His place being taken by Andy Leaning, another young local keeper. He played in all of City's FA Cup ties that season. Probably his finest performance came in the Round 5 replay at Anfield. His saves proving vital to keep City in the game after conceding an early goal. After City equalised he continued to perform heroics, making a number of excellent saves.

Leaning was to be City's regular keeper for little over a season. He lost his place to yet another local keeper, Neil Smallwood in April 1987, and was surprisingly given a free transfer a month later. Several clubs showed an interest in signing him. He played a trial game in the Central League for Everton before joining Sheffield United. Meanwhile, Astbury continued his career with Peterborough, Chester, Chesterfield and Darlington before playing in The United States.

The first Football League goal conceded by Andy Leaning was an own goal by Steve Senior. After City's epic 3-1 defeat at Liverpool in 1986, Kenny Dalglish came up to him and shook him warmly by the hand and admitted the City had been robbed over the 2 games, a debatable penalty at Bootham Crescent and a Keith Walwyn goal disallowed at Anfield.

Scott Endersby was signed on a free transfer in time for the start of the 1987/8 season. His ability was evident but his time at City was sometimes controversial. Smallwood and Mike Stowell, on loan from Everton, both made 6 league appearances for City during the 1987/8 season.

At the time, there were strong, but unsubstantiated rumours, that Endersby's hasty departure was as a direct result of a liaison with the wife of a senior official at Bootham Crescent.

In 1977, Scott Endersby had become the youngest player ever to play in The FA Cup proper when he appeared for Kettering.

City paid £28,000 (a club record for a keeper until broken by Alan Fettis) to sign Chris Marples from Stockport for the 1988/9 season as City spent heavily to improve the club's fortunes. He was voted "The Billy Fenton Memorial Clubman Of The Year" in 1990. He was another keeper who experienced a chequered City career, eventually joining Chesterfield on a free transfer during the 1992/3 season after making 138 league appearances.

Chris Marples was probably one of the last players to combine a career as a professional footballer and cricketer. He was a wicket keeper for Derbyshire whilst keeping goal for Stockport. His top class cricket career was over by the time he joined City. Whilst at City, he joined Scunthorpe on loan in February 1992 and was sent off on his debut.

At Chesterfield, Chris Marples was given the nickname "Jed" by Bob Newton (a short lived City striker of the 70s) when having seen Chris's first car, reckoned it looked like the one driven by Jed Clampett in the opening credits of "The Beverly Hillbillies," a 1960s American sitcom.

Many years later (Y-Front (August 2019)), Chris Marples recalled being asked by John Bird to go to Hillsborough to scout a young keeper. Dean Kiely made a howler, as he did when City scouted him again, but Marples believed he had the potential and advised Bird to sign him. Bird joked he was only saying that as with the howlers, his place would be safe.

Dean Kiely - 2019 interview

In 1991, John Ward signed Dean Kiely on a free transfer from Aston Villa, his former club. An former England youth international keeper, he had to share keeping duties with Marples for over a season as Ward struggled to determine who was the better. In the autumn of 1991, City suffered a goalkeeping crisis with both Marples and Kiely injured, Lance Key was signed on loan from Sheffield Wednesday, he played in the David Longhurst Memorial game against Leeds but picked up an injury and didn't make any further first team appearances for City. He returned to Hillsborough, making his Premier League debut whilst on loan at Oldham in 1993. Andy Gosney was signed on loan from Portsmouth and played 5 games during his month at Bootham Crescent.

Even at the start of the 1992/3 season, Ward was uncertain as to who his best goal keeper. Kiely was given the first chance to prove himself. He did, with both hands as City raced into a 7 point lead at the top of the table. A mid season slump cost City automatic promotion. Kiely failed to concede a goal in the 2 games with Bury as City earned a first ever trip to Wembley. Crewe who had scored 9 goals in the play off victory over Walsall were made hot favourites on the strength of their goal scoring exploits. At Wembley, they failed to trouble Kiely, it took a 119th minute penalty to earn Crewe a draw. Kiely became City's hero when he saved Crewe's third penalty attempt from Gareth Whalley as City secured promotion.

Key was the Histon keeper when the enjoyed a mini FA Cup run in 2004/5.

The 1993/4 season saw a change in the substitution rules. A third substitute, a keeper was permitted. Reserve keeper, Glen Livingstone, a former England youth international who had been a free transfer signing from Aston Villa by John Ward, was a regular on the bench until his move to Walsall in March 1994. His place on the bench going to Andy Warrington, City's intermediate side keeper. The new ruling caused City to field an incomplete side at Fulham in September 1993. Livingstone travelled with the squad but wasn't nominated as a substitute as he was unwell, the first time in City's history when they have failed to send out a full team for a game. City's push for a second successive promotion was greatly helped by Kiely's goalkeeping. He kept 20 clean sheets during the season, plus a further one in the play offs, beating the record of 19 which had been set in previous promotion campaigns when Graeme Crawford and Roger Jones had been the regular keepers. The 20 clean sheets in league programmes of 1983/4 and 1993/4 being the joint club record for clean sheets. Many would rate him as one of City's best ever shot stopping keepers.

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