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City History - Keepers - Who Is The Best

Intro 1929-39 World War 2 1946-1970
1970-1994 1994-2015 City Long Serving Career Long Serving
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If you ask anyone who was City's best ever goalkeeper, you will get several different answers. There is no true way that you can compare keepers from different eras, its hard enough deciding who is the best keeper in England today, try comparing keepers through the ages and you are asking for problems.

Whilst I have supported City, I could put forward Dean Kiely, Roger Jones and Graeme Crawford as prime contenders. Stretch the imagination a little, Mike Stowell, Eddie Blackburn, Ron Hillyard and Mike Walker could be added to the list. Older readers might like to add Tommy Forgan, Mick Granger, Des Thompson, Peter Pickering and Norman Wharton to the list.

Afraid of nothing, New Frontiers attempted to decide who is the best ever York City goalkeeper.

Straight away, I've only included established keepers and have excluded the keepers who didn't play more than 25 games for City. Then, using each keeper's City career record (until May 2015) of games won, drawn and lost and awarded 2 points for each game won and one point for each game drawn. A bonus point has been awarded for every clean sheet kept and a point lost for every game where City conceded more than 2 goals. You could argue that the bonus points and points lost discriminate against the older keepers who played in an era of higher scoring games when clean sheets were harder to come by and it was more common to concede 3 or more goals in a game. However, I've included them as they give an indication of keeper performance, rather than team performance.

I put all this information into my computer and out come the winner. Step forward Roger Jones. York City's best ever goalkeeper. In close pursuit are Tommy Evans, Michael Ingham, Des Thompson and Dean Kiely. Download details of all 70+ keepers here. (Data accurate to the end of the 2016/7 season).

Keeper

 

P

W

D

L

CS

3+

c/avg

Rank

JONES, Roger

1982-85

122

65

29

28

38

12

15.16

1

Evans, Tommy

2006-08

83

38

21

24

30

11

13.98

2

Ingham, Michael

2003, 2008-

276

100

94

82

93

21

13.26

3

Thompson, Des

1950-53

80

31

25

24

26

7

13.25

4

Kiely, Dean

1990-96

215

83

61

71

73

25

12.79

5

Hillyard, Ron

1969-74

61

26

15

20

18

10

12.30

6

Forgan, Tommy

1954-66

388

168

85

135

109

64

12.01

7

Pickering, Peter

1946-48

49

18

16

15

13

8

11.63

8

Porter, Chris

2003-06

64

21

18

25

17

4

11.41

9

Samways, Mark

1997-98

29

11

8

10

6

3

11.38

10

I'm sure many will agree with the result. Roger Jones' entire City career was spent in a successful side which helped his cause and probably that of Ron Hillyard and Tommy Evans as well. Likewise, many other contenders including Tommy Forgan, Graeme Crawford and Dean Kiely spent some, if not most, of their City careers in struggling sides. Coversely, that might suggest Michael Ingham deserves higher than 4th place for his travails across the years in a side that has often struggled. The table is maybe more representative of successful City sides rather than top City keepers.

The new entries since this series first appeared in New Frontiers in 1994 and 1995 include Tommy Evans and Michael Ingham, I must admit to being slightly surprised they appear so high in the all time list, personally I wouldn't rate them in the Roger Jones', Graeme Crawford or Dean Kiely class, but both did play in play off or Wembley winning sides.

Best Season

Figures lie I hear you all say. Measure it a different way. Which City keeper has conceded the least amount of goals in a season. Our best ever season was 2009/10 when we conceded just 35 goals in 44 games, Michael Ingham being an ever present until the last day of the season when we lost 1-0 at Stevenage to finish 5th and qualify for the play offs. In the 1983/4 Division 4 Championship season, Roger Jones conceded only 32 goals in 41 games, his deputy, Mick Astbury conceding a further 7 in 5 appearances as City conceded 39 in total. In 1973/4, our previous promotion season, we conceded a measly 38 goals in a division higher than 1983/4. Graeme Crawford conceded 35 in 43 games, Ron Hillyard 3 in 3. Statistically, of the 3, Roger Jones was slightly the meaner, but you made a calculator to separate them.

However, its interesting to look at the season immediately before those 1974 and 1984 promotion seasons. In 1982/3, Roger Jones conceded 50 goals in 42 games as City narrowly missed out on promotion. In the 1972/3 season, Graeme Crawford let in 43 goals in 42 games as City avoided relegation on goal average. Not many people could argue that it was Graeme Crawford who saved City from relegation that, and indeed the previous season.

One other contender must come into the reckoning. Dean Kiely. He conceded 45 goals (in a 42 game league programme) in the 1992/3 season and went better a year later, and a division higher, as he conceded only 40 goals (46 games) and then 51 goals (46 games) in 1994/5, our only keeper to show such consistency over 3 successive seasons.

Having seen all 3 play throughout their City careers, I would nominate Graeme Crawford as the best goalkeeper I have seen play for York City. From joining City in 1971, he was largely responsible for keeping them in Division 3 and then winning promotion to the real Division 2. He equalled The Football League record of 11 consecutive clean sheets. In Division 2, facing the likes of Manchester United, Aston Villa, Sheffield Wednesday, Nottingham Forest, Norwich, Southampton and Oldham he conceded 55 goals as City reached mid table safety. Then, as the team disintegrated, even Graeme Crawford couldn't save the side from plummeting to the basement of The Football League. I suggest Graeme Crawford made a huge contribition in each of 2 successive seasons when we avoided relegation on goal average and then the following season when we won promotion. I think that his poor City career average reflects the general malaise that City experienced in the late 1970s.

Whilst Roger Jones and Dean Kiely both performed very competently, I always felt that Graeme Crawford more than any other City keeper I have seen would turn a defeat into a draw, and a draw into a victory. Possibly, we never saw Roger Jones at his very best at Bootham Crescent, he was almost 36 when he arrived. After City, Dean Kiely went on to have a long and successful career in the top flight, his record in the Premiership says it all.

Ever Presents

Another measure of a successful keeper could be one who has been an ever present in a season, it demonstrates form, consistency and fitness. In our history, we have had 11 seasons where we've have had just one keeper. Graeme Crawford (1974-76) and Dean Kiely (1993-95) both did it in 2 consecutive season. Tommy Forgan also did it twice, but not in consecutive seasons (1956/7 and 1958/9). The five who have done it just once are Des Wharton and Norman Wharton before WW2 and in more recent times, Chris Marples, Alan Fettis and Michael Ingham.

The Early Years

What of the other prime contenders for the title of City's best ever keeper. I'm sure some votes would be cast for Norman Wharton. He starred in the 1937/8 FA Cup run which ended with a Round 6 replay defeat. I'd discount him as City never finished higher than 11th in the League in his 3 seasons with the club.

The early post war years were a golden age for City keepers. Peter Pickering played little more than a season for City so didn't really have enough time to do himself justice. He was soon followed by Des Thompson. Another promising young keeper who learnt his trade at Bootham Crescent before moving onto the top flight. Unfortunately, neither really established themselves as truly top flight keepers.

You could also group Tommy Forgan and Mick Granger together. First choice and his deputy for about 10 seasons, Tommy Forgan was in goal as City reached The FA Cup semi final in 1955 and he played until 1966 by which time he had featured in City's first 2 promotion campaigns. I think that no one would argue that Mick Granger was City's best ever reserve keeper. Some would argue that Tommy Forgan was City's best ever keeper.

And Finally

The contenders are named, some names seem to crop up regulraly. The choice is yours

The figures say Roger Jones was City's best ever goalkeeper. Personally, I would say Graeme Crawford. The saves of Graeme Crawford remain more clearly in my mind than those of any other City keeper that I have seen. To me, that makes him "City's Best Ever Keeper" in my eyes. Who do you say? Like you, my judgement reflects the keepers I saw in action (and probably my age at the time), hence, I don't mention Tommy Forgan or Des Thompson in my personal list.

In 1994, I asked City historian Dave Batters, "In my opinion Des Thompson was certainly one of the best. Tommy Forgan must rate as the most popular whilst Roger Jones and Graeme Crawford were both outstanding during their careers with City. In the fullness of time, however, Dean Kiely may well rank as City's number one keeper in their history".

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