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YORK CITY SOUTH


City History

City's United Nations

The original of this article, written by Dave Stanford, first appeared in The Yorkshire Evening Press in August 2002.

DURING the club's 80-year history, cosmopolitan and York City have never really been easy bed-fellows. But as the club enters its ninth decade (August 2002) the Minstermen's international brigade is stronger than it has ever been.

Currently, City have on their books a Nigerian-born Dutchman (James Okoli), an Argentinian (Nicolas Mazzina), a Brazilian (Rogerio) and a Turkish youth international (Levent Yalcin), while youth team player Matthew McCabe was actually born in Australia before moving to England as a youngster.

Of course, English blood dominates the first team ranks, but Scotland (Alex Mathie and Tom Cowan), Wales (Lee Nogan) and Northern Ireland (Alan Fettis and Aidan O'Kane) are also represented.

For a Division Three club it is a remarkable injection of sometimes exotic talent, and even more so when you consider City have rarely looked beyond Great Britain in the past.

However, despite their numbers being few, those globetrotters who have plied their trade at Bootham Crescent provide a rich chapter in the City history books.

Okoli aside, most recently Holland has come closest to claiming a foothold at York.

Last season, City flirted briefly with a European import when Dutch winger Michael Evans made just two appearances before injury struck.

Two years ago, there was also the brief cameo appearance of Theo Gunnissen, a Dutch postman, playing in City's reserves. Gunnissen arrived on trial at Bootham Crescent after being spotted playing football on holiday.

Perhaps surprisingly though it is South Africa that has bred more international Minstermen than any other country.

Gerald Francis, born in Johannesburg South Africa in 1933, was City's first black player. He was a shoe repairer by trade who arrived in England anxious to become a full-time footballer. His dream was realised with Leeds United before he signed for City in 1961 and made 20 appearances that season as a right winger. He later became a postman.

Also born in Johannesburg was left winger Albert Johanneson who followed Francis in joining Leeds first before arriving at Bootham Crescent. Born in 1940, he was dubbed the `Black Flash' when Leeds lifted the 1963-64 Division Two title and was their joint top scorer. The following season he became the first black player to appear in an FA Cup final. He joined City in July 1970 and although he played a significant part as City won promotion that season he did not figure in manager Tom Johnston's long-term plans and returned to South Africa in 1972. He later returned to England but fell on hard times and died in Leeds in 1995.

Another South African-born City player is the legendary Andy McMillan, who was born in Bloemfontein in 1968 and lived in the republic for 12 years. The family then lived in Bulawayo for six years as McMillan played junior international football for Zimbabwe before the family returned to England. After trials at Hull, Spurs and Preston came to nothing, full-back McMillan came good at City - winning promotion at Wembley in the 1993 - and is second in the all-time appearance records at Bootham Crescent.

War-time guest player Gordon Hodgson, a powerful centre-forward, worked as a boilermaker in his native South Africa when he toured England with their amateur side in 1924-25. He was spotted by Liverpool and scored 232 goals in 359 appearances for the Reds and actually went on to win three England caps - his parents were English.

Another Springbok recruited by Liverpool and then City during the war was goalkeeper Dirk Kemp, who was born in Capetown. Serving with the 9th King's Liverpool Territorials, he made just two appearances for City in 1942.

Another war-time player was Henry Mordey, who was born in Kuala Lumpar, Malaysia, in 1911, a left-back who made just three appearances for City and also played for Southampton during the war.

The Caribbean too has provided a smattering of City players over the years and in fact current coach Luther Blissett was born in Jamaica, although he was capped 14 times by England.

Lloyd Richards, like Blissett, was born in Jamaica and must have been one of the most skilful players to pull on a City shirt in an all too brief a career. Richards came to England in 1964 aged just six and made the grade first at Notts County before joining City in 1980. However, after just 21 senior appearances his contract was cancelled later that season after being late for training and missing a reserve game. He never played League football again.

And who could forget the legendary Keith Walwyn, another Jamaican-born son of York? Walwyn was the spearhead of City's record-breaking 1983-84 championship-winning team and only Norman Wilkinson has scored more senior goals for the Minstermen than Walwyn (140 in 291 appearances).

Eastern Europe also has its representatives and in fact provides perhaps the most interesting character of them all. Edouard Wojtczak, a goalkeeper, was a member of the Second Polish Army Division, who were stationed in York after the Second World War. Wojtczak was actually born in Syrzan, Russia, in April 1921 and made eight appearances for City between 1946 and 1947. A tank commander during the war, he was something of an eccentric. After a typically acrobatic save he would often bow to the crowd. He was also an outstanding skater, starring in ice shows after the war and once walked from York to London on ice skates to publicise a show.

Eryk Kubicki was also member of the Second Polish Army Division stationed in York when he impressed in a friendly game. His League debut against Gateshead in October 1946 helped attract the highest gate of the season (8,502) when only a post denied him a goal. His last game for City came just a month later after just five games.

There are also a handful of City players who could also be classed as `foreigners' although admittedly somewhat tenuously.

Full-back Paddy Atkinson, who joined City in 1995 and went on to make 43 appearances was a dyed-in-the-why aye wool Geordie but was actually born in Singapore.

Goalkeeper Roy Tunks was born in Wuppertal, Germany, where his father was stationed with the Army, and he made four league appearances for City during a loan spell in 1969. Tunks made 694 League appearances in total in a career spanning 22 years.

Like Atkinson, Charlie Twissell was also born in Singapore in 1932, where his father worked in the prison service and moved to England when he was seven. He played for Great Britain's Olympic football team in 1956 and joined City in 1958. In the next two and a half years, Twissell went on to make 56 appearances as a left winger and famously once miscued a shot against Reading, shattering some of the floodlights.

Now City's current band of international Minstermen will hoping they can make their own shining impact as a new global dawning rises over the Crescent.

2 other players with interesting backgrounds included The Gabbiadini brothers who boasted Italian / Welsh parentage.

Since 2002, City have continued to experiment with more exotic players.

The Batchelor / Dolan years were particulary rewarding for those interested in exotica. Brazilian striker,Rogerio Carvalho, who boasted a UEFA Cup pedigree, flattered to deceive before joining Harrogate. At the same time, 2 Argentinean trialists, Nicolas Mazzina and Marcelo Veron didnít do enough to earn a contract. That season also saw James Okoli, ex Motherweell, originally from Nigeria play in defence.

The early part of this decade has also seen several trialists try to win a contract with City, mainly Scandanavian or East European. Farhad Afandiyev, who won junior representative honours in goal for Azerbajian earned a contract and kept our bench warm in the early part of the 2005/6 season. Later that season, Frenchman, Tcham N'Toya flattered to deceive in our midfield whilst on loan from Chesterfield.

The advent of Bosman and the further opening up of the European community has seen a steady stream of players with exotic sounding names arrive at City. Mainly on trial and usually they've disappeared quickly without trace. Who now remembers Roy Kenneth Larsson or Roar Fredriksen, 2 Scandanavian triallists who arrived within a few weeks of each other in autumn 2001 or Brighton Mugadza, a young keeper with a Zimbabwean background?

Give me a Keith or Gary or Paul any day, even a Graeme will do.

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