Y Front Fanzine

York City's second longest running fanzine

Development Squad

Whilst City’s development squad players have been cast in all directions to get game time, next season, will City have a proper development team and in which league will they play?

The flagship reserve / development league is the Premier League Under 21 / 23 setup. It has recently changed from to an Under 21 format and features 37 of England’s top sides split by EPPP category 1 and 2 designations. For 2023/4, 26 EPPP category 1 clubs compete in Premier League 2 and 11 EPPP2 clubs compete in Premier League 2 Division Two, both operate at a nationwide level with only Reading, in the top flight, being from outside England's top 2 leagues. Currently up to 5 over age players are allowed per team as the big clubs struggle to decide the best format. It could be said that players should be ready by the age of 21 whilst the 5 over age players allows both the occasional late developer and squad or other players returning from injury competitive game time.

Beneath this, at "Tier 3", sits the Professional Development League, a 21 club competition split into 2 regional sections and features a range of clubs from Burnley and Watford down to Crewe and Colchester. If my maths and understanding is correct, that makes 58 clubs.

There are various Under 23 / 21 / development leagues in existence, pyramid fashion, beneath this. Here at “Tier 4”, many lower league clubs compete in various leagues that largely go under radar. One such league that operated during the 2022/3 season was The Central League, albeit a shadow of its former glories, a 7 team competition which included Huddersfield, Wrexham and 5 lower Football League clubs from Lancashire. For the 2023/4 season, The Central League appears to have increased to a 12 club (now all from the Football League) competition, spreading its tentacles to add Derby, Lincoln, Notts County, Mansfield and Barrow with west and east sections. This will also be around the level where the likes of Doncaster and Harrogate also compete.

I imagine “Tier 5” is the “National Football Youth League“ set up. It has a 10 team northern division consisting of Chesterfield, Mansfield, Macclesfield, Scarborough, South Shields, Steven Gerrard’s Academy (Paul Mullin is possibly the most notable graduate in its history) and 2 sides from each of Tadcaster Albion and i2i. Its 9 team southern equivalent includes Cambridge, Wealdstone and 7 teams from below National League.

Uniquely, Mansfield compete in both the revamped Central League and the National Youth Football set up.

Further down, say “Tier 6” teams like Kidderminster run Under 23 sides, they complete in a West Midlands league, competing against many clubs that many have never heard of.

Without a recognised EPPP academy, I see City fitting in at "Tier 5" (but struggling to be accepted any higher up the pyramid). So for our development, it could be tasty competitive derbies against i2i, Tadcaster Reserves and Scarborough Reserves. Presumably all winnable games but the quality of opposition might be questionable.

Whilst for City, "Tier 5" competition might provide a modicum of competitive football at reserve team level, it hardly seems the level that is needed to step into the first team, so for some time to come, loans at National League North / South level might still prove to be the best route into our first team.

Certainly, over the years, the lack of quality of a reserve league has been cited by City as one of the reasons for scrapping a reserve side.

Goal A Game

In YFF #33, the playing record of a certain Mr Jones was noted. One City appearance, one City goal. Reputed to be a player of some repute, he was spotted drinking in a pub before the game, with City a player short, he was signed on the spot and thrust into City’s side. Readers might be interested to know that he is one of 11 former City players to achieve or beat the goal a game mark.

He is one of 5 City players to score one goal on his only City appearance, whilst a certain Tyson scored twice on his only game for City, a 4-2 in over Grimsby Town Reserves in September 1927.

3 other players scored 2 goals in City appearances. The most recent being John Price, a veteran who was an occasional deputy for Alf Patrick during the 1948/9 season. However, pride of place goes to Charlie Flood (19 goals / 19 games) and R Holland (17 goals / 16 appearances).

I’ve steered clear of naming too many players, as 8 played for City during our early non league years, 2 more in the 1940s and only one in recent years.

The most recent player? Jack Redshaw who scored in our FA Trophy defeat at Ashton United in December 2020, his only “true” City appearances, I’m not counting his league appearances as the league was declared void due to covid.

What would we give for Dipo Akinyemi to join that club by the end of the season by scoring a goal a game?

Whatever, let’s hope that City never have to resort to pulling players out of the pub before a game ever again, if so, that man of repute, Michael Miles might be in line for his City debut.

Replay

If Jurgen Klopp wants the recent Spurs game replayed due to the controversial disallowed goal, I'm happy to support him, if he supports City for the same from our 1986 FA Cup tie when even the home team players thought it was a goal.

Looking back in time, how different might City’s recent history be if we could go back in tie and “replay” the incident.

Replay 1991. Michael Sinclair sold his shares to Douglas Craig who assumed chairmanship and started City on the long and rocky road to today. Previously, we’d never been cash rich, but somehow had survived and had had a good team about once a decade, usually good enough to bring us to attention of the national football headlines. Since our mid 90s swansong, its usually been in times of difficulty or ridicule that we’ve made national headlines.

I could pick out many managerial appointments that we should replay. 2015 and Jackie McNamara’s appointment being the lowpoint. A moneyball approach that didn’t work. Over the years, we missed the chance to appoint the likes of the Martin O'Neill (never got an interview when he applied), Billy McEwan (an unsuccessful applicant 12 years before he eventually got it), Malcolm Crosby, Ricky Sbragia, Graham Potter, Steve Evans (possibly the most rejected applicant) and Neil Warnock.

Whisper it quietly, might Barry Swallow have made a good manager or coach. Chris Jones likened him to Malcolm Allison, Jones, citing their confidence, slightly aggressive and arrogant personalities. It would have been interesting to see if Barry Swallow could have translated his success as a caretaker manager into something more long lasting. And another thing I’d like to go to and replay out of history is the John Batchelor aberration of a shirt.

Breaking News: Klopp wants Liverpool’s 2014 home defeat to Chelsea to be replayed due to Steven Gerrard’s slip, caused by a “significant human error” which directly lead to the opening goal and cost Liverpool the Premier League title. He said, “It was an obvious mistake and I think there would have been solutions for it afterwards”.

Issue 37 - A Landmark

This is one piece that I thought I’d never have to write. Y Front is 37 issues old, very well done to all concerned.

We put together 36 issues of new frontiers over nearly 30 years. Launched in 1992, it went into hibernation just as Jon McCarthy was sold (“where’s the money gone” wasn’t really a question at the time) and weeks later we all know what happened at Old Trafford, possibly the start of the great Douglas Craig unravelling.

Back in the day, it was a logistical challenge but most people were helpful and supportive. One toe rag still stands out from the early day, wearing a Vice President’s tie, he claimed he deserved a free copy as he’d driven them from the printers in Sheffield to the ground on the previous day. They’d actually come from Cardiff 2 weeks earlier. He walked off in a huff, refusing to pay his 50p (“all profits to the Youth Development Fund”).

Later, a few sporadic issues found their way out, partly due to the ongoing issues at City and partly inspired by Y Front.

Being based down south, logistics became increasingly difficult (family life, planning trips to York, winter weather, finding suitable selling dates and being reliant on LNER included). Back in the day, Sheila Smith took delivery straight from the printers and all profits went to club funds. The club was supportive, even Douglas Craig handed over his 50p for every issue (whether for a good read or to check for potential slander is unknown). Invariably Ricky Sbragia thrust a £1 coin into my hand (“use the change for the next issue”, he’d say, next issue, he gave me another £1 coin). The later revival years saw eager eyed stewards checking for any transgressions onto club premises whilst ensuring salesmen didn’t block the car park entrance.

I’ve got to admire Michael and his Y Front team for their ongoing work. Invariably written to a high standard, it constantly brings City’s past (both good and not so good) to the fore.

Given post the post covid world (spiralling production costs (commercial printers gave way to “self production” (I was going to say “home”, but it wasn’t always home printers / copiers that took the pounding)), the increasingly cashless society and the immediacy of social media) and the frenetic pace of production, it cannot be easy to maintain the high standards. Not to mention the need to keep the content fresh and relevant without repeating old ground. It is still a joy to pick up a new issue of Y Front.

As Y Front motors on, I await the day in about 3 years when it matches or beats Terrace Talk’s 58 issues. I’ll be even happier if we have a league position to equal those halcyon Division 3 / 4 days.

Against Modern Football - “Long” Forgotten Rules

When I was a boy, you could always tell the goalie, he wore a green jersey, unless he was playing for England when it was yellow. Up in Scotland, it was reversed, yellow for club keepers and green for Scotland’s national keeper. Their shorts and socks exactly matched the rest of the team.

Come the 70s, anything went, one tradition down. Two if you count the requirement for keepers to wear long sleeved shirts. Three, the regular sight of keepers wearing caps to keep the sun out of their eyes largely disappeared. Four if you add goalie gloves. Graeme Crawford recalled how he chewed gum and smeared it on his hands during most of his career and it wasn’t until late in his career that gloves (once the preserve of wet days only) and specific keeper coaching arrived thanks to Charlie Wright.

Indeed, pre season pictures and news of that era seemed to centre around long distance runs and laps of the Knavesmire, news of tight hamstrings and groin strains was sadly lacking.

One tradition that changed in the 80s was the pitch sprinkler. Up until then, artificial pitch watering was banned between November and March. When you recall the state of some of pitches back then, it is easy to see why. Now, pitches are watered before the game and again at half time, although I’m increasingly seeing one half of the pitch watered more at half time, is that meant to favour the home side?

The rules of the game seem to change every season. Given the rate of change, it is easy to see why referee fails to enforce many rules. What irks me is the 6 second rule for keepers to release the ball. Frequently it takes 3 times as long, allowing teams to re-set and slow the game down.

About the only recent incident of a keeper being punished is FC Halifax Under 19 keeper who was booked for this offence early last season against City. He got a second yellow for a foul a few minutes later. Imagine the outcry if that had been Alisson or Ederson.

On the subject of yellow cards, Declan Rice picked one up for England in the spring for delaying a free kick. One opponent was within 3 yards of him and another within 10 yards. Work that one out. A referee who doesn’t know the 10 yard law? Delaying tactics overrode the rules of the game, allowing a team to re-set and to limit the options for the team who’d won the free kick.

Back to keepers, at one time, they had to take a goal kick from the angel of the 6 yard box on the side of the pitch in which the ball went out of play. To speed the game up, the rule was changed to allow goal kicks to be taken from anywhere in the box. Did it speed the game up? No.

Today we take about clear and obvious, back then, the rules were clear and obvious and all the better for it.

The King’s Speech - Independent Regulation

At the opening of Parliament on November 7, King Charles laid out his plans for an independent football regulator.

Y0rk City’s initial reaction was “we welcome the King’s desire to improve transport and expect this, subject to it extending to include the “northern powerhouse” clubs, will allow us to offer free travel to away games for all City supporters whilst we will re-double our efforts to put an effective Y22 service in place. Elsewhere in The King’s speech, we note the potential difficulties in ensuring all criminals serve their full sentence, but we are considering plans to keep our exit gates firmly locked until the final whistle whilst Matthew Lever, our new data analyst for recruitment will use his skillset to ensure no poor performing player is ever again substituted, we’ll make them serve the full 90 minutes. As ever, we remain aligned to government policy of full employment, our enlarged first team pool and new development squad confirm our policy of offering opportunities to everyone of every ability, family and friend (and agent), waifs and strays included”.

The main opponents to independent regulation, The Premier League slammed The King’s speech as a mix of "cheap gimmicks and reheated policies", full of "empty words" insisting they’ll wait for a full transcript of the speech before asking Manchester City’s lawyers to provide an in depth response, who, citing their ongoing financial fair play charges, don’t expect to deliver a response until 2034 at the earliest.

Quick off the mark, The FA’s response was “we fully support The King in calling for an independent regulator for football. We have already dusted down and updated our blueprint on the subject and have now come up a name ‘Football United to Cleanse Foreign and All Nasty Sorts’ (FUCfans) for the new regulator. With his background in football and being a former Harrow schoolmaster, we propose David Elleray to head the new body. He has an ideal mix of football knowledge from working with top clubs, discipline in managing unruly children and a knowledge of lines to lead the new body. We believe our vision offers a clear and obvious way forward and will remove all subjectivity”.

One bill that didn’t feature in the King’s Speech was the controversial Conversion Therapy Bill. Its omission is believed to be a concession to all the big clubs to allow them to continue to do as they wish without fear of criminalisation if they fail to change their identity or behaviour or even to sign up to independent regulation.

The big fear for independent regulation is that it doesn’t do as it is intended. Financial Fair Play was supposed to level the playing field, it has hardly made a difference, new money comes in and big clubs remain big, effectively making it harder for little clubs to break in to the inner circle. Manchester City, Barcelona and Everton are just 3 clubs who seem to be able to circumvent the FFP intent. EPPP was meant to improve young player performance, you could argue it has, but to many smaller clubs it has been a disaster, the option to develop and sell young players is no longer a viable one whilst big TV broadcast deals provide big money which remains with the big clubs.

The energy regulator, OFGEM allowed a multitude of start ups to enter the market, at the last count, over 30 had gone bust, bailed out by others (and us the consumer). ORR, the rail regulator, has overseen several successful bids from various companies to win rail franchises to run services across Britain that have since failed. In both cases, where was the due diligence?

Perhaps, if The FA had done its job properly, there would be no need for independent regulation.

There has been talk of an independent regulator for many years, it is still just talk. Nearly every change that has come about has been moulded and / or watered down to suit the big clubs. What will be different this time?

If you handcuff the big clubs and make them comply, they’ll stamp their feet, have a strop and say no. How long will it be before the Super League idea is resurrected?

Artificial Intelligence

A couple of years ago in When Saturday Comes, I proposed the automation of refereeing decisions. Basically taking recent decisions, storing / meta-tagging them to use to compare to similar in game incidents. Find the closest example and give the same decision every time. Removing subjectivity, it would allow consistency and speed of decision, what more could you want from a referee?

Well, it seems that Elon Musk must be an avid WSC reader. He’s taken my idea, re-badged it as AI (artificial intelligence) and wants to rule the world. Pity I didn’t patent my original idea.

At the recent artificial intelligence conference, the tech billionaire Musk predicted that artificial intelligence will eventually mean that no one will have to work, “we are seeing the most disruptive force in history here, there will come a point where no job is needed - you can have a job if you want one for personal satisfaction but AI will do everything” he said.

What does that mean for York City?

We can debate the most disruptive force in our history, Douglas Craig and Jackie McNamara might be high on the list.

You might argue that some of our players in recent years did no work during their City careers whilst others (Neal Ardley included?) might look forward to Musk’s vision of humanoid robots that "can chase you anywhere", players who chase back and do what their manager tells them to do.

One day, will City field a side full of humanoid robots?

That will also allow on demand football on the big screen, no more going to the ground, just turn on the TV and watch the match of your choice from your own padded armchair (or padded cell depending how far AI might go).

No more need to go the ground. AI has come just too late to save Bootham Crescent, it could have been turned into a museum, just think of all the gruesome stories it could have told, all those secrets bulldozed to oblivion. Without a great deal of history, the LNER could become a leisure centre. With a swimming pool and library already on site, the goals could be turned into climbing frames, terraces could be converted into a fitness park and the pitch would serve as a giant picnic area. At the same time, some of our recent poor decisions could be incorporated into a maze like attraction whilst we have enough surplus players to stage a regular treasure hunt / “find the player” competition.

Meanwhile, with our recent appointment of Matthew Lever as “Head of Recruitment Analysis and Scouting Organisation”, perhaps we’re already seeing the start of City’s own AI journey. He’ll be doing what many of us already do, poring over the databases of FIFA and Football Manager to create a team that will beat all comers. Just as long as it doesn’t deny Neal Ardley the chance of a wet Monday night in Bradford to watch his potential targets in action.

AI should also see improvements within the Stadium Management Company where the new AI should be an upgrade on their current set up which often seems to lack any AI (“any intelligence” in their case) and allow better decision making in the future.

Robots taking over the world? I remember, it must be nearly half a century ago when BBC’s Tomorrow’s World predicted the day when cars would be replaced by personal, driverless helicopters, freeing up our roads and allowing on demand and hassle free point to point travel whilst food would be delivered in pill form. Square red tablets for meat, round green ones for vegetables, yellow for supplements, little blue diamonds for energy and white ones for liquids. Well, trade unions still fight to keep drivers employed on public transport whilst lawyers argue over insurance liability for driverless cars. Who would want to go to a restaurant and get a meal of red and green tablets, washed downed with a glass of white and ending with a little blue tablet dessert as you gaze expectedly across the table at your beloved? It ain’t happening any day soon.

For City‘s supporters, AI sounds like a win win situation to me, better players, no one work will mean increased leisure time and more opportunities to watch City. Good or bad, you decide.

PS Under no circumstances, do not confuse AI (artificial intelligence, that’s the one with no work) with AI (artificial insemination, the one with no play).

Come In Number 1203

If you’ve got a copy of David Batters’ “Complete History”, you will be familiar with the pages, each in a tabular format that detail a season's playing record, results, line ups and scorers included.

Initially, David created them with pen and paper before going to print and converting them to Microsoft Excel.

David’s son, Ian passed them onto Paul Bowser and with support from Andy Naylor and myself, we have brought them up to date and with the power of Excel put the individual season’s into a consolidated format.

Along the way, some anomalies came to light. Incorrect dates (2 games played on a single day and Sunday games played almost a century ago), disputed goal credits, duplicate shirt numbers, shirt numbers transposed in the wrong column, missing subs and seasonal totals not tallying with career totals included.

I’m afraid to say, having done a little work to help David with his original book, then, it is possible that I am the source of some of those anomalies.

The enormity of what David did really came to light. Pre Excel, it must have been a nightmare to check. But all readily apparent with a bit of nifty Microsoft Excel, with various checks and balances, many queries could be quickly checked and resolved, but a needle in a haystack to the naked eye.

The end result is a spreadsheet for every season in City’s history and another master appearance spreadsheet which links them all together to reveal the playing records for all our 1,200+ players. It is over 1,200 rows deep (one row per player who has played for City) and over 800+ columns wide (some recent seasons have need 12 columns (4 competitions each with columns for appearances, substitute appearances and goals)).

Along the way, we agreed on the resolution of many anomalies. Some were easy to resolve whilst Paul’s extensive collection of newspaper cuttings allowed many more to be resolved.

One involved Paul Aimson. In David’s books, he’s missing a substitute appearance in one game in the 1970/1 season, although strangely that appearance is included in Paul Aimson’s overall playing record. Having played 42 games that season, Paul Bowser was able to review match reports for the other 4 games and pinpoint the game of the missing substitute appearance, he even noted from the match report that Aimson had been booked in the game.

We came down to just one final anomaly which proved more difficult to resolve. Records suggest that Edmund Harvey made 28 appearances for City in the 1926/7 season and possibly one more early in the 1927/8 season, all wearing the number 7 (outside right) shirt.

Digging deeper, Edmund Harvey left City in the summer of 1927 and was an ever present for Bradford City during the 1927/8 season, even playing the same afternoon as his “last” York City appearance. His seasonal stats suggest 29 (28 + 1) games but his City career stats stated just 28.

Again, Paul was able to check newspapers of the day, this time the York Herald from the day before his solitary 1927/8 “appearance” and it stated that due to injury 2 players were under consideration for the number 7 shirt, Tyson from Castleford and Harvey. So it appears that a player with the same surname got the nod and made just one appearance for City (as confirmed by further checks and cross checks). Convention of the time was that players were largely known by just their surname.

By the time this was confirmed, all the seasonal spreadsheets had been created and linked to the master appearance spreadsheet by means of giving each player a unique heritage (City debut) number. Luke Daley recently became the 1,224th player ever to play for City.

Rather than revisiting every spreadsheet from 1927 onwards, re-allocating heritage numbers and re-linking them to master appearance spreadsheet, “new boy” Harvey (another player with a one game City career) was allocated heritage number 1,203, the next one available at the time.

Now complete, I hope to put an abridged version of the spreadsheet onto the YCS web site shortly.

It allows people like me to come up with stats like “Aiden Marsh is the 1,218th ever City player”, “George Sykes-Kenworthy is City’s 102nd ever keeper” and “Akil Wright was City’s 600th ever scorer”.

Happy reading.

5 Bands

Recently, I’ve read lots promoting the merits of York bands Shed Seven and Skylights, but to my knowledge, neither had put any City affiliations into their songs. I suspect if they were still casuals, they’d be taking the well trodden A64 / M62 highway most weekends to watch their football.

Rick Witter recently said that he’d not yet been to the LNER whilst Skylights played a LNER show before a Knights game in September, pity no one thought to drive off, mid set, in the lorry that they were playing on.

Maybe it is me and my age, but both passed me by. To some readers, this may be sacrilege, but I don’t mind admitting that when I first saw Shed Seven headlining at the Astoria in about 1994 I was non plussed, much more impressed by their support band, Supergrass.

You need to look outside York for bands that wear their football on their shirts.

Half Man Half Biscuit are famed for famously turning down a national TV appearance on Channel 4’s The Tube as it would have meant them missing a Tranmere Rovers home game, their songs are liberally sprinkled with football and many other "lad culture” references. Still going strong, catch them when you can. Dukla Prague, Brian Moore, Dickie Davies, Honved and Subbuteo are all referenced in some of their well love songs. Their catalogue extends well beyond football and is well worth checking it out.

Probably even more prolific in their football references are the Crystal Place / AFC Wimbledon supporting “I, Ludicrous”. They are possibly the only nationally known band who referenced a City player as in “English Football 2003”:

Shearer, Van Nistelroy, Gascoigne, Gabbiadini

Jaaskelainen's off his line

Lobbed by Thierry Henri.

Some of their other work includes “The English Football Grounds”, a ground hopper’s guide (“and the beer is cold / good / great”) to The Den, Burnden Park and Craven Cottage and “Highland League” which referenced all 15 clubs in that Scottish league.

An honourable mention to The Sultans Of Ping FC, to give them their full name. From Ireland, they came with a Brian Clough / Nottingham Forest fixation. One of their better known songs, “Give Him a Ball (And a Yard of Grass)” worked in a number of Clough’s quotes into its lyrics.

I’m was unsure whether their track, “Kick Me With Your Leather Boots” was about football or another fetish they had, but with references to "Ardiles", "The Boys From Brazil" and "Boniek", I’ll go with the former.

Sadly, neither band is active. Some of I Ludicrous were last known to be providing near round the clock care to elderly parents whilst for all their youthfulness, The Sultans now have grown up, responsible jobs, although they occasionally re-unite for one off gigs.

Closer to home, local bands have rarely shown any City allegiance. Honourable exceptions include a singer / songwriter, Wayne, I forget his surname, he performed under the name Walwyn and played a couple of Roof Appeal fundraisers in the Social Club in the late 1980s.

A few years later, in the very early 1990s, local skiffle band, The Rugged Aardvarks, were often to be seen busking around York, one of their best known songs was ”Keith Walwyn: A Human Goal Machine”, you can still find it one YouTube. Composer Paul Butler revealed, "I was a Rugged Aardvark and wrote 'Keith Walwyn'". It is understood that Paul remains a lifelong City fan and season ticket holder. He recalled, “back in the day, I sent Keith a copy of the song; he told me he liked it, I always regretted including the line about him being 'technically weak'; I think I just needed a rhyme for 'peak'. Also, I got the round of the FA Cup wrong in the song. Years later some friends of mine met Keith and rang me whilst they were with him, unfortunately, I thought it was a wind up and, thinking that I was speaking to a mate who was pretending to be Keith, I was extremely rude to him! Nevertheless the song brings many happy memories back - and gave my kids a chuckle!"

The history of York musicians and bands with City affiliations goes back to the 1960s and continues through to recent years with the likes of Chuitar. Recently, by pure chance, I unearthed one long lost artefact from the mid 1970s and a musician with a 20 year connection with York City. But much more of that on another day.

Greetings From Millwall

Really enjoyed reading Dylan’s account of the York Nomads Society, it brought back many memories. Back in those days there was a real lack of cheap and reliable away day travel for City fans. YNS certainly filled a void, but one prominent City fan has more cause to remember one day when the YNS didn’t run a coach.

March 9th 1985 and City were scheduled to play at Millwall. However, that was the age of endless cup replays.

The previous weekend, the papers had listed Millwall / City as being postponed due to Millwall’s FA Cup commitment, they were due to be in Round 6 action that day. It was a reasonable assumption that City’s match was off.

With that in mind, Denis Smith gave the players the Millwall weekend off. No training on Thursday / Friday and report back on Monday.

Millwall had won their Round 5 tie, a 2-0 home win over Leicester and were awaiting their opponents. From that game, Gary Lineker recalled, "I remember running on to the pitch at the Den when I was a youngster with Leicester in the fifth round of the FA Cup. The place resembled a huge trap, and the venom that hit us from the Millwall fans was unbelievable. I remember thinking to myself, maybe it would be a good idea not to score at this place!"

Their opponents’ tie, originally scheduled for February 16 (the day of City’s first FA Cup game against Liverpool) had been postponed. Repeated attempts to play it were weather thwarted. As the thaw set in, the game finally went ahead on Monday March 4. A draw, 2 days later the replay was also drawn and the next afternoon, the FA ordered the second replay to go ahead on Saturday March 9 and that City’s game at Millwall was on.

With his players dispersed across the country, it was a busy Thursday afternoon for Smith and Viv Busby to phone their players and get them back to York, set up team and make travels arrangements.

Meanwhile The Nomads were left with no time to book a coach and more importantly, sell seats. Given the reputation of the original Den, who in their right mind would want to visit?

A couple of intrepid and prominent City supporters made their own separate ways to the Den. This was in the days when Cold Blow Lane and the surrounding New Cross area had a fearsome reputation.

One entered the ground, collar up, head bowed. He thrust out the exact money at the turnstiles and went into the ground, he purchased a programme in the same silent manner and dare not go to the tea kiosk and reveal his northern accent.

All was going well. No Millwall fans had twigged him and he saw no fellow City fan, that meant he didn’t have to acknowledge anyone he knew. Or so he thought.

5 minutes before kick off, the teams come out and warm up, City at the end where our intrepid fan was standing, he didn’t cheer City, just kept reading his programme. Young City full back, Steve Senior spotted him, “Hi Frank” (Frank may be an assumed name to preserve his identify), our City fan ignored him, looked over his shoulder, pretending to see who Steve Senior was shouting out, an even louder “Hi Frank” followed and only after a third greeting, did our City fan finally furtively acknowledge Steve Senior.

The game kicked off with our City fan fearing for his safety. City went down to a routine 1-0 defeat. Our performance gave the home fans no reason to get excited. Frank escaped unscathed.

Meanwhile that day, Millwall’s next cup opponents were confirmed. Luton beat Watford at the 3rd attempt to set up a home quarter final game with Millwall on the following Wednesday.

A pay on the gate match descended into chaos with violence before, during and after the game.

Older readers might remember the TV coverage of the game, it was headline TV news as the Luton and Millwall fans fought a pitch battle on the Kenilworth Road pitch, the game was suspended for 25 minutes at one stage as seats were ripped from the stands and used as weapons.

It was one of the worst incidents of football hooliganism during the 1980s.

David Evans, the Luton chairman, a staunch Conservative party member and Thatcher disciple used the match as a part of his argument to bring in a football membership / identify card scheme. He was to ban away fans from Kenilworth Road for the next 4 years.

For his efforts at Millwall, Steve Senior earned himself a place on a lower step in York City’s naughty boys’ steps.

Ryan Whitley

Neither Andy Warrington or Ron Hillyard will go down in history as City’s best ever goalkeeper. I think to that list we can now add Ryan Whitley. All 3 were young keepers who made their early senior appearances with City.

I remember coming back from a day’s trainspotting (split loyalties in those days) at Derby Works Open Day on August Bank Holiday Saturday in 1971 and picking up the Sports Press at the station. I’d missed the game to go Derby with my late brother and our best friend, I won’t name, him, but today, his younger brother and his 2 sons are members of a well known City supporting family.

City had lost 3-2 at home to Plymouth, thanks largely due to 2 Ron Hillyard howlers. He was soon to be replaced by Graeme Crawford.

After City, Ron Hillyard became a Gillingham legend, where he played a club record 657 games keeping 202 clean sheets.

Roll on 24 years and Andy Warrington made his City debut against Manchester United thanks to Dean Kiely’s injury at Hull a few days earlier. To this day, I still maintain that Warrington made his City debut at Hull, ordered by Alan Little, he stood on the terraces, behind the goal and was constantly barking instructions to Paul Baker, our stand in keeper in the days when places on the subs’ bench were reserved for outfield players.

Andy Warrington never quite made it at City, playing 61 games (exactly the same number as Hillyard) over 4 seasons. Given the chance to start as City’s number one after Kiely left, he was prone to the odd mistake. Tim Clarke, Mark Prudhoe, Mark Samways and Bobby Mimms all pulled on the keeper’s gloves before he was finally released in 1999. He went onto play over 200 games for both Doncaster and Rotherham, usually at a level above City before he finally retired in 2018.

With Kiely in goal and Warrington considered to be a hot prospect, I wonder if City ever regreted releasing our schoolboy keeper, 2 years younger than Warrington, in 1996? Paul Robinson signed apprentice forms with Leeds. Spurs and England followed. His career is well documented elsewhere.

Where will Ryan Whitley be in 20 years time? 400+ games behind him I hope. If his career is anything like those of Ron Hillyard and Andy Warrington, many will be at a level above City. File under “One That Got Away”?

He is the latest in a long line of City youngsters who have failed to make the grade with City, undoubtedly talented, I did wonder whether Notts County might have made a cheeky bid for him in 2023 summer after his display there at the end of last season. This season saw an early recall from a season long loan and a spell in goal. Playing in a dysfunctional side, he had his moments and his critics. Much as its never nice to see one of our own move on, I sure the chance of regular football will allow Ryan to flourish. Second choice behind David Stockdale, he can take inspiration from Stockdale that being released as a youngster by City isn’t the end of the world.

On the biggest debating points in the new frontiers days and beyond on the YCS web site City keeper's pages is who is City‘s greatest ever keeper.

Calculated via statistical analysis, with a minimum 25 league games played criteria and without regards to the division in which we were playing, rather unsurprisingly, the statistical outcome was skewed towards keepers who had relatively short City careers in successful sides.

You could argue that Graeme Crawford was our best ever keeper. He kept goal in all our Division 2 (now The Championship) games. Before that he kept clean sheets in 11 consecutive league games. His later years saw his performances drop as Wilf McGuinness’s side suffered 2 successive relegation seasons.

Roll forward 10 years and Roger Jones will have his supporters. He was a rock behind a solid and rarely breached defence as City’s attack swept aside all comers during our 1983/4 Division 4 championship winning season. At the veteran stage of his career, his class was clear but he wasn’t called into action nearly as much as many of City’s keepers.

A decade later, Dean Kiely is another strong candidate. In my lifetime, he is one City keeper to have gone onto have a long career as the top level. His Bootham Crescent years saw City on a largely upwards trajectory, he was the last line of defence in a number of high profile games, Wembley, play offs and Old Trafford included.

In 1994, when I spoke to the late David Batters, he said, "in my opinion Des Thompson was certainly one of the best (keepers). 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". David was possibly right.

During the 1993/4 season, Dean Kiely kept a club record 25 clean sheets (including 4 cup games and a play off game).

In the fullness of time, it is to be hoped that Ryan Whitley can fulfil his early potential and enjoy a long career in the professional career. Another that got away?

St Valentine’s Day Massacre

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