Mens Team

City DNA #85: That night in York...

City DNA #85: That night in York...
‘Where were you when…’

You know the rest.

City fans of a certain age (and therefore disposition) will recall very well the hardships and horrors of our ‘less successful’ years.

Back then, it was referred to as ‘character building’… and if you were one of the 7,527 in attendance at Bootham Crescent on 19 December 1998 (its biggest attendance since Manchester United's visit 1995), you have certainly earned your yellow and navy stripes in City fandom.

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Regarded by many as the lowest point in our history, Joe Royle’s men succumbed to a humiliating defeat against struggling York City with our hopes of promotion hanging by a thread – and the prospect of another season in Division Two a distinct and daunting possibility.

Heading into the game without a win in four league games, City were very much languishing in the third tier and needed a drastic change in fortunes to rekindle any hope of climbing back up the leagues to the promised land of the Premier League.

That upturn would arrive… but not until a week later. City’s torrid run continued across the Pennines and the die-hard Blue faithful suffered some more.

Today, you’d say it was unthinkable… but it happened.

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Adding salt into the wounds, it was a former Stockport County man – Gordon Connelly – who opened the scoring for the home side after just 84 seconds. A nightmare start to say the least.

Craig Russell levelled just after the half-hour with a looping cross-shot and City fans in all sides of the ground leapt to their feet!

An 86th-minute winner through substitute Andy Dawson – his first ever goal, scored three minutes after his introduction – would silence the Blue Army however, sending the Minstermen positively merry and compounding City’s misery in the lower leagues.

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As Nicky Weaver remembers, such embarrassment had become a common occurrence.

“I remember the York game away,” he recalled. “That wasn’t one of the favourites but it was a standout memory!

“It was a difficult season – particularly the first half. It took us four or five months to get into that division of football.

“Everybody was coming to Maine Road like it was a Cup Final for them and we went to away games at your Lincolns and Yorks, Colchesters and Macclesfields and those places and it was a big thing for them: Man City coming into town.

“It was everyone’s scalp and we found it difficult!

“We picked up momentum at Christmas time, having signed a few players – Gareth Taylor, Terry Cooke, Andy Morrison – and we went on a good run.

“When we got to the play-offs, we were in a really good run of form and really fancied our chances.”

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Manager Royle’s memories of our trip to York are equally morbid but he fondly recalls the emergence of the City fans’ infamous coping mechanism of those troubled times...

“Gallows humour… I don’t know where it started. Was it York, Port Vale or Wycombe? It was certainly in the outposts of football and whenever I see City fans, they tell me they loved that season – that they really enjoyed it!

“I’m not sure they did at York that night! I wasn’t thrilled… put it that way.

“I thought we were better than what we were playing at the time and the York game was strange, believe me.

“They might have won 2-1 but I think any statistic tells you: we had more of the chances and the better of the game.

“I wasn’t a manager for shouting or throwing cups or any of that nonsense. The one time I was determined that we had to have a showdown was when we lost to Wycombe and all the players came in with their heads down.

“I had the staff behind me and I slammed the door and it fell off! I thought: ‘God, we can’t even have a scrum down in private!’

“The players were nodding and keeping their smiles under and Asa Hartford was giggling next to me, and I said: ‘I’ll see you tomorrow.’

“We lost at York and Lincoln and Wycombe and you couldn’t evade that… You couldn’t deny that we were in a place we didn’t want to be in and the lowest place probably in City’s history.

“But I never stopped smiling at the City fans.”

So, were you there…?

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