Ahead of Saturday’s opening game of the season against York City at Bootham Crescent, Steve from Vital York answers a few questions for us.
Welcome back to the Football League, you’ve come close a few times, what made the difference last season?
A tremendous team spirit and togetherness within the camp was absolutely key. So many times the side came back with late goals, as characterised by a couple of semi-final victories over Luton Town (FA Trophy) and Mansfield Town (play-offs). Then in the Wembley play-off final victory against Luton they fell into arrears within 71 seconds. The reaction to that was quite magnificent – battering their opponents until they forged ahead early in the second-half before withstanding heavy pressure during the later stages. The club also discovered a real talisman in striker Matty Blair, who hit scintillating form just at the right time and helped offset the loss through injury of Jason Walker. In the end though, it came down to a manager who instilled belief, desire and an absolute will-to-win into his squad.
What are your fans’ expectations for the coming campaign?
Most fans expect a season of adjustment but not one of struggle. The manager is already demanding a top seven finish and there will be some who will probably anticipate exactly that. Perhaps the more seasoned supporters might be predicting something a little more modest. But given the previous success of clubs moving from Conference into Football League, City can probably achieve just as much as they want to. Certainly one thing is sure, you won’t witness many better ‘footballing’ sides coming to Adams Park.
What are your own personal expectations?
I have every confidence in Gary Mills. I haven’t always agreed with some of his decisions – for the play-off final he left out the club’s most creative midfielder and bizarrely played two full-backs and a centre-half in the middle of the pitch. It looked a massive gamble but in the end he was proved right. York were physically stronger than Luton on the day – more athletic, more determined and in the end more talented. As for where I think we will finish this season? Start at ninth place and count upwards. With a couple more additions to the squad you could almost raise that starting number to five. ‘In Mills we trust!’ was the maxim of York supporters last season. There is absolutely no reason to change that view now.
Gary Mills has been your manager for almost two years now, what do you like about him and has he always been a popular figure?
Gary Mills has made himself a legendary figure at the club by completing the biggest challenge ever put before it – reclaiming their Football League status. Five men tried before him and failed. But Mills always said he would do it. The real surprise was that is was achieved as early as his first full season in charge. Having said that, it would perhaps be incorrect to say that beforehand everyone always agreed with his management style. Some could perhaps accuse him of a certain arrogance and stubborness. Many were repeatedly baffled by his team selections and recruitment policy. A constant rotation policy in midfield in his first season. Then he opted on shunning some of his established midfielders in the next and instead operating with defenders in their place. A refusal to accept that some of his signings simply weren’t up to the mark and never would be also irked many followers. However, the real proof of the pudding was that he managed to assemble a team and instil within it a commitment, enthusiasm and spirit that meant no problems was insurmountable. They were a happy bunch of players and it showed in their work. Before then York could so easily have gone the way of the likes of Darlington or Rushden & Diamonds and disappeared into total obscurity. But people at the club and its supporters made sure that wasn’t going to happen, and in Mills finally found the figure to successfully begin the revolution. He rewarded those same people with eight days in their lives that none of them would ever forget.
How would you describe your current style of football?
Wonderfully progressive! York won’t be overly concerened by ‘footballing’ sides this season. They will merely view them as a proper challenge and look to take them on at their own game. Many have said in the past the pure football won’t get you out of the Conference. Certainly many recent successful clubs have served to only endorse those claims. York totally disproved it. Yes, there is perhaps too often a tendency to overplay. There can be the frustrating elements of an Arsenal or even a Spanish style, with fifteen passes employed when three might have done just as well. But that will only serve them well – the step up won’t be as great for City as perhaps some of the other clubs in the past. And when it comes off it is an absolute delight to watch. Both goals in the FA Trophy final against Newport County at Wembley were of the greatest quality and befitting of a much higher level of football.>
What are your main strengths and which player would you miss the most?
Team spirit and togetherness combined with natural talent and sheer determination. York are already missing two of their most key players in midfielder Scott Kerr and centre-back David McGurk. But then they were both absent for Wembley and City still won twice. Having said that, an in-form Jason Walker remains absolutely key for York. Three terrific months at the start of last season was followed by injury and a period of indifference. Once he starts firing again – and he will – the Minstermen can really fly. Expect fireworks also from Jonathan Smith following his return to the club. Won a championship medal with Swindon Town last season and a really top player.
What are your main weaknesses?
I could tell you. But I won’t!
What style of football do you expect to see from Wycombe on Saturday?
To be honest after years of studying the likes Forest Green Rovers, Hayes & Yeading United and Barrow, you tend to rather lose touch with what is occuring higher up the scale. Wycombe came out of League One last season just twelve months after winning promotion from this same division. I look at your squad list and recognise Nikki Bull as a
decent England ‘C’ international goalkeeper from his time at Aldershot, while centre-half Dave Winfield has also followed manager Gary Waddock along that same route. Gareth
Ainsworth has already played at a much higher level and Stuart Beavon always scored goals. In terms of your new recruits, Gary Doherty and Matthew Spring should add more experience, Denis Oli and Joel Grant are others who emerged after doing the rounds of the Conference. There appear to be a number of players there who certainly know the game. If they still have the ambition to add to that experience, then Wycombe should be served well. I’m expecting a difficult first game but one which should be rather useful in assessing our ongoing progress.
I believe your average attendance was 3,239 last season, how excited are the local population at the prospect of league football and what do you expect the average attendance to be this season?
There is certainly tremendous excitement within the city and, indeed, further afield. The truly remarkable statistic is that York’s average attendance has remained strong and consistent despite eight long years in the Conference. The club will undoubtedly welcome with open arms some proper away support this season, to add to the overall atmosphere and help banish dreadful memories of six away followers and an umbrella. We should be in receipt of some big gates against local rivals such as Bradford City and Rotherham United, in which case that figure is likely to be comfortably surpassed.
Are the York supporters united in supporting the forthcoming move from Bootham Crescent to a new community stadium?
The move has long-been accepted as the only available option in maintaining the club as a professional and sustainable outfit. Naturally, supporters will be desperately sad to finally wave goodbye to Bootham Crescent and so many wonderful memories. But it if means moving the football club forward with ambition and positivity and crucially offers it vastly increased revenue streams, then I’m sure the trusty followers of the Minstermen will soon adapt to a new bright and prosperous era. Bootham Crescent is a wonderful old-style football ground but is sadly run down and now beyond repair. York must instead look to the future – their supporters have fought long enough for the right to build their new stadium within the city and will, I’m sure, fully embrace it.
Finally, take a wild guess at the score on Saturday!
A tight encounter with two clubs who should be up there contesting the leading places throughtout the season. York 2 Wycombe 1
Vital Wycombe would like to thank Steve for taking the time to answer our questions.