Saturday 11th December 2021 ko 15:00
National League North
YORK CITY 1 (Wright 12)
Brown sent off 35 (serious foul play)
CHORLEY 1 (Cardwell 39)
Att 4,512 (156 away) STADIUM RECORD
Back in 2010 I was at Wembley for the Conference Premier Play-off final to watch Oxford United regain their place in the Football League at the expense of York City. As an Oxford fan my sole thought at the time was that my side won, I must confess I thought little of York and their fans, save for a brief pang of regret for their then manager Martin Foyle, he was ex-Oxford after all! A glance at the Leagues would point to there being 3 divisions between 2 University clubs who’ve both left iconic grounds, and had lousy owners. But that’s only a superficial way of looking at York’s new ground.
For a start York followed Oxford United back into the League in 2012 and as FA Trophy winners too, but were relegated back to the now National League in 2016 and were relegated again the next season, despite once again winning the FA Trophy. But the club had been looking to leave Bootham Crescent since 2004, and the great irony of their fall from grace meant while their reduced status meant Bootham Crescent was now adequate for their needs, their financial situation meant they had to move.
Back in 2004 a Football Stadium Improvement Loan of £2 million allowed York City to buy back Bootham Crescent but the terms of loan gave them until 2007 to identify a site for a new stadium and a further two to to obtain planning permission. The loan would become a grant once the club moved; in short there were two million reasons pushing the club away from their spiritual home.
Of course these things always over-run and eventually a site at Monks Cross was identified. It is 3 miles to the north of Bootham Crescent. There was already a retail park, and adjacent was the Huntington Stadium an old athletics stadium and home to the York City Knights Rugby League club. Incidentally I do know of at least one groundhopper who saw a football match at the old Huntington Stadium and so feels he doesn’t need to visit the new stadium because the two footprints to overlap to some extent- I’d better not comment any further!
The City of York Council decided to build a stadium for both football and rugby and place it in the centre of a sports and leisure complex. The old stadium was demolished in 2015 and the two clubs eventually moved into the York Community Stadium or the LNER Community Stadium in February this year, with York City’s first game here against AFC Fylde being played behind closed doors due to the pandemic.
Over the years I’ve learned to be a little wary of new stadiums built on a budget, try visiting the likes of Scunthorpe or St Mirren but for all the many compromises, this has been sympathetically done. The first thing you’ll notice when you park up, and do pay the fiver in advance, is how little of the stadium you can see, there’s variously a bowling alley, a library, an outpatients clinic and a cinema all squeezed in there. Calling in at the club shop next to the clinic with its NHS branding was surreal. You can see very little of the ground from the bus station, so it is a little odd buying your programme stood outside a ten-pin bowling alley, but that’s the price paid to get the place built.
But the 8,500 all seater stadium is more than adequate for York City’s needs both now and if/when then they regain their league status, and a promotion reducing adult prices down to £5 was a good way of testing how well it all works. For a start you may be watching a non league game but expect to be treated precisely how you would at a League game; ie segregation, allocated seats, and no I was not allowed to take my DSLR camera in. In fact the one picture I did take with the big camera did illustrate that point about how little of the ground is visible.
But pay attention and there was some nice touches, such as the mural outside the West Stand, and between the East and South stands you’ll find the Phil Dearlove clock that used to sit atop the Popular Stand back at Bootham Crescent. It isn’t a state of the art ground like say Tottenham Hotspur’s but them it isn’t trying to be.
I found the game difficult to watch at times. These days the National League’s two regional divisions is where the full-time and part-time games meet. This was a good example where by definition the poorest full-time players met Chorley’s part-timers. At this level players can still pass and move well, but where they lack is consistency. Here move after move showed great promise, but a mistake after mistake caused a breakdown. The result was that the supporters aren’t happy.
York are mid-table, far below what their fans would regard as reasonable, and the situation is complicated by their ownership. The club was fan-owned with Jason McGill as chairman, but bought a controlling interest in 2006. But the club are roughly £10 million in debt, and the York City Protest Movement staged a tennis ball throwing protest 10 minutes into the game causing a brief suspension of play. You could certainly understand their point, when going back to that comparison with Oxford United.
The team though do have character. They led through Akil Wright’s 12th minute header but lost Matty Brown to a red card after 35 minutes, and you have to question what a centre-half is doing committing a high two-footed challenge 10 yards from the CHORLEY defence’s left corner? But despite Harry Cardwell’s spectacular free kick to equalise for the visitors soon after, York held on for what was probably a good point under the circumstances, but will do nothing to placate the protestors.
Because after all that’s said and done this is a club and stadium that really shouldn’t be at this level.