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Archive - Saturday, 11 April 1998
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A match day in the life of
ANDY McMillan, one of the most assured sporting sons of York, was but a telephone call from shining with the house of Lancashire.
Such a revelation may seem like sacrilege, so enduring has the McMillan style been applied to the pride of York's cause. But it's shockingly true that the other side of the Pennines once beckoned for City's Supermac.
After rejecting an unsatisfactory offer from Hull City, the stylish defender was sought by both the Minstermen and their current Division Two rivals Preston North End.
However, the destination he opted for was Bootham Crescent. That kick-started an association now more than a decade strong and one capped against Bournemouth this afternoon when McMillan marked the milestone of his 450th outing in City colours.
Never in his wildest dreams could he imagine clocking up so many appearances for City when he spurned white shirt and red rose county for red shirt and white rose realm.
But there's been no regrets from the defender for whom elegance has been intertwined with experience throughout a distinguished right-back patrol.
"Hull City had offered me another year on non-contract terms where I was sweeping the terraces," recalled McMillan.
"But I was on the dole and I needed more than that. I got a call from Preston, whose manager was John McGrath, and also a call from York where Bobby Saxton was in charge. I told Mr McGrath that I was going to York."
It's been Preston's - and Lancashire's - loss ever since.
McMillan has blossomed from his Roses' dilemma into one of the most reliable players ever to don City's livery. Consistency conspicuous by coolness under pressure, calmness in possession, and characteristic charges from full-back to attack.
Regular advances along the right are perhaps the natural offshoot from a wanderlust followed by McMillan, who crossed continents in pursuit of his professional dream.
Born in Bloemfontein 29 years ago, McMillan lived in South Africa until he was 12 when his family moved to Zimbabwe. He played junior international football there, but his energies - fuelled by a childhood love for Manchester United - were being channelled to trying his luck in England.
He had six weeks in Blighty with trials at Tottenham Hotspur and Hull City only to return for school examinations.
When parents Trevor and Ann came back to their England home Andy took a step closer to his wish of becoming a footballer, Hull, York and Preston circling for his signature. After several appearances for City reserves he was given his senior York City debut soon after Christmas 1987 as a second-half substitute in a basement trip to Mansfield Town.
"I remember going into the dressing-room, getting changed and thinking' what do I do now? Do I go out and have a warm-up or what?' Luckily, Dale Banton came over and took me out on to the pitch and my nerves settled."
McMillan appeared for the second-half, City countering to claim a worthy 2-2 draw. A decade or more on he is to finish the season closing in on 500 appearances with a testimonial season to start next month with a dinner at York Racecourse on May 27. The reward of a benefit year has seldom been more deserved. Without fuss or histrionics City's 'Quiet Man' has stoically, stylishly got on with defending the club's rearguard honour.
It all seems so easy for the unruffled McMillan, of whom former City manager John Ward astutely remarked "he looks like he can play the game in carpet slippers".
But progress has not been stately, especially at the outset of his career and even just lately. Injury, the curse of any player, struck him cruelly in a reserves game at Notts County during his first full season as a Minsterman.
In a fierce challenge during a reserves game the defender sustained medial ligament damage to his right knee, his leg just sort of 'dangling' as he lay on the Meadow Lane turf at Notts County.
Recalled McMillan with a discernible wince: "I did not move, but I knew something serious was wrong. I was out ten months before it was sorted out. I've got a lot to be grateful for to Jeff Miller (City's physiotherapist)."
This season he was back in the treatment room for another lengthy spell. Ankle ligament damage kept him out for three months and he conceded that he was not quite 100 per cent. "I can get through the games, but I'm not entirely happy with my form as the injury still lingers in your mind."
Between those enforced absences the McMillan right-back reign was almost uninterrupted, his hold on the number two shirt once totalling 154 consecutive appearances, including the play-off glory over Crewe at Wembley in May 1993.Before that Wembley outing McMillan and then City skipper Paul Stancliffe had another date in London when they collected their awards for being named in the Division Three team of the season voted by the Professional Footballers' Association.
"To get an award like that from your fellow professionals was very much appreciated."
But topping that distinction, and even the club's first appearance at Wembley, was the outrageous outing of September 1995 when the Minstermen downed his heroes Manchester United at Old Trafford.
"The win at Wembley in the play-offs was tremendous, but the sheer disbelief of the result at Man U was something else," enthused McMillan. "When people saw that result on Teletext, or heard it on the radio, they honestly thought it was the wrong way round.
"We were all hyped up by the fact we were playing there. And for myself being a Man U fan since I was a child back in South Africa, it was all the more special."
Befitting a player who displays an uncluttered nature on the park, McMillan has already started to plan for the time when he no longer plays.
He is due to complete a three years business course this summer and he expects to take his first coaching badges next season.
But for now he "just wants to get on with the business of playing week in week out". That's an unfussy mission statement to warm the hearts of the City faithful.
Converted for the new archive on 30 June 2000. Some images and formatting may have been lost in the conversion.