YORK City loan signing Will Hayhurst is ready to upset one of his biggest idols in football tomorrow.
Hayhurst, recruited on loan by the Minstermen from Preston this week, has crossed paths with Fleetwood Town boss and former Deepdale legend Graham Alexander at various stages of his life and football career.
The 19-year-old winger first encountered Alexander, recently voted by fans as Preston’s best right-back of all time, when he held hands with the then Lillywhites captain as a club mascot.
Lancashire lad Hayhurst later cleaned the 40-capped Scotland international’s boots when he signed youth-team terms for Preston and went on to make his professional debut in the same match – a 2-2 draw with Charlton – that saw Alexander draw the curtain on a 21-year career.
Hayhurst was 18 at the time with Alexander 40 but the former had nothing but respect for his mentor who, in 2011, became only the second outfield player in English football to make 1,000 professional appearances, including a spell in the Premier League with Burnley.
The Minstermen’s latest signing will not be letting sentiment distract him, however, from the desire to batter Alexander’s Cod Army if he is handed his full debut for the visitors tomorrow.
On his previous experiences with the Fleetwood chief, Hayhurst confessed: “It’s a bit crazy really because I was his boot boy and a mascot as a little kid when he was captain. My debut was also his last ever game and he scored in that match, so it was great to be part of it.
“He was very nice to me at Preston. He tipped me when I did his boots and was a great professional.
“I learned a lot from him and he always used to help me out and speak to me. It’s great when professionals do that and he helped me to progress.
“He is a great manager now but it will be good to come up against him and get the three points.”
Hayhurst is undaunted by the prospect of facing League Two’s big-spending promotion favourites despite Tuesday’s 2-0 home humbling against Chesterfield when he was introduced to the Bootham Crescent faithful as a 55th-minute replacement.
His last outing for Preston came in this month’s 3-2 FA Cup victory over Championship big guns Ipswich and he is relishing the chance to lock horns with former Lillywhites Jon Parkin, Conor McLaughlin and Alex Marrow too, adding: “I just want to play football and I like playing in big games.
“Chesterfield are a great team and played really well on Tuesday but the gaffer has said we can play better and I feel like we can tomorrow. Knowing a few of their lads will add to the occasion for me as well.”
Another ex-Deepdale team-mate Ben Davies will be in the visitors' ranks, along with Hayhurst, at Highbury and the latter is enjoying the opportunity to play on the same flank as his good friend and on-loan City left-back again.
“Ben told me all about York and he has helped me settle in,” Hayhurst revealed. “We have both been at Preston since we were kids.
“We played for the youth team together and were in the same digs for a year so I’ve been following his progress at York and waiting for him to score but that hasn’t happened yet. We know how each other plays and how we work together.
“We are really close on and off the field, so we will give everything for each other and it’s quite exciting to link up again.”
Hayhurst went on to explain how he persuaded reluctant Preston boss Simon Grayson to sanction a move to North Yorkshire and that he would be open-minded about extending his stay beyond the current one-month agreement.
“I was frustrated at Preston because I wasn’t getting many games,” the teenage winger admitted. “There’s a good squad there and the club is pushing for the Championship so it was tough to get in the team.
“I felt I needed regular first-team football, like I’d had the previous season, to keep progressing. There was talk of me coming here a few weeks ago but the gaffer did not allow me to go initially.
“He wanted me around the squad but I wanted to be involved on the pitch, so this is a good move for me because I can get some match fitness and improve my game hopefully. It’s a 28-day loan initially so let’s see what happens at the end of it.
“Hopefully, I can play a lot of games, get a lot of goals and assists and help the team to pick up points.”
Blackburn-born Hayhurst is also loving every minute of his life as a footballer after fearing serious injury might wreck his chances of pursuing a career in the game.
“I broke my leg twice during the first year of my apprenticeship,” he said.
“I missed a lot of that season and didn’t know whether I would get a professional contract because we had a good team. Thankfully, I feel stronger now and, hopefully, I can stay fit because being a professional is a dream come true.”
YORK City have made three previous League trips to Highbury, the first two of which were in the Blue Square Premier.
In 2010/11 they went down 2-1 with Greg Young the scorer and the following season the fixture ended goalless.
Both clubs were promoted at the end of that campaign and City’s first Football League trip to Fleetwood last term also finished 0-0.
The line-up on December 29, 2012, was: Ingham, Parslow, Smith, McGurk, Fyfield, Kerr, Potts (Bullock), McLaughlin, Blair, Walker, Rodman (Oyebanjo).
Players to have represented both clubs include Richard Brodie, Scott Brown, Jon Parkin, Matty Blair and Charlie Taylor.
It happened on February 1
1930: Willie Millar hit a hat-trick in a 4-2 win over Crewe Alexandra at Fulfordgate in Division Three North watched by 4,631. Billy Bottrill was the other marksman.
1936: City crashed to their heaviest ever defeat when they lost 12-0 at Chester in the Northern Section. The half-time score was 8-0.
1947: Hull City were beaten 3-0 at Bootham Crescent thanks to goals from Alf Patrick (2) and Bill Allen. The attendance was 7,099 and it was to be City’s last game until March 22 owing to the big freeze of the winter of 1947/48.
1956: City lost 2-1 at Sunderland in a fourth round FA Cup replay. Billy Fenton was the scorer and the crowd at Roker Park was 43,928.
1958: A 3-0 home defeat at the hands of Accrington Stanley in the Northern Section watched by 7,896. Former City star Syd Storey netted one of the visitors’ goals.
1997: Bury won 2-0 at Bootham Crescent in Division Two (League One) in front of a crowd of 3,423.
2011: Blue Square Premier leaders AFC Wimbledon were defeated 4-1 at Bootham Crescent with Daniel Parslow, James Meredith, Michael Rankine and Ashley Chambers on target in front of 2,438.
Compiled by David Batters