JEERS turned to cheers in 2009/10 as York City won back the support of the Bootham Crescent faithful.
And, although the campaign ended at Wembley in tears, next season should hold no fears for a club rejuvenated by the understated management team of Martin Foyle and Andy Porter.
The ex-Port Vale pair both deserve great credit for overseeing a valiant improvement that exceeded pre-season expectations.
Having only staved off relegation in the penultimate game of 2008/9, the omens did not look great when City’s last friendly of the summer ended in a depressing 3-1 defeat at UniBond League neighbours Halifax.
Recent signing Craig Nelthorpe was also sent off in that game and, later that night, became one of four players arrested in a city-centre altercation.
One win during the first five league fixtures further dampened optimism despite an encouraging opening day performance during the unlucky 2-1 defeat at Oxford United.
A turning point seemed to be provided, however, when a ten-man City side recovered from another red card for Richard Pacquette to steal a 2-1 victory at Gateshead.
Exhilarating back-to-back home victories over Histon and Crawley then propelled the Minstermen up the table and underlined the potential of Foyle’s newly-assembled squad.
A hat-trick of draws in high-quality contests against Stevenage, Oxford and Luton only helped to lift the growing belief in the City boss and his players and, as winter loomed, the team discovered a defensive resolve that would serve them so well in the challenge for a play-off final place.
Seven successive single-goal margin of victories in all competitions and eight consecutive league wins saw City battling on three fronts as automatic promotion suddenly looked a possibility.
With Richard Brodie rattling in the goals and the acquisition of Luke Graham helping to tighten up matters at the other end, the Minstermen developed a winning habit that saw them enjoy a dramatic 3-2 FA Cup triumph over Crewe.
The start of the New Year provided the wonderful high, however short-lived, of taking the lead at Premier League side Stoke.
City eventually lost the tie 3-1 but gave an impressive account of themselves and hammered Hayes and Yeading 4-1 in their next league match.
But then came the wobble. Without warning, Brodie’s name disappeared off the scoresheet for 16 matches due to a dip in form and suspension.
A seven-match run without a win, including five defeats, extinguished all title hopes, saw the club dumped out of the FA Trophy and also threatened to derail their play-off push.
Gutsy 1-0 victories at Mansfield and Kidderminster, however, saw City back on track after Foyle decided to steady the ship by employing a 4-3-3 formation.
Reverting to 4-4-2 for the crucial home game with AFC Wimbledon, the Minstermen went on to cement a top-five spot in memorable fashion, playing with freedom and purpose during a scintillating 5-0 win.
A defensive masterclass, especially during the second leg at a hostile Kenilworth Road, then saw off the challenge of free-scoring play-off semi-final opponents Luton after another pair of 1-0 victories – City’s 12th and 13th of the season.
Finishing the campaign as it had started against Oxford, the Minstermen’s dream of promotion back to the Football League then came to an agonising end in the most famous of surroundings.
Having been beaten by a bigger club and better team on the day, Oxford’s victory at least means one less rival as City aim to go one better in 2010/11.
With Darlington in disarray and Grimsby, also relegated from the Football League, likely to take time finding their feet under an inexperienced manager, the Minstermen should be confident of challenging at the right end of the table again, especially considering the gap between the top five teams and the rest at the end of last season.
Foyle is now concentrating on strengthening his squad over the summer.
As he looks to improve his options, the City chief will probably recognise an over-reliance on Brodie to score goals and might look for a little more attacking dynamism from midfield.
It is obviously hypothetical, but nevertheless worth pondering, what Martyn Woolford would have added to this group of players if he was still at the club.
Foyle will also be looking to address the team’s struggle against the division’s lesser lights and 4-3-3 formations but, as he pointed out himself, his summer surgery will be minor compared to recent years.
In the meantime, if “Chasing Rainbows” can be adopted by a club desperately in need of its own anthem then so much the better.
Nobody ever needs reminding about York’s past but local boys Shed Seven, as witnessed by the song’s rousing reception at Wembley, would provide a fitting theme tune to usher in another potential golden era for the Minster city.
Dave Flett’s ratings of the Minstermen of 2009/10
After a slow-burning start to his City career, the former Chelsea trainee made his presence felt in the midfield engine room. Full of industry and, aside from the strikers, was the team’s biggest goal threat. Found the net in big games at Luton and Stoke.
Appearances: 49 (3 as sub); goals: 5
Made a brief return on loan from Scunthorpe last October but struggled to make an impact. Later popped up at Blue Square Premier rivals Kidderminster where he also failed to find his feet.
Appearances: 2 (2); goals: 0
Tremendous strike-rate from City’s attacking talisman. Countless Blue Square Premier defences could not cope with his direct running and the 22-year-old hot-shot won a host of penalties. Could have become the first City player to score 40 goals in a season but for an 11-match barren spell and the fact that he missed six games through suspension.
Appearances: 46 (6); goals: 37
Proved an astute signing with a series of mature performances. Playing just in front of James Meredith, he helped the young Aussie settle at left-back and provided the side with reliable set-piece deliveries. Also capable of finding the net, most notably in the play-off semi-final at Luton.
Appearances: 34 (6); goals: 3
Graceful midfielder who can switch play with one pass. Did not always look comfortable with the pace of Blue Square Premier football. But did a reasonable job screening the back four during a dalliance with 4-3-3 during March.
Appearances: 8; goals: 0
Played a big part in City’s early-season success and gave the team urgency with his whole-hearted performances. Adapted well when asked to play on the left flank but was unlucky to lose his place to Carruthers. Moved to Gateshead, but his role in kick-starting City’s campaign should not be underestimated.
Appearances: 20 (11); goals: 2
Due to competition for places was given few opportunities in his favoured striking role. Never looked comfortable when asked to play on the right wing. A willing runner, though, who will be remembered for a composed finish during the 4-1 home victory over Hayes and Yeading.
Appearances: 2 (8); goals: 1
Arrived at the club struggling for fitness and, following six weeks out with a foot injury, continued to look a little sluggish for the remainder of the season. If he rediscovers the sharpness he showed during an impressive spell last September, however, the £55,000 signing can still repay the manager’s faith in him. Clever and strong with his back to goal, his promising substitute appearances must be translated into 90-minute performances when he starts games.
Appearances: 24 (22); goals: 7
An absolute steal from Mansfield, who decided the commanding centre-back was surplus to requirements early in the campaign. Resolute, strong in the air and quick to clear his lines, Graham dislodged club captain Daniel Parslow as David McGurk’s defensive partner. What he lacked in pace he compensated for with his reading of a game, and the clean sheets record after his arrival at the club was telling.
Appearances: 35 (1); goals: 1
The Chesterfield loan singing’s experience seemed to steady the ship after the team wobbled with five defeats in six games during February and March. As a midfield terrier, his strengths were utilised during the subsequent successful switch to 4-3-3. Could not pin down a place, though, when Martin Foyle plumped for four in midfield again.
Appearances: 7 (2); goals: 1
Brave and commanding in his penalty box, the former Northern Ireland international handled well throughout the season. Made the occasional mistake and struggled with his judgement on a greasy Wembley surface but 25 clean sheets speaks volumes for his efforts throughout the campaign. A very important member of the team, who was made captain during the latter stages of the season.
Appearances: 56; goals: 0
Some of his midfield performances bordered on perfection, as anybody who witnessed the first half against Crawley at home would testify. In other matches, he was less influential but his intelligent play and close control was always exemplary. A disappointing goal return but finished top of the assists table.
Appearances: 42 (4); goals: 1
Patrolled in front of the back four with dependable efficiency as the side’s midfield anchorman. Regularly in the right place to pick up loose balls and does not shirk away from tackles. Another who failed to trouble many goalkeepers but is also a better passer of the ball than many give him credit for.
Appearances: 39 (7); goals: 1
Another season of sterling service from City’s defensive stalwart. Such was the consistency of his displays that he beat team-mate Richard Brodie to the Press Player of the Year award. Hard to recall many strikers getting the better of him and his tackle on Luton Town’s Tom Craddock will live long in the memory.
Appearances: 41 (6); goals: 1
Given few chances to build on the promise he had shown earlier in his Bootham Crescent career. Meredith and Carruthers jumped ahead of him in the pecking order for a left-back start. Has also played in midfield before but his chances of a game in that area of the pitch were blocked too and completed a frustrating season on loan to Whitby.
Appearances: 0 (3); goals: 0
Looked nervous initially after his summer move but the young Australian grew stronger by the month. His pace and tenacity meant few opposition wingers got the better of him. With a full season now behind him, he also has the ability to provide more of an attacking impetus down the flank.
Appearances: 56 (1); goals: 0
Only given two chances as Ingham’s understudy. Did well against Newport County in the FA Trophy but was at fault for Stevenage’s goal in the final league game of the season. Will have suffered from the lack of a reserve team this season.
Appearances: 2; goals: 0
Player of unquestionable ability with a questionable temperament. Got off to the worst possible start when he was red-carded in a pre-season friendly at Halifax quickly followed by an off-the-pitch incident that sees a charge of affray still hanging over him. Looked lively on his few outings in a City shirt but blotted his copy book and spent most of the season out on loan with Barrow and Luton.
Appearances: 0 (8); goals: 0
Probably the best penalty-box predator on City’s books last season. Has an ability to sniff out chances but his work in other areas of the pitch was not as good as his rivals for attacking places. Enhanced his reputation as a knockout cup specialist, though, with crucial goals in the FA Cup and FA Trophy against Crewe and Newport respectively.
Appearances: 5 (13); goals: 4
City’s club captain might have become Bootham Crescent’s forgotten man in recent weeks but his contribution throughout the rest of the campaign should not be overlooked. Gave his usual level of commitment in the centre of defence and also proved a stubborn right-back, especially away from home where he frustrated a succession of wide men. Was eventually ousted from that position by Ben Purkiss, who offered more in possession.
Appearances: 41 (1); goals: 0
Showed glimpses of the quality that saw him spend his formative years at Chelsea and attract interest from Barcelona and Monaco. His match-winning strike at Mansfield was a Goal of the Season contender and helped his team turn the corner at a difficult time. Should not struggle for future employment in the Blue Square Premier.
Appearances: 6 (6); goals: 1
Another solid campaign from the thoughtful law graduate. One of City’s best players during the play-offs, defending with determination and as comfortable in possession as ever. Always a threat when encouraged to get forward.
Appearances: 43 (5); goals: 1
Produced some mammoth displays to establish himself as Brodie’s regular striking partner. Powerful in the air and his work-rate made him a defender’s nightmare. Needs a little more composure to improve his goal tally.
Appearances: 41 (15); goals: 10
At times, a tower of strength in defence. On other occasions, he looked at sixes and sevens and prone to conceding penalties. But the Frenchman always gave 100 per cent, often recovering to rectify his own mistakes, and was the team’s biggest aerial threat in the opposition box.
Appearances: 20 (8); goals: 3
Struggled to build on a promising 2008/09 and pre-season. Still capable of forcing back defenders with his direct wing play but lacked some of the unpredictability witnessed previously. Lost his place as Martin Foyle turned to more consistent performers.
Appearances: 19 (17); goals: 2
* A total of 25 players made senior appearances this season – the least number since 1994/5. In 2000/1, 38 players were used – a club record.
* City completed five league doubles over Gateshead, Kettering Town, Kidderminster Harriers, Mansfield Town and AFC Wimbledon. Eastbourne Borough and Salisbury City twice beat the Minstermen.
* City suffered only ten league defeats – the best since 1992/3 when they were beaten nine times.
* Richard Brodie’s tally of 27 league goals, including play-offs but not including the three against Chester, equals the best since 1983/4 when John Byrne netted 27.
* Brodie’s overall record of 34 goals has only been bettered twice in the club’s history.
* In 1928/9 in City’s last season in the Midland League prior to their election to the Football League, Scottish centre-forward Jimmy Cowie netted 56 times (league 49/cup 7) and in 1954/5 Arthur Bottom scored 39 goals (league 31/cup 8).
* The total number of league goals conceded – 35 – is the lowest in the club’s history. The previous best was 38 in 1973/4 from 46 games.
* The average home league attendance of 2,664 is the third-best since the club dropped out of the Football League.
Compiled by David Batters