LONG-SERVING York City centre-back David McGurk has admitted that making his 300th appearance for the club will represent “a big milestone”.
McGurk is expected to reach the landmark during today’s home match with Exeter and, as our statistics below, confirm, the Minstermen have always been a stronger proposition defensively when he has been in the team since his debut in September 2004.
York City record in games involving David McGurk:
Games 299, goals conceded 328, clean sheets 108, goals conceded per match 1.1, clean-sheet ratio 1 every 2.8 games
York City record in games without David McGurk since his September 18, 2004 debut:
Games 144, goals conceded 182, clean sheets 47, goals conceded per match 1.27, clean-sheet ratio 1 every 3.1 games
From then onwards, City have conceded an average of 1.1 goals in games involving McGurk, compared to 1.27 without him on the pitch.
Furthermore, the club have kept a clean sheet every 2.8 games with McGurk in their ranks, while that figure rises to 3.1 when he hasn’t been available.
Perhaps no coincidence, then, that City have managed back-to-back shut-outs since the 30-year-old defender’s recall to the team after previously going ten games without keeping the opposition off the scoresheet.
McGurk is poised to join just 18 other players to have played 300 matches for the Minstermen today and is currently placed behind 1984 Fourth Division champion Brian Pollard and FA Cup Happy Wanderers hero Ron Spence in the all-time appearances list.
Naturally, he is honoured to be in such exalted company, saying: “Reaching 300 games is a big milestone and I’m proud to get there.
“I probably should have got there this time last season so it’s been a long time coming but I’m looking forward to the match. I am proud to be 19th on the appearances list as well and would like to carry on going up that list if I can.
“I would be higher up if I’d been fit all the time but, then again, I was lucky with injuries in the early part of my career.”
McGurk, currently enjoying his benefit season, initially joined City for a month on loan from Darlington during the club’s first campaign in the Conference.
He then returned for a season-long loan the following campaign before making his stay permanent in the summer of 2006 and he has been on the Bootham Crescent books ever since.
With former club Darlington having since been consigned to the wilderness of the Northern League, McGurk lists stability as one of the main reasons behind the Minstermen’s enduring appeal.
He added: “It’s a lower League club but it’s always been well-run. Other clubs have been through their financial problems and, at different times, players haven’t been paid but I’ve never experienced anything like that at York whereas I did at Darlington.”
The atmosphere at the club has changed considerably, however, since McGurk made his City debut at the age of 21 during a drab 0-0 home draw with Northwich.
Viv Busby had just been brought in to assist under-fire player-manager Chris Brass, who McGurk partnered in defence that day in front of a teenage David Stockdale.
The first strains of ‘Brass Out’ were later heard at the final whistle, however, with McGurk remembering: “I came in the day before that game but knew a few players from the past so it was quite easy to settle in.
“The club were going through a rough patch though and the fans weren’t totally behind the team. The club had just come down and were expected to do a lot better than they were doing.
“They’d taken a couple of thrashings before I came in but we got that draw and, during that month, things were starting to slowly turn around although, in truth, that did not happen fully until Billy McEwan came in.
“Now, the whole set-up has changed. Everything is much more professional.”
With injury having denied McGurk the chance to take part in City’s momentous Wembley double last season, the Middlesbrough-born centre-back selects a game, in which he was awarded a 10/10 rating in The Press, as the highlight of his 299 matches.
“That play-off semi-final at Luton stands out and, despite what happened at the end, it was great to jump into the away end and celebrate with the fans,” he revealed.
“The Wembley games I played in would have been the highlights had we won but it’s no place for losers and I didn’t play in last season’s matches.”
While his clean-sheet ratio remains impressive, unless he nets today, McGurk will have taken an average of exactly 60 games to score each of his five goals for the Minstermen.
It is a record that seems strange, given that he was comparatively prolific as a young player at Darlington with six goals in 63 outings.
But it’s not a statistic that he loses any sleep over, saying: “I’ve told the lads it’s all down to the deliveries but, seriously, I should have scored more than I have because I’ve gone up for most of the set-pieces.
“The gaffer is leaving me back at the moment until I get my match fitness and my main job is at the other end of the pitch. I’d always take a clean sheet over a goal in every game.”
During the last nine seasons for City, the number of centre-backs McGurk has played alongside is too high to list.
When asked about those that have stood out, however, he said: “That’s tough because I’ve had a lot of good partnerships but, over the years, I’ve played a lot of games with Pars (Dan Parslow) and we’ve always had a good understanding.
“The same is true with Chris Smith and the partnership with Luke Graham was a good one when we got to the play-off final in 2010. I’d also say that I’m surprised big Janos (Kovacs) is still playing in the Conference with Luton.
“He was a young lad when he came to us and I thought he had everything about him to play at a higher level.”