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King Arthur was the toppermost toast
BOTTOM looks like putting York City on top – club historian David Batters always remembers that headline in the Yorkshire Evening Press, following Arthur Bottom’s hat-trick scoring debut for the Minstermen against Wrexham on the opening day of the 1954/5 season, and not just because it proved to be eerily true.
Batters has enjoyed a luxury that an ever-decreasing number of people can boast. He got to see the legendary striker, who died this week in a Sheffield hospital aged 82, strut his stuff in the flesh.
Tributes have naturally poured in for Bottom in the wake of news of his death. His 105 goals in 158 York City appearances is a ratio that will take some matching.
Those who remember the player with the explosive shot, and aggressive running, speak of witnessing the talents of one of the most complete forwards to have graced the hallowed Bootham Crescent pitch.
Batters is among them.
“His shooting was tremendous,” he said. “He had a great shot on him. I saw him in his prime. He was a very difficult and hard man to dispossess and his finishing was legendary. He scored 39 goals overall in his first season and that total is still a club record.
“His goal ratio has to be the best in the club’s history and I’m always reminded of two goals, the winner in the FA Cup quarter-final against Notts County in 1955 and the equaliser (against Newcastle) at Hillsborough in the semi-final.
“In those days, scoring feats were celebrated quite modestly, with handshakes. But he did a dance to the half-way line after that goal against Newcastle, followed by his team-mates. It was unheard of in those days.”
Bottom’s aggression on the pitch was belied by his quiet nature off it.
“He actually got sent off a couple of times,” added Batters. “In those days, a player getting sent off was very rare and I think he was the only player to be sent off during his years with the club.”
While his scoring feats have brought him renown – he scored four in City’s record League win, a 9-1 destruction of Southport in 1957 – it is Bottom’s role in that Happy Wanderers side which has defined his legacy at the club.
In that magnificent run, he scored eight goals. After notching a hat-trick against Dorchester, he got two goals at Bishop Auckland, along with the Notts County winner and his strike against the Magpies.
The latter remains the biggest day in York City’s history, 21,000 fans travelling to Sheffield to see the Minstermen in action. Winning the ball in midfield off Newcastle’s Jimmy Scoular, Bottom ran 30 yards before cleverly drawing goalkeeper Ron Simpson and finishing into an empty net.
Bottom rarely gave interviews, preferring to remain in the background after his retirement, but in a rare talk with York City writer Dave Flett in 2005 – on the 50th anniversary of York’s cup run – he said he remembered his goal “very clearly”.
“I was in Norman (Wilkinson’s) position and he was in mine,” he said.
“There was a bad pass by Newcastle’s Carmichael and I could only go forward.
“Scoular and (Bob) Stokoe let me through and, as Simpson came out, I chipped the ball and his finger-tips deflected it towards the line.
“At that moment I remember thinking ‘get it right’ as I only had a side view of the goal. I scored.”
With time running out in the second half, many thought his late header had crossed the line and it was a controversial finish to an absorbing match, although Bottom would later say it wasn’t a goal. City lost the replay 2-1 at Sunderland’s Roker Park.
“It was a golden age of football for the club and Arthur Bottom played his part in that,” Batters reflected.
“His death now leaves Tommy Forgan (living in Australia) as the only surviving member of the Happy Wanderers.”
Records, of course, are there to be broken and it may be that, in time, Bottom’s goalscoring feats in a season are passed. In only October last year, Jason Walker replaced him, and Jimmy Weir, as the fastest York player to hit ten league goals in a campaign.
But legends live on forever.