PAUL Bowser went to his first York City game on April 12, 1974. That was back in the heady days when City were playing in the Second Division (equivalent to today's Championship). The match was against Huddersfield Town, and the Minstermen won 2-1.

Paul, then aged just 10, was hooked. "I didn't realise that was going to be the pinnacle!" he says, with that trademark gloomy humour that so many diehard City fans have been forced to adopt in recent years. "There's been a lot of punishment since then. I don't know what I did in a previous life!"

Despite not living in York - he was born at the old Fulford maternity hospital, but has lived all his life in Thirsk - he has followed City religiously ever since.

"I've missed maybe a dozen home games in 40 years," the married IT manager says. "And I go to something like half the away games."

There have been some highs, he admits - not least in those heady couple of years when he was a lad and City were riding high in the Second Division. "But there have been a lot of downs, too!"

But that's the thing about supporting a small local club like City, he says - you just have to take the rough with the smooth. And there are good things to being a City fan that have little to do with what goes on on the pitch. "There's a real affinity between fans," he says. "And a bit of gallows humour, too. There has to be!"

When it comes down to it, however, he's just hooked. He loves everything about the game of football, and the history of the game, and the history of football grounds. And of course, he's a collector - of tickets, of programmes, of old press cuttings.

"I've always been football daft," he says. "And I'm daft about football grounds, daft about York City..."

Put all that together with an urge to research the history of his club, and to write about it, and it was almost inevitable that he'd end up writing a history of the football club to mark its impending move from Bootham Crescent to the new community stadium.

He's been writing it for about four years now, in fact. He amassed so much material that he realised he had too much for one book - so he's split it into two.

The first volume of Bootham Crescent: A Second Home is published now, priced £25. It covers the years from 1922 (when City in its present form was established) through 1932, when the club moved to Bootham Crescent, and up to 1960. The second volume, which will cover 1960 up to the present day, will be available about this time next year, he hopes - by which time the club will be settled into its new ground.

He accepts the move - though admits it will be a 'wrench'. There are still worries among many fans about how they'll get to the new ground, he says. But over and above all of that will be the loss of all the memories.

"But the new stadium will be fine," he says. "It was similar back in 1932 when City moved to Bootham Crescent." A lot of fans weren't too happy then, he says. "But it proved to be right for the club. And I'm sure this will be too, in time."

Volume 1 of Bootham Crescent: A Second Home by Paul Bowser is published by Minsterman Books priced £25. It is available at York City club shop (cash sales only) or White Rose Books in Thirsk, on-line by card via or over the phone at YPD Books on 01904 431 213. For general queries, please email Paul Bowser at

From the book

Bootham Crescent: A Second Home runs to almost 270 page and includes 240 images, among them old photos and reproductions of press cuttings, gate receipt books and even cartoons.

Paul hasn't tried to replicate former club historian Dave Batters' definitive books about the Minstermen. Instead, he writes in the introduction, his intention was to 'write a history from a different perspective - that of Bootham Crescent - where the fortunes of the team are viewed in the context of the ground, supporters, club finances, and contemporary events'. Bootham Crescent the ground is the book's main character, in other words, rather than the club itself.

Paul set out to answer a number of questions - among them, one which has always puzzled the writer of this column. How on Earth did Bootham Crescent manage to hold 28,000 fans in 1938 for the FA cup sixth round game against Huddersfield Town (yes, them again) - the biggest-ever crowd at the ground?

By squeezing them in and using every space available, appears to be the answer.

The club resolutely refused to agree to the match being switched to Elland Road. "The Press reported that the club's relatively low capacity had meant that City had been unable to profit as much from their cup run as others," Paul writes.

"Supporters... continued to write to the club offering suggestions as to how the bigger crowds could be managed. All the club could realistically do was make more space available and ensure it was efficiently fille without gaps."

On the day of the game itself, queues formed at the ground shortly after 8am, even though the gates didn't open until midday.

"The terraces rapidly filled with every vantage point utilised, and the turnstiles were closed 15 minutes before kick-off," Paul writes.

"Fans spilled over the fences and stood around the pitch, making it extremely difficult when corners were being taken. They were almost breathing down the players' necks at times, and the services of a number of volunteer first aiders were required."

The fans were rewarded with a 0-0 draw, and the promise of a lucrative rematch. Paul includes a summary of the game:

"It was a fast and furious cup-tie. The Huddersfield Examiner described the game as being stupendous, but others were less impressed with the quality as the two sides large cancelled each other out. For City, Spooner has a shot cleared off the line, but Town hit the bar and the game ended goalless, despite City forcing four corners in the last five minutes."

Huddersfield won the replay 2-1, sadly - but it had been a fantastic run for the Minstermen. If only one of those frantic last five minute corners had gone in, they'd have been in the semi-finals...

Stephen Lewis