In this series, Joe Richardson takes a look back at York City’s time at Bootham Crescent from their move from Fulfordgate in 1932 to the present day, ahead of their impending move to the LNER Community Stadium.

THE 1990s saw some big visitors to Bootham Crescent in the League Cup with Premiership sides Manchester United and Everton felled over two legs in consecutive years.

In 1995, City, then of the Second Division, came back from Old Trafford with a spectacular 3-0 lead to protect at Bootham Crescent – and they did, thanks to a first-half Paul Barnes strike in a 3-1 defeat.

This 4-3 aggregate victory was matched in 1996 when Neil Tolson, Gary Bull and Liverpool-supporting Graeme Murty netted in a 3-2 triumph to humiliate an Everton team featuring Neville Southall, Andrei Kanchelskis and Gary Speed.

The history of York City: 1959-1990

At the end of the 2003/04 season, City were relegated to the Conference after failing to win any of their final 20 games, thus ending 75 years in the Football League.

By this time, the club had already experienced a few years of turmoil and uncertainty off the field. After chairman Douglas Craig announced in 2001 that City needed a buyer or they would quit the Football League, the future of both York City Football Club and Bootham Crescent were imperilled. In November 2002, new owner John Batchelor – who, in 2008, owned up to asset-stripping the club to The Press – finally admitted York City had gone into administration and, in December, the club was given 35 days to survive. With the Supporters’ Trust’s help, City secured their Bootham Crescent home – but a move was now on the cards.

Over the next eight years, City reached the promotion play-offs three times. They were successful at the third attempt, beating Luton Town 2-1 at Wembley in 2012, just a week after they had won the FA Trophy – the first of two – to restore Football League status.

John Uttley is the chairman of the East Riding Minstermen supporters’ group and has not missed a home game since August 1978. “I’ve only ever cried at two football matches,” he admitted. “I see people on telly crying and I always thought it would be impossible to, but I cried when we beat Arsenal – I don’t know why – and I cried when we beat Luton at Wembley after all that hard work trying to get back in the Football League.”

The fruits of that hard work were frustratingly short-lived. With current Burnley keeper Nick Pope between the sticks, the 2013/14 season ended with City in the League Two play-off spots where they were just two games away from third-tier football for the first time this century. A 1-0 aggregate defeat in the semi-finals kept them rooted in the bottom rung in League football and, in 2016, City dropped down to the National League as the bottom side in the division.

It was to get worse for the Minstermen, whose last-day home draw against Forest Green Rovers the following season condemned them to a second consecutive relegation, down to National League North.

As ever, John was in the crowd. “The atmosphere that day at the final whistle was like a morgue,” he said. “I’ve never known anything quite like that.”

Prior to this season, City’s National League North record has been underwhelming with York now on their fourth manager since the start of the 2017/18 season.

Crowds at Bootham Crescent, however, were the second-highest in the division, with the average turn-out of 2,754 behind only champions Stockport County.

John said: “People moan about crowds now but watching football in the late 70s, we’d be getting 1,300 against Bradford for a local derby.

“Back in the late 70s, early 80s, you accepted 1,400. People older than me remember crowds of 10,000. But people were more realistic in those days and football was more affordable.

“At the new ground, if we could get 3,500, that would be good, but if we’re not successful, that could drop. Though it could go up to 5,000 because it could fill everybody with confidence.

“The crowd now is excellent, absolutely brilliant. We’re still getting 2,500. That’s good for National League North. It’s a fantastic effort by the support.

“You want to win every game, of course, but what goes around comes around. You go up, you drop, you go up, you drop. Season ticket sales are up and I think they’ll go up again next season. I’m really optimistic.

“Every club has its peaks and troughs, and I’m hoping this is our next peak.”

The man on whose shoulders on-field matters rest, manager Steve Watson, is hoping for the same. He said: “I love the idea of moving into a brand-new stadium with brand-new facilities and a brand-new pitch.

“The problem when you’ve got a good stadium – which both Bootham Crescent is, and the new stadium will be – it’s a good place for the opposition to come.

“Until we get into the league where all stadiums are of a similar standard and size, it’s going to be a place where people enjoy coming and it’s my job to make it a place where people don’t enjoy coming.

“Once we start winning games and we are confident, hopefully it will be a place where nobody wants to come.

“I want people to fear coming here, whether at this stadium or the new stadium. It’s got to become a fortress.”

There’s not a City fan around who wouldn’t agree and hope that the new ground brings as much joy as Bootham Crescent did.