YORK City were today turning to the next generation to lead the way on the pitch as released defender Chris Smith was left contemplating an uncertain future from the stands.

The 22-year-old centre half was today cheering on his former team-mates against Leyton Orient at Bootham Crescent after being one of eight players let go earlier this week in the first phase of the post-relegation shake-up.

"It's still a shock and all a bit weird," he said. "I'm still in touch with some of the others and they're all at training and I'm just sat here feeling a bit lost.

"I've just got to get on with it. There's been no progress yet but I'm contacting people who know who I am and seeing if I can get something going and Chris Brass said he would try to help me get something because he said I should be playing League football."

News of his release came as even more of a shock to the young former Reading trainee having just moved into a new city-centre flat in the belief he would be staying with the Minstermen for at least another year.

He said: "I was offered a new contract a month and a half ago - verbally - and we were going to take it to the end of the season and sort everything out then.

"But because of what's happened with us going down, they are not able to keep that contract open, nor the one that I'm on at the moment.

"I thought I was going to be here another year and that's why I decided to move house, but now that's not to be.

"I don't want to slag anyone off because they've been nothing but good to me but it is still really disappointing."

Smith, who has notched up just under 90 appearances in City colours since signing in the 2001-02 season, always knew that changes would have to be made but he thought he would come away relatively unscathed.

He said: "I knew that with them going down, they would have to make some cutbacks. But at the same time, I've been reading in the press that they've been saying it won't be a disaster if they went down and they would still get good gates and that kind of thing.

"I didn't expect them to do what they did. But it's a lesson I've learned - a hard one - and I'll have to take that with me."

Smith also agreed with Darren Dunning's sentiments that the players were partially to blame for relegation, saying: "At the end of the day, the manager only picks the team and the players are the ones that have to go out there and do it."

He concluded: "I have enjoyed my time at York and I have managed to get nearly 90 appearances under my belt which I probably wouldn't have had a chance to do somewhere else so I'm grateful for that.

"I'm a big believer that things happen for a reason. I have just got to try to stay positive."

Updated: 10:56 Saturday, May 01, 2004