THE York City reign of John Batchelor has effectively reached the end of the road. Evening Press sports writer TONY CURTIS recalls the Batchelor ploys...

THE legacy of John Batchelor is sure to be felt at York City for many, many years should the proud football club survive its ultimate challenge.

Like a whirlwind he blew through Bootham Crescent after taking over as chairman on March 15, 2002, but little more than nine months on, the administrators were left to sift through the wreckage.

Batchelor finally packed up his sports car for one last time and headed off out the City gates after the dreams became a nightmare with the club placed into administration.

But while Batchelor's motor racing team - his first love - remains safe, City have now just five weeks to keep the wolves from the door.

Initially, the arrival of the toilet roll salesman was like a breath of fresh air, with players, supporters, staff and the media believing exciting times were ahead for the club - especially after recent seasons of mediocrity.

Hailed as the clichd white knight riding in on his trusted steed - in this instance a shiny sports convertible - Batchelor was hero-worshipped by the fans, not only for saving the club but his openness as well.

Promises were made of big-money sponsors, exciting new signings, the ultimate match-day experience and a rise through the ranks to the Premiership. Fans could not fail but to get excited and were willing to laugh off some off his wackier plans.

The unveiling of former England, AC Milan and Watford legend Luther Blissett as coach seemed a sure-fire sign the club meant business.

But the tide began to turn when Batchelor began to rebrand the club and mould it in his own image. Enter the chequered squares on the new badge and the addition of hand-shaped signposts that looked like extras from DisneyWorld.

But the biggest uproar came as York City FC became YORKCITY Soccer Club in a marketing ploy to attract American sponsorship, while the dreaded chequers made an appearance on the sleeves fn the long-awaited return to the 'Y'-style shirts.

Plans of a £17.5million stadium were quickly dashed as City's chief became embroiled in long-running row with the City of York Council over the possible location.

And it was a scene that would become familiar. If anyone did something that upset Batchelor - out would come his dummy out whether it was at the council, the Football League, Granada and Carlton or whoever.

Threats to sue the Football League and create a new competition with no offsides or draws were just farcical.

But while he would talk about certain issues, fans and the Supporters' Trust were kept in the dark over other aspects of what was going on behind the scenes, with the old line of 'there is a confidentiality clause' chanted to answer any difficult questions.

The Trust know only too well about the 'confidentiality clause' as it kept them from receiving their seats on the board as promised by Batchelor.

Unbeknown to the fans, in the background the club was slipping deeper into the red. The alarm bells should have begun to ring when the club began to sell next year's season tickets.

Batchelor was out promising that it was a goodwill gesture to the fans and that again a sponsor was in place to back the deal.

The sponsor never materialised, like many that were promised. Fans can feel cheated for, after they were told they would be

watching York City at Bootham Crescent next season, it has been revealed that Batchelor had signed an agreement with the ground owners BCH to vacate no later June 30, 2003.

Batchelor began to point the finger at the collapse of the transfer market and the ITV Digital fiasco, but City only lost £100,000 when the TV deal suddenly ended - a drop in the ocean compared to some clubs.

And as for the transfer market the sale of Russ Howarth, a highly-sought after England Under-21 international, to Tranmere for a meagre £25,000 smacked of desperation, especially when you consider non-League journeyman Kirk Jackson recently went from Stevenage to Yeovil for £20,000.

Batchelor also bleated that he had no idea all this would happen - but one look at the accounts would have seen that 180 per cent of the club's income was on wages.

The Supporters' Trust stepped in and attempted to take over the club and with negotiations seemingly coming to a conclusion that would see the City chairman retain 24 per cent, Batchelor went out in front of the City fans at the half-time interval of the rearranged FA Cup tie against Swansea to tell the 'world' he was handing over 100 per cent of his shares

Less than 12 hours later he reneged on that deal and it was back to a 76-24 split but with conditions.

The Trust were understandably furious, but before they could vent their frustration, Batchelor swapped the 'confidentiality clause' for a 'media blackout' having been advised by the insolvency experts from Jacksons Jolliffe Cork, who had been called into assist the club.

The club continued to haemorrhage more than £20,000 a week.

With the players being told there was no money pay them - Batchelor leaving it to chief executive Keith Usher and Trust member Steve Beck to break the news to the squad - administration seemed the most likely option.

And after nine months and three days, Batchelor's reign was brought to and end at Leeds Combined Courts, with administrator Matthew Bowker handed five weeks to find a buyer.

The reign maybe over, but the legacy of Batchelor's short spell has left the fans, Trust, players and staff all with a bitter taste in their mouths.

Updated: 12:50 Saturday, December 21, 2002