Douglas Craig has resigned from the board of York City. STEPHEN LEWIS looks

at the highs and lows of his eleven years in charge of the Minstermen

ASKED in January at the height of the row over the sale of Bootham Crescent whether he and his fellow directors had a responsibility as 'moral guardians' of York City Football Club, Douglas Craig's response was typically robust.

"Since when did the moral guardians of the club and community be entitled to sit and take abuse, vilification and vandalism and continue to hold the role?" he asked.

It was an uncompromising reply which revealed two things.

Firstly, that Douglas Craig is not a man who likes to be told what to do (as if we needed reminding).

Secondly, that he was growing weary of the constant antagonism directed towards him by a section of York City's supporters.

He could hardly be blamed. The abuse had, after all, been going on for several years.

But for that Craig must shoulder some of the responsibility.

His business life, as an arbitrator in engineering disputes, presumably required patience, tact and diplomacy - but he displayed little of that as City chairman.

In 1994 he caused a storm by refusing to sign up to the 'kick racism out of football' campaign.

The following year Craig courted controversy when he branded top scorer Paul Barnes a cheat - then promptly banned Evening Press chief sports writer Tony Kelly from Bootham Crescent for reporting it.

Things really began to go pear-shaped, however, in May 1999 when the Minstermen lost 4-0 to Manchester City at Maine Road and were relegated to Division 3.

In September that year an independent supporters group calling themselves Fans Against Craig's Tyranny (FACT) staged a red card protest during City's goalless draw with Peterborough, demanding the chairman quit.

The club seemed to be caught in a downward spiral, with falling attendances and poor performances on the field matched by increasing debt off it. City, by its policy of grooming local talent then selling it on, had kept its head above water until 1999, even recording record profits of £1.27 million that year. But following relegation that changed. The 1999/2000 year saw a deficit of £667,255 - then in November 2001 the club announced record losses of £1.2 million.

Nevertheless, it still came as a shock when in December the board put the club up for sale.

Craig pledged sufficient funds to see the club through to the end of the season - but not beyond.

Then in January came the real bombshell: an ultimatum that the club would have to quit its Bootham Crescent ground at the end of the season unless new club owners could find £4.5 million to buy it.

The deadline to come up with this cash: 82 days. The board had even given the football league "provisional notice" of its intention to resign from membership of the Football League at the end of the season.

Craig and other board members were effectively accused in some quarters of wanting to profit from the sale of Bootham Crescent rather than remembering their responsibility to the club as its 'moral guardians'. However, in a letter to the Evening Press Craig's fellow director Barry Swallow insisted that behind the scenes a solution was "actively being sought that will hopefully ensure York City FC continues well into the future."

Ultimately, John Batchelor came riding to the rescue: but not before the Minstermen had been taken to the brink.

Despite the way his chairmanship ended, however, Craig's years in charge were not by any means all struggle and controversy.

He was accused in some quarters of a lack of ambition - and of a businessman's unwillingness to make the kind of investment in new players required for progress.

But what should not be forgotten is that under his chairmanship the Minstermen enjoyed their longest uninterrupted stint in the Second Division, beat Manchester United in the Coca Cola Cup and made a serious challenge, in 1993/4, for a place in the First Division.

It may have all ended on a sour note, but there were as many highs as lows during his decade in charge.

Fact file:

Born: Broughty Ferry, Scotland, July 10, 1929.

Married: To Elizabeth. Has three sons and one daughter.

Educated: Grove Academy, St Andrews University, Perth. Engineering degree.

1964: Arrives in York as consulting engineer.

May 1970: Elected Conservative councillor on York City Council

1975-1980: Chairman of York Conservative Association.

August 24, 1978: Appointed to York City board.

June 1981: Awarded OBE.

June 30, 1991: Succeeds Michael Sinclair as City chairman.

May 1993: City finish fourth in Division Three and win promotion to Division Two after a penalty shoot-out victory over Crewe in play-off finals.

April 1994: Craig elected to board of Endsleigh Football League.

May 1994: City finish fifth in Division Two but hopes of a second successive promotion are blighted as City lose 1-0 to Stockport County in the play-off semi-finals.

May 1995: City finish ninth in Division Two.

September 20, 1995: City sensationally beat Premiership champions Manchester United 3-0 at Old Trafford in Coca-Cola Cup.

November 1995: Fans, angry at a perceived lack of ambition and a bust-up with star striker Paul Barnes, stage sit-in protest calling for Craig's resignation.

October 1998: Manchester United chief Alex Ferguson opens City's new £250,000 training complex off Wigginton Road.

May 1999: City lose 4-0 at Maine Road and are relegated from Division Two.

September 1999: An independent City supporters' group, Fans Against Craig's Tyranny (FACT), stages a red card protest during goalless draw with Peterborough demanding Craig quit.

February 17, 2001: A 3-0 home defeat to Exeter sees City go bottom of the Football League. Fans stage protests calling for Terry Dolan to be sacked and Craig to resign. Both stand firm and a run of just two defeats in 16 games ensures City's safety.

May 2001: Evening Press unveiled as City's new sponsors for the next two seasons.

November 2001: Club announces record losses of more than £1.2million for the year ending June 2001.

December 20, 2001: The board puts the club up for sale. They pledge enough funds to see the club through to the end of the season but make clear their intention to step down at the end of the campaign. The club will fold unless new owners can be found.

December 21, 2001: The Evening Press launches a Save City campaign.

January 7, 2002: A fans' meeting is staged in York to establish the possibility of setting up a Supporters' Trust to take control of the club.

January 9, 2002: The board gives prospective new owners of the club 82 days (until the end of March) to find £4.5 million to buy out the club and its parent Bootham Crescent Holdings, or the Minstermen will have to move from Bootham Crescent at the end of the season.

March 15, 2002: John Batchelor becomes new chairman of York City. Craig remains a member of the board.

Yesterday: Craig announces his decision to resign from the board.

Updated: 10:58 Tuesday, July 30, 2002