Man in command Neil Thompson has his chief sights trained on being crowned York City's permanent manager.

"I am in charge until the end of the season and I want to stay in charge of York City after that" - Neil Thompson

In the bag: Gianluca Vialli pounces to open the scoring for Chelsea in their 3-2 win against Norwegian part-timers Valerenga to go into today's Cup Winners' Cup semi-final draw 6-2 on aggregate

The popular Thompson heads the start of a new dawn at Bootham Crescent at home to buoyant Wigan Athletic tomorrow and he is determined to ensure it is a lengthy reign.

And Thompson underlined his resolve when he completed a £30,000 move for Halifax Town top scorer Marc Williams to add to yesterday's loan capture of ex-Leeds United ace Chris Fairclough.

Williams, 26, a Wales 'B' international who scored twice in the Shaymen's Auto Windscreens Shield win over City back in January, has signed a three-year deal and goes straight into the City team with Fairclough against Wigan Athletic tomorrow. Williams, who has hit 10 goals this season, is equally at home up front or in midfield.

Admitting he had inherited the Minstermen's mantle in 'sad circumstances', his avowed aim is to replace caretaker stewardship with the title of manager.

"I am in the job and I want the job, absolutely. There's no doubt about that," he ventured with the force of one of his trademark thunder-booted shots. Other people may put their applications in - that's up to them. But I am in charge until the end of the season and I want to stay in charge of York City after that."

Thompson is adamant City can stem their freefall against the in-form Latics and initiate another great escape. "There's a quarter of the season left yet. That's a lot of games, a lot of points starting with Wigan.

"Yes they're a good team, but we have to be confident of what we can do. I know what dressing room I would rather be in tomorrow - ours. And that's because I know the quality of the players at York City and what they can do."

Added to the home ranks is experienced defender Chris Fairclough, Thompson's first signing, which left him purring. "He is an excellent defender and a good organiser. He will help us to get things sorted out at the back. If he does me a job until the end of the season then we will take it from there, but I'm glad to have him on board."

Keen on attracting other new faces to Bootham Crescent before next Thursday's transfer deadline the new man in charge is deprived of midfield duo Mark Tinkler and Alan Pouton through suspension.

Tinkler starts a three-match ban for his third red card of the season at Bristol Rovers while Pouton misses one game for collecting eight bookings.

Back to duty is Martin Garratt after his two-day trial at Leeds United. "He has done quite well by all accounts and now he is with us again," said Thompson. "Martin has had a tremendous season playing close on 30 games at his young age, while Richard Cresswell's call-up to the England under-21 squad is another big reward for him."

Both will feature in a 4-4-2 formation. Convinced of its merits - 'we need to hurt teams more' - he may even be forced to don his boots, though he would prefer to have watch his first game in charge from the touchline.

"The important thing is for everyone to get behind us, everyone to pull together.

"Alan Little has been fantastic to me, but the nature of the business is for change. That sometimes gives players a fresh outlook," he said. "They have to know they are playing for their livelihoods. I am sure they will lay it on the line for themselves tomorrow."

In contrast to City's ten-match run without a win, Wigan's five consecutive League wins have elevated the Latics to the coat-tails of the play-off contenders, over the majority of whom they boast several games in hand.

The Latics, due to move into the new multi-million JJB Stadium next summer, are also just a match away from Wembley. In midweek they chipped out a 2-0 lead over Wrexham in the first leg of the northern final of the Auto Windscreen Shields competition.

FA Youth Cup heroes York City head west to Oldham in the next of their Youth Alliance fixtures tomorrow, kick-off 11am. They are likely to rest some of their 'senior' players for next Tuesday's Youth Cup replay at West Ham.

Frenetic few days in charge

Neil Thompson's feet have barely touched the ground in a whirlwind first week in charge.

Since the news that Alan Little was sacked Thompson has been pitched into a hectic vortex of activity leading up to tomorrow's first game under his care at home to Wigan.

Besides coaching sessions, assisted by head of youth development Adie Shaw, and sealing the deal to entice ex-Leeds United star Chris Fairclough to Bootham Crescent, the new man in charge has also watched a flurry of games in the pursuit of other players.

Thompson has also detailed goalkeeper Bobby Mimms, who has been assisting him, to scout for talent at a brace of midweek matches.

Monday: Attends fans' forum at which the bombshell of Little's sacking is dropped.

Tuesday: Meets the City players, says farewell to Little. Takes training - 'a light, bright session' - then contacts Fairclough. Finally takes in reserves game between Leeds United and Preston.

Wednesday: More telephone calls, further talks with Fairclough. Another training session. Travels to Lancashire for Hull City's reserves game against Bury. Then over to the Reebok Stadium for Bolton v Tranmere fixture.

Thursday: Gets go ahead from Fairclough. Back to training session. Talks to the press. More talks with other managers, signs Mark Williams from Halifax.

Tony's time nearly up

Defender Tony Barras' York City days are virtually at an end.

So declared City's caretaker manager Neil Thompson after Reading, where Barras has been training this past week, said they want to keep the centre-back for the rest of the season.

Two other clubs are keen a similar arrangement with Barras, whose departure from City heightened when he was left out of the team for the trip to Bristol Rovers a fortnight ago.

The 27-year-old former City captain and player-of-the year has been in a contract wrangle with City since last November and will be a free agent under the Bosman ruling this summer.

Said Thompson: "Reading want him and others are interested so it looks like he will be away for the rest of the season elsewhere."

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