WHILE the gesture from Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson to argue against the withdrawal of central funding towards York City's Centre of Excellence was clearly appreciated by Minstermen boss Billy McEwan this week, KitKat Crescent regulars must have been left wondering whether the Red Devils could provide a more generous form of assistance.

Ferguson, who once recruited McEwan as a scout at Old Trafford, sent a letter to the Football League rallying against the decision to stop funding City's youth programme as the club enters its third season of Conference football.

A combination of the Football League, the FA, the PFA, the Premier League and Sport England provided City with £138,000 towards its Centre of Excellence programme during the club's last season in the Football League.

For the last two seasons that figure dropped to £69,000 and, for 2006/2007, City will receive nothing.

To Manchester United, of course, the sums quoted would barely go noticed on the club's annual balance sheets but, for the Minstermen, such grants have become the lifeblood that has ensured the continuation of youth football in the city during trying financial times.

Surely, in the much-criticed Glazer era, England's self-proclaimed biggest club would welcome the positive publicity that would emanate from a decision to make the relatively small gesture of bankrolling York City's youth programme for another season.

In the past, Ferguson has deemed City's production line worthy enough to recruit Jonathan Greening and Nick Culkin for seven and six-figure sums respectively.

Geographically, nothing has changed since the Minstermen's relegation from the Football League so why should the promising young players in York face the realistic threat of travelling further afield to pursue their dreams of becoming professional footballers?

Against a backdrop where Premiership clubs are regularly criticised for their avarice, it would be refreshing for England's top-flight teams to adopt some of their fellow former Football League members in their hour of need.

Of course, the gesture would also be self-serving with the big clubs, no doubt, receiving first refusal on any exceptional talents.

The money could even be generated by redirecting some of the exorbitant sums currently being transferred into greedy agents bank accounts but don't hold your breath.

Football's powers-that-be will, despite the ridiculous gulf existing between its richest and poorest teams, inevitably frown on such "sister-club" relationships, however temporary.

Failing assistance from higher up the professional football ladder, City's only other conceivable option, bar another fundraising appeal to a supporters' base who must be growing weary of cash crises, will be to call on local businesses for assistance.

It is to be hoped that York-based companies, so often the equivalent of football's sleeping giants previously, will respond to any future rally cry from the club.

Talks are on-going within the club to find a solution to funding the youth system in the future.

McEwan, who is determined to keep City's Centre of Excellence going, said: "We are not going to press the panic button yet."

Watch this space for future developments.

ON a lighter note, but still following the Premiership/Conference gulf theme, after the recent revelations that Wayne Rooney had lost £750,000 in betting transactions with a business associate of fellow England international Michael Owen, emerged the shock news from KitKat Crescent this week that James Dudgeon had won a crafty wager with City team-mate Clayton Donaldson.

Centre-back Dudgeon risked the princely sum of £20 in a goalscoring bet with Donaldson, believing that he would reach six goals quicker than the former Hull City striker could net 15 for the season.

And the former Worksop Town defender came up trumps when his goal in last month's 1-0 against Gravesend saw him reach his target with Donaldson stuck on an unlucky 13.

The 6ft 2in defender, who has been one of City's biggest success stories this season and who went into today's match as the club's third-highest marksman behind Donaldson and Andy Bishop, laughed: "Clayton tried to fob me off with a tenner but he coughed up the full amount in the end."

City's defensive duo lock horns for final honour of the season

CENTRE-BACKS David McGurk and James Dudgeon are battling it out to be the 2005/2006 season's final Evening Press Player of the Month winner.

McGurk, who will be presented with our Player of the Year trophy after today's home match with Hereford United, had a three-point advantage going into the final game of the season with Dudgeon the only player capable of catching him.

Dudgeon picked up another four points towards the April award as our second-highest rated player and the winner of our supporters' man-of-the-match poll during last weekend's 1-1 draw at Stevenage.

Other players to receive points towards both the Player of the Month and Year contests were our top man Clayton Donaldson (three) and Jamie Price (one).

Dudgeon previously won our readers' vote as star man against Halifax while McGurk enjoyed the same honour at Cambridge.

McGurk's Player of the Year presentation, along with others made by the various different Minstermen groups, will take place in the Main Stand and fans will have the opportunity to buy drinks in the Social Club and then watch the award winners.

City's Billy Fenton Clubman of the Year award, voted by supporters and based on the winning player's performance, ability and sportsmanship throughout the season, will be presented by the Happy Wanderer's widow Margot before the match. At half-time the Gerry Davitt Young Player of the Year award will also be presented by Gerry's relatives.

Latest Evening Press Player of the Year standings: McGurk 44 points, Donaldson 31, Dunning 29, A Bishop 28, Convery 24, Dudgeon 19, Merris 17, O'Neill 10, Andrews 9, N Bishop 9, Hotte 6, Porter 6, Price 6, Craddock 5, Peat 5, Thomas 5, Panther 4, Barwick 3, N'Toya 3, Horwood 2.

Latest Evening Press Player of the Month for April standings (based on Evening Press ratings and including two points per game for the player who polls most man-of-the-match votes from our readers): McGurk 15, Dudgeon 12, Donaldson 8, Porter 4, Convery 2, Dunning 2, Thomas 2, A Bishop 1, Merris 1.


Goals: A Bishop 24, Donaldson 18, Convery 6, Dudgeon 6, O'Neill 5, McGurk 2, Stewart 2, N Bishop 1, Dunning 1, Thomas 1, own goal 1.

Assists: Donaldson 15, Convery 13, Dunning 12, A Bishop 10, O'Neill 3, Dudgeon 2, McGurk 2, Panther 2, Andrews 1, N Bishop 1, Mansaram 1, Merris 1, Peat 1, Porter 1, Stewart 1, Thomas 1.

Bad boys: Dudgeon eight yellows; A Bishop, Dunning, Donaldson six yellows; Peat one red, four yellows, Hotte one red, three yellows; Convery and Panther four yellows; McGurk, O'Neill and Price three yellows; Horwood, Thomas two yellows; Andrews, Barwick, N Bishop, Craddock, Mansaram, Merris, Palmer, Porter one yellow.

Updated: 09:50 Saturday, April 29, 2006