YORK City boss Martin Gray has welcomed an end to the “open cheque book” recruitment policy at Bootham Crescent.

Gray has insisted that the Minstermen must start paying salaries more commensurate with sixth-tier regionalised football and is already in discussions with certain targets for next season, having been instructed by the current board of directors to recreate the winning culture he built at previous club Darlington.

Potential new owners still have until April 30 to declare their interest in acquiring former chairman Jason McGill’s 75 per cent majority shareholding in the club.

But, with Supporters’ Trust members having voted against the proposal to hand over their 25 per cent stake in the club to McGill’s JM Packaging company a month ago, the Malton-based businessman stated that the Minstermen would need to function on a breakeven basis next term, bringing an end to the operating losses he has covered during his stewardship, which amounted to £500,000 in the last financial year alone.

The Trust have previously expressed their belief that City’s expenditure should not exceed income and, following talks with directors Steve Kilmartin, Dave Penney, Ian McAndrew and Richard Adams, Gray has asked frustrated supporters to judge him after he has assembled his own squad for 2018/19 on a revised wage structure.

“We’ve got to work within a playing budget,” he pointed out. “In the past, we’ve just been funded and funded by Jason McGill and that open cheque book philosophy is not the way to manage and run a football club.

“We need a sensible, playing budget that attracts players to come, but pays the right wages for the level we are at. I’m meeting players this week and working very hard with the board of directors to make some signings as soon as possible, because we’ve got to reinvent the wheel here.

“I’ve been told I have a blank sheet of paper to create the winning culture I had at Darlington. We knew at Darlington several weeks before the end of the season that we wouldn’t be allowed to take part in the play-offs, but still won four of our last five games to finish in the top five.

“I need that same winning mentality here and, when I get my own players in, judge me on that.”

Gray also wants to mould a team in the form of champions elect Salford, who are six points clear of nearest rivals Harrogate with two games left to play, despite having netted 19 times fewer than the Wetherby Road outfit.

The City boss declared that City should pursue the “bravest rather than the best footballers” – a policy he feels will help Salford clinch the title following a return of seven 1-0 wins this term.

“Salford will win the championship in my opinion because of their desire and toughness,” Gray argued. “They don’t play an attacking passing game like Kidderminster and, whether that’s right or wrong depends on people’s philosophies, but its mentalities that win you games and it’s no coincidence that Salford have won so many games 1-0.

“We don’t want to bring in the best footballers, we want to bring in the bravest.”

Simon Heslop, meanwhile, has been heralded as the player to emerge with the most credit from the tough spell of four successive defeats that has all but ended City’s play-off aspirations.

The York-born 30-year-old was stripped of the captaincy by former boss Gary Mills over the summer and initially axed from the squad after he sought a transfer soon after Gray took over, but the City chief reasoned: “When the going has got tough, he has been the one, for me, who has really shone through and I can see why he’s played a lot of Football League games.

“He’s brave on and off the ball and does not hide away, so you look at him as a lead for other players to follow. We’ve got one or two leaders in the team, but you need six or seven potential captains with that leadership mentality.

“We haven’t and that’s why things have to change for the future.”

Heslop is one of seven players understood to be contracted to City next season, along with Adam Bartlett, Sean Newton, Adriano Moke, David Ferguson, Jon Parkin, Ryan Whitley and Daniel Rowe.

Ex-Wycombe defender Rowe has not trained with the club, though, in recent months, so his future remains uncertain.

City play their final home game against Leamington this weekend and, even though the club will still have a slim mathematical chance of making the play-offs, Gray knows the restoration of some pride is the main objective, admitting: “We owe the fans a win.

“As disappointed as we all are, we have to make sure we come out of this weekend having given everything for York City. That’s all anybody can ask for.

“We’re all to blame for what’s happened and we’re all in it together, so we’ve got to get out of it together. I have to lead from the front and the players have to lead out on the pitch.”

Louis Almond (calf) and Alex Pattison (hamstring) are both ruled out for the match along with Parkin, but Alex Kemspter could return after missing the 1-0 defeat at FC United of Manchester.