YOU don’t see many bookmakers wearing bicycle clips, or so goes the old saying, aimed at highlighting the odds-setting industry’s ability to take money off hopeful punters.

As a consequence, when York City were relegated to the regionalised realms of English football’s sixth tier, the club’s status and resources led to them being swiftly installed as second-favourites just behind Salford who, in contrast to their historically superior rivals, were on an upward trajectory.

The short price seemed justified and the hope was that Gary Mills’ greater managerial experience at non-League level would tip the scales in City’s favour during any two-horse race for the title.

Hindsight, of course, tends to distort such hazy recollections, but there was genuine reason to believe that the Minstermen, who would be plying their trade at the lowest level in the club’s history, could start their climb back to footballing respectability.

Despite ultimately falling short in the final run-in during 2016/17, Mills’ settled squad – the majority of whom had been retained - had shown top-ten form since the turn of the year in the division above and defeated Lincoln and Macclesfield on the way to lifting the FA Trophy at Wembley.

Anybody know how those two clubs are getting on now?

Once the action started, it was then easy to dismiss the opening-day 1-0 home defeat to Telford as a blip, especially when, seven days later, eventual play-off qualifiers Bradford Park Avenue looked ridiculously bad during a 5-0 away victory.

Given what followed, that result now looks like the one example of City’s full-time status being made to count against an Avenue side who would improve once the disadvantage of not benefitting from a comprehensive pre-season lessened.

August optimism soon dissipated as largely the same group of players that had disposed of sixth-tier teams such as Worcester, Nuneaton and Brackley in the Trophy during the previous season were not playing with the same verve, confidence or desire.

Despite winning 2-1 at FA Cup hosts Salford a fortnight earlier, Mills was dismissed following a defeat in the same competition to north-east upstarts South Shields, having also lost the “El Crapico” bragging rights during the first-ever “Tea-Shop derby” against Harrogate Town in between.

Still, the haste with which Mills was sent packing by the end of September came in marked contrast to the patience shown his hapless predecessor Jackie McNamara who, despite all insurmountable evidence pointing to a much earlier removal from his position, was eventually left to decide his own fate before stepping down.

An apparent contract stand-off between Mills and the club at the end of the previous season had hinted at a strained relationship between manager and chairman, who had not parted amicably at the end of the ex-Tamworth chief’s first spell in charge of the club.

Mills could have been more diplomatic perhaps in his position when repeatedly referring to the “absolute mess” he inherited, given McNamara was still at the club and owner Jason McGill’s obvious unstinting loyalty to the ex-Scotland international.

But nobody could argue Mills’ claims were not justified and they only exposed the unworkable folly of retaining City’s worst-ever manager in employment at Bootham Crescent after he handed over the reins.

The criticism from Mills can only have led to resentment from McNamara and it was pretty unedifying, while by now familiarly surreal, when the former Celtic captain, who barely uttered a word in public both before and thereafter during his time as chief executive, oversaw the press conference to pass comment on Mills’ shortcomings as manager.

Amid this environment, Martin Gray was poached from Darlington and, given his success with the Durham outfit, the appointment seemed a sensible one, coupled with the arrival of former Doncaster Rovers’ two-time promotion winner Dave Penney as sporting director.

The ex-Sunderland chief was, though, inheriting a squad of players that, in several cases, had passed up the opportunity to stay in the division above and were not now living the dream of bouncing back in a blaze of glory at the first attempt that they had been sold by Mills and had probably believed in, given their close bond with the former European Cup winner.

Former captain Simon Heslop was the first to suggest he wanted out, although he would return to the fold after briefly being farmed out to Eastleigh.

Alex Whittle also moved on to Forest Green, having been persuaded to commit to the Minstermen in the summer, after initially suggesting to Mills that he was also ready to jump ship.

What might have been in the minds of others reflecting on the impact on their careers of the unexpected struggles was kept to themselves.

Talismanic veteran Jon Parkin seemed typically undistracted, though, with his prolific exploits the one constant throughout the upheaval, as he ended 2017 by setting a new post-War club record of 36 goals in a calendar year.

The 36-year-old’s form kept the team in the play-off shake-up and spearheaded a run of six straight wins post-Christmas, starting when he hit the club’s first hat-trick for eight seasons against the admittedly woeful North Ferriby on Boxing Day.

The consistency of that sequence would be lost though when, first, Parkin was suspended after being sent off during a humiliating 4-1 defeat at Curzon Ashton and, then, missed all but the last of the final eight games of the campaign when he needed knee surgery.

Nobody could fill Parkin’s considerable boots and, although much was made of coinciding injuries to Alex Kempster and Louis Almond, as very different players it is doubtful whether either would have filled the void caused by his absence and the timing of their problems only deflected slightly from the inadequacy as striking cover of recruited pair James Gray and Raul Correia.

Unthinkably, a club record was equalled as a Parkin-less City recorded four straight home defeats without scoring, going down to Harrogate (0-2), Nuneaton (0-1), ten-man Gainsborough (0-1) and FC United of Manchester (0-1).

Almost, equally as inconceivable, following a 2-2 home draw with Leamington, when the modest visitors earned a share of the spoils on 89 minutes, weirdly favourable results meant the Minstermen still harboured an outsiders’ hope of making the play-offs going into the final weekend at Brackley.

Seemingly symptomatic of the character of the side, that straw could not be clutched.

Even when the three required results were going City’s way at half-time in Northamptonshire, which still meant victory could see the visitors gatecrash the play-offs via the back door, the game’s first goal was conceded just seven minutes into the second period.

The subsequent 2-0 loss was rendered irrelevant by eventual scores elsewhere, but the Brackley defeat appeared to confirm Gray’s belief that the squad did not possess the mental fortitude to take control of their own destiny, with just one point from a possible 18 taken during an awful April when as little as six would have secured a top-seven finish.

What toll off-pitch turmoil exacted during this period is uncertain, with McGill announcing his decision to step down as chairman in mid-March and to stop covering operating losses beyond the summer after Supporters Trust members voted against the proposal to turn his 75 per cent majority stake in the club to a 100 per cent shareholding.

Given that the deadline for invited parties to declare an interest in McGill’s shares has now passed, surely now is the time that the Malton-based businessman and the Trust work together and formulate some manner of shared vision on what the future should hold.

For the greater good of the football club and to give Bootham Crescent a dignified send off in its final season, rifts must be healed or, at least, pushed aside and some form of unity found, with an end to the he said/she said bickering.

Building that bridge and regaining the trust of the club’s fans could be the most important task of City’s recently-named board of Steve Kilmartin, Penney, Ian McAndrew and Richard Adams if more anguish on and off the pitch is to be avoided in 2018/19.

Player Ratings

Louis Almond

Plagued by injuries and could not deliver on the early promise that saw him create every goal in the 5-0 August triumph at Bradford Park Avenue. Undoubted ability but, even before his fitness problems, previous boss Gary Mills was calling for a greater work ethic. Nevertheless, would have been interesting to see what he could have contributed if available all season.

Appearances: 14 (7); Goals 2.

Rating: 5/10

Adam Bartlett

Signed three months into the season from Gray's old club Darlington. Made a string of excellent saves during the months of January and February when he was the team's stand-out player. Competent in most areas of goalkeeping.

Appearances: 27; Goals: 0.

Rating: 7/10

Hamza Bencherif

Every National League North outfit boasts a big, physical centre-back, but City’s struggled to punch his weight. Decent in the air, but tackle count was low and he is still to net in more than 60 appearances for the club. Played more games than anybody else in the squad which, rather than a sign of his consistency, could be regarded as evidence of his greater culpability for the side’s struggles.

Appearances: 44; Goals: 0.

Rating: 4/10

Connor Brown

Walked a tightrope at times disciplinary wise, but rightly pointed out that, despite a yellow card count of 16 this season, he has never been sent off for two bookable offences. An energetic defender that most attackers don’t enjoy playing against, given his capacity to lay a reducer on the opposition. Sometimes, such rashness proved to be costly with the concession of free kicks in dangerous positions and, at Curzon Ashton, a penalty.

Appearances: 11; Goals: 0.

Rating: 5/10

Jonny Burn

Difficult to recall too many glaring errors at the back but might have imposed himself more on games. Offered a set-piece threat when deliveries were of the necessary quality. Generally reliable on the ball.

Appearances: 18 (3); Goals: 3.

Rating 5/10

Aidan Connolly

Match-winner on his day and the leading provider of assists but needed to stamp his authority on every game at sixth-tier level. Completely frozen out by Mills and, after earning a reprieve from Martin Gray, the ex-Sunderland midfielder also lost trust in the former Dundee United attacker during the final weeks of the campaign. At his best when linking up with Jon Parkin during the promising post-Christmas period, but could not forge a similar understanding with others when the former Championship campaigner was sidelined.

Appearances: 25 (7); Goals: 6.

Rating: 5/10

Raul Correia

His bustling style looked useful early in his City spell following a loan move from Blackpool. A willingness to chase down lost causes got him his only goal when he charged down a goalkeeping clearance at Telford. But, he had little to fall back on when his work-rate levels dropped and could not make an impression against under-18 defences for the reserves during final weeks of the campaign.

Appearances: 6 (4); Goals: 1.

Rating: 3/10

Ryan Edmondson

Looked completely lost when thrown on at the age of 16 during Gray’s first match in charge – the 1-0 victory over Brackley. Clearly advanced for his age physically. Moved on to Leeds, where reports suggest he has also prospered in the gentler environment of development football.

Appearances: 0 (1); Goals: 0.

Rating: 5/10

Kaine Felix

Never stopped running but, quite often, the type of energy-sapping bursts that lacked the incision and intelligence to trouble teams. Rarely a physical match for uncompromising sixth-tier defences. Another attacker who was going to struggle to find the net too before being cut adrift to join Leamington, where he lasted until February.

Appearances: 2 (9); Goals: 1.

Rating: 4/10

David Ferguson

Showed promised during early outings following his October arrival from Darlington, looking the part as a potential goalscoring left-back, having netted four times for the Quakers in the first two months of the campaign. Seemed to lose a little of that attacking verve, though, as the weeks passed by. Defensive awareness could have been better too on occasions.

Appearances: 29 (2); Goals: 1.

Rating: 5/10

James Gray

Toiled to little effect following his October arrival from Torquay. Subsequently loaned out to Tamworth but returned to finally end an interminable goal drought with a late winner against Southport. It offered little redemption, though, with his namesake manager admitting he was prevented from bringing him on as a substitute at Gainsborough due to the abuse he was receiving while warming-up from City supporters unhappy with the quality of his performances.

Appearances: 7 (13); Goals: 1.

Rating: 3/10

Simon Heslop

Earned praise from Gray for his attitude during the miserable run-in to the end of the campaign. Other Bootham Crescent observers remain unconvinced and he is tarnished somewhat by his unavoidable association with the failures of the last two seasons. The quality of corners improved after he was forgiven and recalled to the team following his transfer request but must lift his performance level above average and forcefully demonstrate his past Football League credentials if he is to win over sceptical sections of the City fan base.

Appearances: 30; Goals: 4.

Rating: 4/10

Clovis Kamdjo

Total write-off of a season as he completed his comeback from cruciate and anterior ligament damage. Adrenalin saw him put himself about when given a brief substitute outing at Harrogate and was given a start on the final day at Brackley, where he won several defensive headers but looked off the pace. Impossible to tell on that slim evidence the toll such a serious injury will have taken.

Appearances: 1 (1); Goals: 0.

Rating: 5/10

Alex Kempster

Burst on to the scene with an impressive goal-scoring substitute cameo during an otherwise dismal afternoon at Curzon Ashton. Given a buffeting by National League North defences thereafter. Progress was also hampered by a hamstring injury.

Appearances: 6 (2); Goals: 2.

Rating: 5/10

Josh Law

A little surprising that only three players made more starts than the former Oldham utility man, given greater things were expected from somebody newly arrived from League One and his contributions over the campaign were not too memorable. Clearly comfortable on the ball, he didn’t always make his presence felt on the pitch for somebody with his experience. Given problems defensively sometimes when used at right back

Appearances: 34 (3); Goals: 1.

Rating: 5/10

Gary Martin

Had a little about him, providing the team with a goal and three assists during his brief stint, while filling time during the off-season in his European career. Then, acted like a berk by playing Sunday morning football and taunting manager Gray on social media. Swiftly shown the door.

Appearances: 4; Goals: 1.

Rating: 4/10

Sean McAllister

Arrived on loan from Grimsby, where he had been out of favour following a long-term injury. Consequently, never looked comfortable with the pace of the game at National League North level. Left after a month without making too many memorable contributions.

Appearances: 4; Goals: 0.

Rating: 4/10

Flynn McNaughton

Highlighted the deficiencies of senior professionals Gray and Correia when, as a second-year scholar, he displayed greater attacking movement and intelligence. Kept things relatively simple and always contributed during his three outings off the bench. Still raw but looks to have potential.

Appearances: 0 (3); Goals: 0.

Rating: 6/10

Adriano Moke

Managed more starts than has been the case during most seasons in his career, but Gray is probably still none the wiser in terms of where best to position him on a football pitch. His goal and assist return should be better for a player of his technical ability. Off-pitch social media spat with supporters, which led to a fine, demonstrated surprising immaturity for a 28-year-old.

Appearances: 35 (5); Goals: 2.

Rating: 5/10

Amari Morgan-Smith

Never found wanting for honest endeavour, which some players were following his January departure for Telford, the ex-Luton and Cheltenham forward, nevertheless, needed to offer more of a goal threat. The fellow attackers he left behind proved even less effective in that department though. As a consequence, probably a mistake to let him go, given the acquired alternatives.

Appearances: 23 (9); Goals: 5.

Rating: 5/10

Sam Muggleton

Perhaps surprisingly, his monumental long throw did not prove as effective in National League North as it had done in the division above. With his chief “weapon” blunted, a lack of pace and fitness was exposed on the pitch. Loaned out to Scarborough, having failed to add to his one City start last season.

Appearances: 0 (8); Goals: 0.

Rating: 4/10

Sean Newton

Weighed in with double figures in goals but nowhere near the same influence on the team that he had been during the second half of the previous campaign, when he looked to have the energy and desire to cover every blade of grass. Largely used in a central-midfield role by Gray, but probably still best suited to an attacking position on the left, where his crossing ability can hurt teams. Targeted for criticism by supporters at times, given their expectations of the captain.

Appearances: 43; Goals 10.

Rating: 5/10

Jon Parkin

His one-touch finishing in the penalty box still belongs to a much higher level. Broke club records for most goals (36) in a calendar year (2017) and for scoring in consecutive games (eight). Team could not respond when he was lost to injury for all but last of final eight games, illustrating his importance as the team's talisman.

Appearances: 30 (2); Goals 25

Rating: 8/10 

Dan Parslow

Overlooked for selection for three months, before making an assured return to the team in March. Struggled a little to sustain that form through to the end of the campaign and, on occasions, given problems in the air against opposition target men. But, typically, of a man who has given City sterling service down the years, never looked to hide or shirk his responsibilities.

Appearances: 33 (7); Goals: 2.

Rating: 5/10

Alex Pattison

Initially an exciting recruit when used as an attacking right-sided player in Gray’s 4-2-3-1 formation that impressed post-Christmas. Seemed to lose momentum, though, after returning to parent club Middlesbrough in the transfer window, hoping to secure a loan move in the Football League. Used more as an orthodox central midfielder in his second spell at Bootham Crescent and did not look as comfortable with that responsibility, before injury curtailed his progress.

Appearances: 13; Goals: 0.

Rating: 6/10

Bailey Peacock-Farrell

Powerful on-loan Leeds keeper who had a big kick. Didn’t look comfortable organising his back-line and perhaps a little intimidated coming into such an environment as a relatively untried youngster. Really struggled during the 3-2 defeat at Salford, where his decision-making was questionable, but has since made the breakthrough to the first team at Elland Road.

Appearances: 4; Goals: 0.

Rating: 5/10

Michael Rankine

Nearest City possessed to a like-for-like physical alternative to Parkin and, briefly, proved effective in that role, spearheading the attack during an unbeaten run of eight points from a possible 12 when the main man was sidelined early in the season. Didn’t look fully fit following a spell in part-time football but remained a presence on the pitch and unsettled opposition defences. Health issues, however, meant he would play no part from early-September onwards.

Appearances: 5 (3); Goals: 2.

Rating: 5/10

Daniel Rowe

Grabbed a goal on his debut against Tamworth, but his City career rapidly went backwards. Employed in a midfield anchoring role and, then at right back, but struggled to lay a tackle on opponents. Given a particularly torrid time by Blyth’s Robbie Dale before Christmas and played no part at all from January onwards despite being contracted until the end of next season.

Appearances: 9 (3); Goals: 1.

Rating: 3/10

Luke Simpson

Given his one chance in 2-1 victory over Brackley but has been overlooked now by three consecutive managers. Didn’t enhances his prospects with mistakes for the reserves. Up-and-coming youngster Ryan Whitley was preferred during later second-string fixtures.

Appearances 1; Goals: 0.

Rating: 4/10

Connor Smith

Willing performer who never let the team down for effort. As honestly identified by himself, though, his goal return remains low for an attacking player. Nearest City had to an out-and-out winger in the squad and possibly suffered from both Mills and Gray’s decision not to field a 4-4-2 formation.

Appearances: 6 (16); Goals: 1.

Rating: 5/10

Vinnie Steels

Given his chance at the tender age of 16 in the most difficult of circumstances but coped in such an environment and offered moments of excitement, with his ability to beat players and deliver crosses. Another throw-back to the era of old-fashioned wingers and it is to be hoped that the defensive responsibilities expected in the modern game of such players don’t negate his threat in the final third. Refreshingly uncomplicated and direct in his approach and looks like one for the future.

Appearances: 1 (3); Goals: 0

Rating: 6/10

Jassem Sukar

Overpowered by the opposition when given his chance in team. His defensive frailties were most brutally exposed at Leamington when he was tentative at two set-pieces after coming on as a substitute and the hosts grabbed the a highly unlikely point. Didn’t make another appearance and off-loaded by Gray.

Appearances: 3 (5); Goals: 0

Rating: 3/10

Theo Wharton

Quickly lauded by some City fans who regarded him as a better alternative to the much-maligned Heslop. While comfortable in possession, though, he looked ill-equipped for the rough-and-tumble nature of National League North football. Unlikely to win too many tackles and marginalised by Gray.

Appearances: 6 (3); Goals: 0

Rating: 4/10

Jon Worsnop

Had been solid prior to making errors during the final two matches of Mills’ reign which were, no doubt, untimely given those would have been the performances most closely analysed by new chief Gray. Vocal and passionate, he was a good organiser of the back-line. Since done well following move to Southport.

Appearances: 14; Goals: 0

Rating: 5/10

Alex Whittle

One of the few players who could be relied upon for a consistent level of performance. Not many wingers got the better of him. Might have done better going forward but missed following his mid-season move to Football League outfit Forest Green.

Appearances: 20; Goals: 0

Rating: 6/10

Marcus Williams

Last and, possibly, least. Given a torrid time during sluggish outing as an early substitute at left-back against Curzon Ashton. Returned to parent club Guiseley without making another appearance.

Appearances: 0 (1); Goals: 0

Rating: 3/10