FORMER York City midfielder Pat Lally has urged the club to keep faith in its youth team.

Lally, now the north’s regional League Football Education officer, attended last month’s Bootham Crescent meeting where parents of first-year scholars assumed the onus for raising a £19,000 shortfall for next season’s under-18s side.

Club chairman Jason McGill had originally indicated that the junior team faced closure but subsequent donations from himself, the Supporters’ Trust and club sponsors CLP ensured that Steve Torpey’s teenagers can now kick off the 2009/10 campaign.

They will only complete it, however, if the shortfall is met.

Lally, who played 81 games for the Minstermen between 1971 and 1973 alongside home-grown talents such as Chris Topping and Brian Pollard, applauded the attitude of the parents, CLP and McGill, while adding that he feels struggling Blue Square Premier clubs must preserve their youth structures and not sacrifice them in the unreliable hope of chasing a rapid return to the Football League.

He said: “In the current financial climate, it’s very difficult for clubs to find funds but, unless you invest in youth, you will always struggle, especially lower down the pyramid.

“You can’t just keep bringing in experienced players who need paying more money and often require removal expenses.

“You’re also never certain about older players’ commitment levels because they might have one eye on their career after the game but, if you can keep producing players like Adam Boyes on a regular basis, it will keep your first-team overheads down.

“York’s youth programme has had very good results over the years. They have produced talent consistently, even if they have had to sell the players on, and Adam is another one that could be worth money to the club.” The Minstermen’s Blue Square Premier rivals Rushden and Diamonds are currently considering scrapping their under-18 side – a measure that Mansfield, relegated from the Football League in 2008, also contemplated last month.

Lally hopes that never happens at York, where the likes of youth-team graduates Jonathan Greening, Graeme Murty and Richard Cresswell have helped rack up more than £2 million in transfer fees.

On top of £413,000 losses during the last financial year and ongoing operating losses of £200,000, including the annual Football Foundation loan repayments which have been suspended but must be paid back on the sale of KitKat Crescent, club owner McGill stressed that the withdrawal of two major sponsors threatened the juniors’ future.

The complete loss of Football League funding following City’s failure to gain promotion in their first two seasons as a Conference club had previously increased the financial pressure but Lally added that the League Football Education scheme, backed by the PFA and the government’s Learning and Skills Council, will continue to provide £50,000 worth of support for the scholars to pursue the Apprenticeship in Sporting Excellence (ASE).

He said: “The LFE funding will continue to be available. We give the lads a training allowance, a weekly wage and £10-a-week towards their travel expenses.

“They also get bonuses depending on their college results which have been good at York.

“As far as the PFA is concerned, York City continues to run a good youth programme and we are quite happy to carry on helping fund it.

“The Football League’s money is for their clubs and I don’t think you’ll ever see any movement on that.

“If they started giving it to the Conference clubs then others in the Blue Square North and South might argue their case. You have to draw the line somewhere.

“I just hope local businesses can come forward and help clubs like York and, in return, the clubs can support them in other ways.”

Anybody willing to help secure the continuation of City’s youth team should phone Sarah Andrew on 07904 646670 or Jo Owers on 07739 313081.

Both are mothers of City’s new batch of first-year scholars.