YORK City manager Martin Gray has insisted the club are committed to the continuation of youth football at Bootham Crescent next season despite a six-figure loss in funding.

But the Minstermen will withdraw their reserve team from the Central League at the end of the current campaign and play behind-closed-door, second-string contests instead in 2018/19.

During the first campaign following relegation from the Football League in 2016, City received the same level of financial assistance for their academy’s running costs of £260,000.

But that figure was halved this term when the Minstermen were unable to regain their league status at the first attempt and dropped down to the sixth tier instead.

That support from the football authorities will be completely withdrawn next season and Gray has admitted ongoing discussions are taking place to address that problem.

It had previously been stated that the respective sales of scholars Gabby McGill and Ryan Edmondson to Middlesbrough and Leeds United earlier this season would be used to ensure the club can maintain their category three status under the Elite Player Performance Plan.

During the Minstermen’s last eight-year stint as a non-League outfit, meanwhile, parents of youth-team apprentices and academy hopefuls were asked to undergo fundraising initiatives.

City will stage open trials for year 11 school leavers during this month’s half-term holiday, with the club offering scholarships, to include college studies, for successful candidates.

On the outlook for the future, first-team chief Gray, who runs his own north-east academy in partnership with Darlington College, said: “We’ve had fortnightly meetings since before Christmas looking at which way the youth system will go moving forward and that’s still to be decided.

“But the funding will stop – there’s no hiding away from that fact. From upstairs to academy level, we’re still working on how to fund it and where the money will come from but, certainly, the fundamental structure of a youth system won’t change, because it’s got to be here to support the city, community and the first team.”

Gray also admitted that he is now looking closely at the current batch of second-year scholars, with first-year pro terms in the offing for any that demonstrate potential between now and the end of the season.

“We’ve sat down and had a meeting with all the second-year kids, because they are getting nervous about the future and that can affect their performances,” the former Sunderland midfielder explained. “I’ve told them we’re not judging people in any individual matches and decisions won’t be made until two months down the road when they have fulfilled all their youth-team fixtures and the block of reserve games coming up.

“(Youth-team manager) Steve Torpey gives me good feedback and we are looking to bring kids through if we feel they could push on and have careers in the game.

“If you look at what’s gone out of our youth system in recent times, Gabby has gone to Middlesbrough and Ryan is at Leeds, while Ben Godfrey is also doing well, so we’re churning out players who are going on to higher levels, but we want players to play for us as well.”

Should City’s 2018/19 roster be bolstered by teenage talent, though, Gray is of a mind to continue pursuing the policy of loaning rookies out to gain senior experience before being thrown into the cut-and-thrust of first-team football at Bootham Crescent.

Highly-rated keeper Ryan Whitley, who has caught the eye of England selectors and Premier League Manchester City in the past, recently returned from such a spell at Evo-Stik League outfit Whitby Town and Gray reasoned: “It’s tough to blood youngsters at our level.

“I think they probably need to go out first and find a level where they come back with a few scars to toughen them up, so they can find out what it’s all about.

“I think they need that experience of men’s football, because you never know what you’re getting at reserve level.

“Sometimes, teams put out lots of professionals, then other clubs play their under-18s but, if they go out to Whitby, it’s regular men’s football, so we will handle all of that when we sort out who is going to get a contract.”

In the past, City went without official reserve-team football for seven years – a decision that was first taken by then manager Martin Foyle in 2009.

Jackie McNamara then reinstated second-string fixtures following relegation to the National League in 2016, but Gray believes the costs involved could be better spent elsewhere.

“From a financial point of view, I don’t think it’s beneficial and we will organise lots of friendlies instead,” he revealed.

“With the reserve league, you can also play one match, then not have any for three weeks before having a batch where you’re playing every Tuesday in a month, like we’ve got coming up.

“You have big gaps, then big blocks of games, which isn’t ideal.

“Instead, we can call the likes of Hartlepool, Grimsby, Hull and Bradford and organise behind-closed-doors games when we need them.

“That also allows us to put young players out on loan, knowing we don’t have to fulfil these fixtures and we can look at two or three trialists as well.

“We’ll still have a reserve squad that is an extension of the first team and youth team, but we won’t play in a league.”

City’s reserves’ next match is away to Sky Bet League Two side Morecambe on Tuesday, with the contest kicking off at 1pm.