12:00pm Monday 4th April 2005
As the Minstermen head for football's basement in the Conference, Sports Editor MARTIN JARRED charts their highs and lows.
REFEREE Barry Knight's final whistle effectively signalled the end of York City's 75-year status as a Football League club on Saturday.
Barring a mathematical miracle, the 3-1 defeat at Doncaster condemned the Minstermen to life as a non-League club for the first time since 1929 when they were members of the Midland League at Fulfordgate.
Saturday, April 25, 2004 will go down as one of the blackest in the club's roller-coaster history - the end of a journey spanning three-quarters of a century.
No doubt the club will, eventually, regroup and thrive again.
But City fans have entered a long period of mourning. The loss of League football is indefinably hard to take.
When any friend passes away it is time to reminisce.
For many fans obvious highlights will include the 1955 FA Cup semi-final side's exploits, the stunning League Cup conquest of Manchester United or Keith Houchen's penalty winner on an ice-bound pitch against Arsenal.
But those were giant-killing acts in cup football not the bread-and-butter of league football which has come to such a dramatic end.
Now hard-up City will be earning a crust in non-League football.
City were elected to the Football League on June 3, 1929, when they replaced Ashington and opened life in Division Three (North) with a 2-0 victory at Wigan Borough.
Amazingly, the opening goal was scored by the youngest-ever player to turn out for the club, Reg Stockhill, who was 15 years and 281 days old.
City's management have made some bizarre decisions down the years and the treatment of Stockhill ranks as one of them.
He played just once more for City before joining Scarborough, who promptly sold him to Arsenal and banked a healthy transfer fee leaving City empty handed.
Although City were now a fully fledged league club it was their FA Cup exploits which grabbed the national headlines.
City's maiden season included a 1-1 third round draw at mighty Newcastle.
In 1937, City reached the fourth round for the first time and the following year stormed through to the sixth round by which time they had a new home - Bootham Crescent.
City moved to the ground fans have recently fought so hard to save in 1932, marking their first league game there with a 2-2 draw with Stockport County.
A record crowd of 28,123 shoe-horned itself in to the Crescent for the FA Cup sixth round visit of Huddersfield on March 5, 1938 - an attendance which will never be beaten.
Although the Minstermen had a strong cup reputation, they were unable to mount a challenge for promotion to Division Two and spent much of the 1930s flirting with re-election.
In those days clubs did not gain access to the league by automatic promotion.
The 1948-49 season saw the height of the post-war attendance boom with City's average league crowd of 10,412 football-starved fans remaining a club record.
Although fans were pouring through the gates, opposition forwards were also pouring through City's defence and the club finished bottom of Division Three (North) for the first time in 1950.
Luckily, the league membership was increased that year from 88 to its present day 92 clubs - Scunthorpe, Shrewsbury, Colchester and Gillingham all moving up from the non-league ranks.
But better times were just round the corner - in the FA Cup once again as City reached the 1955 semi-finals.
But the likes of Arthur Bottom, Norman Wilkinson, Billy Hughes, Ernie Phillips, Alan Stewart and Sid Storey found promotion elusive.
When regionalised football was scrapped three years later City found themselves in the new Fourth Division and gained their first promotion in 1959 with Wilkinson and full-back George Howe the only survivors from the great cup run.
The glory was short-lived as City were relegated the following campaign and started a yo-yo period - seeking re-election in 1964 and gaining promotion to Division Three the following year only to immediately tumble back into the Fourth.
After City applied for re-election three years on the bounce, manager Tom Johnston engineered an amazing turnaround by pinching the last promotion place in 1971 and three years later steered City to the Second Division for the first time.
For one season a side containing heroes such as goalkeeper Graeme Crawford, defender Chris Topping, forward Jimmy Seal and co were on a par with Manchester United, Aston Villa, Bolton Wanderers, Portsmouth, Fulham and Sunderland.
It was heady stuff, but City were punching above their weight and successive relegations under former Manchester United player Wilf McGuinness saw them freefall to the basement division.
It was not until the arrival of Denis Smith in 1982 that things picked up. City stormed to the Fourth Division championship in 1983-84 with a record 101 points - the first side to break the century barrier.
City fans were in dreamland.
Goals from Keith Walwyn and John Byrne flowed while John McPhail and Ricky Sbragia were rocks in the heart of the defence.
City even recaptured some FA Cup magic, Keith Houchen's penalty on a snow-covered Bootham Crescent sending Arsenal crashing out of the fourth round.
Not surprisingly, Smith was head-hunted. He went to Sunderland and City went to the dogs, collapsing back into the Fourth Division in 1988, enduring the on-pitch death of striker David Longhurst two years later.
Another bright young manager, John Ward, revived the club before he, too, was lured away. With a couple of months of the 1992-93 season remaining his trusty assistant, Alan Little, took charge and completed the promotion job.
City beat Crewe in the play-off final at Wembley with 10,000 City fans making the trip to the Twin Towers.
It was nerve-racking stuff which went down to the last kick with unlikely hero Wayne Hall despatching the promotion-winning kick in the penalty shootout.
City reached the play-offs again the following year with Jon McCarthy, Paul Barnes and goalkeeper Dean Kiely - all to play at a higher level - to the fore.
The following season City had fans all over the world rubbing their eyes in disbelief as they knocked Manchester United out of the Coca Cola Cup.
But they continued to flirt with relegation in Division Three before slipping into the drop zone in the final few minutes of the 1998-99 season after a 4-0 defeat at Manchester City.
On the same day Scarborough slipped out of the Football League and now, five years on, City have joined their North Yorkshire neighbours.
City, crippled by financial troubles, have lurched from one well documented off-field crisis to another in recent years. The fans heroically saved the club and the ground, but the players have been unable to make it a famous hat-trick, spiralling out of the league.
It could take a long time for a club whose history is littered with peaks and troughs to bounce back.
The key could be how many fans retain their faith in City's ability to force their way back into the band of 92 league clubs.
Updated: 11:57 Monday, April 26, 2004
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