Book Review: York City: Fighting Back
York City: Fighting Back by Dave Flett
Published by Amberley Publishing
Life as a York City fan has largely been a predictable state of affairs down the years. Turn up, watch them be moderate to crap for 90 minutes, go home — simple. The glories are fleeting and to be clung to for far longer than is probably healthy and for the most part of the club’s existence, the lowest low was applying for re-election, something which was never realistically going to be refused. That changed in 1987 when an automatic relegation place was added and the prospect of dropping out of the league suddenly became a prospect.
Fast forward to 2004, by when of course there’d been a second relegation place added, and that’s where Dave Flett, chief York City correspondent for the local paper, The Press, picks up the story in Fighting Back. 2004 begins with a 20-game run without a win that saw York drop out of the Football League for the first time since election in 1930 and a takeover by the supporters following two asset stripping owners that threatened the club’s existence. As ebbs go, it was pretty low.
By the time Fighting Back has finished in the spring of 2013, the club has seen off five managers, four caretaker managers and countless players and another transfer of ownership. But, crucially, it also sees the club back in the Football League, narrowly avoiding the ignominy of being the first side promoted from the Conference to be relegated straight back there, and with a national knock-out competition success under their belts.
The intervening period does the term roller-coaster a disservice. Each chapter of Fighting Back deals with one season of this turbulent time, packed with quotes from the major players in the story, some quite frank — Martin Foyle, manager number four, saying “they’re not good enough, are they?” – and some more enigmatic — Foyle never did elaborate fully on the reasons behind his resignation. There are some asides that may have been missed even by the most dedicated fan, such as a certain Paul Gascoigne applying for the manager’s job after Foyle left. There was a bullet dodged.
It’s a light read and can come over a bit dry at times. It’s more a condensed chronicle of key events than an emotionally turbulent tale of derring-do or little-guy-done-good-against-the-odds thriller. Flett’s access to the photo archives of The Press adds colour throughout, though, and the book offers reminders to supporters of bad times and better and fleshes out some background to the important stories. There’s also enough to offer someone who wasn’t there an insight into what it was like to go through it all and to hold the attention through to the end.
Probably one to avoid if you’re a Luton fan, though.