With twelve games of last season remaining, the board of York City issued a statement saying that, with the club four points and four places from the League 2 relegation zone, results had to improve or there’d be changes. That was a grave worry. If it had said that performances had to improve, then fair enough, but to look only at results was and always is short-sighted. In short, they panicked.
Two games and one more point later, the change was made. And what a change. Out went everything and in came some of the most dreadful football seen at the club since Bobby Saxton took over from the sainted and departed Denis Smith. But since the statement was made saying that it’s all about the result, as opposed to ensuring systems are in place in order to ensure the result takes care of itself, what does it matter? The board had clearly chosen their path – the result is all, no matter the method of getting it.
Results were still a bit poor after the change and the club dropped into the bottom two before pulling away at the end, and a 1-0 away win at Dagenham on the final day ensured continued membership of the Football League.
Performances have continued in the same vein into this season. In short, it’s been bloody awful. And, moreover, it doesn’t work. Results show it doesn’t work. At the time of writing, City are only outside the bottom two by three points. They’ve been on the slide for some time and are in terrible form. If the board were ready to pull the trigger on the previous manager when they were four points above danger, the continued persistence with the current incumbent becomes ever more mystifying.
It was all about results then, but results are worse now and nothing changes. At least under the previous manager, it was possible still to believe that it was almost there and, when it clicked, we’d be fine. That is simply not the case now. Bizarre results like sticking four away against Portsmouth and Scunthorpe have cropped up at key intervals to give the manager breathing space, but a rotten festive period with awful results against teams down at the bottom, while others down there are all beginning to pick up points, ought to be sounding alarm bells, but the silence is deafening.
To drop out of the league again so soon after coming back up would be very difficult for the club to recover from. A lot, relatively speaking, was invested in getting back up, but the board have made a rod for their own backs. This manager is their man, the focus on results above performance their philosophy. To admit they were wrong – which many of us thought at the time – might be too big a step to take, but the decision they made is beginning to look equally as bad as replacing Smith with Saxton or the saintly Reverend Michael Sinclair selling up to the first of the asset-stripping chairmen that is largely responsible for us being a non-league club for so long in the first place.
Enough is enough. Change has to be made for the good of the club and its potential to be a community asset in the longer term. It is, however, never enough to simply demand one person’s removal from a post. Something better has to follow – the consequences of not doing that are writ large across the last twelve months.
Humbly, then, may one suggest three potential successors. Former player Graham Potter is carving quite the reputation in Sweden with Östersunds FK in the Superettan (their second division). If we can’t tempt him away from Scandanavia, Hope Powell would be an impressively offbeat appointment. Despite the way it ended for her with England, I’ve always liked her tactical flexibility and generally positive approach to the game. And if the board are ready to cede control of playing matters to someone who knows what they’re doing and would demand a lack of interference as he built his own team, Sean O’Driscoll would do nicely.
Fundamentally, though, York City cannot continue as they have been doing. That way, relegation lies.