The Minstermen’s decision to let Jackie McNamara take the team despite stepping down is unusual but there is a precedent. Richard Sutcliffe reports.
COME Saturday afternoon, Jackie McNamara could be at the helm of a York City side bidding to reach the FA Cup first round proper despite having stepped down as manager five days earlier.
Even in the often topsy-turvy world of modern-day football when managers come and go with alarming regularity, this would be a highly unusual turn of events.
Little wonder, therefore, that yesterday’s decision to keep the Scot in charge for up to a fortnight as the Minstermen hunt for his successor has left many football fans scratching their heads in bemusement.
There is, though, a precedent of sorts in Yorkshire. Five-and-a-half years ago, Bradford City were embroiled in a fight for survival at the bottom of the Football League that, if it had been lost, could have brought the end for the club. Peter Taylor was the manager and things had not worked out, a point he understood every bit as much as the Valley Parade board. In the wake of a midweek February defeat to Chesterfield that had left City hovering perilously close to the drop zone, Taylor met joint-chairman Julian Rhodes and handed in his resignation. It was reluctantly accepted, albeit with a caveat.
“I asked him to take one last game that weekend against Stockport County,” Rhodes recalled yesterday when speaking to The Yorkshire Post. “It was a must, must-win game and I didn’t want to go down the caretaker route.
“Peter was a bit taken aback at our plan. We’d announce his departure the following day but explain that he was staying on for one last match. We’d also call for unity from supporters, who had been giving Peter stick over results. Then I told him we were going to slash ticket prices to just £1 to guarantee a big crowd. He went a bit white at that!
“But, after we’d chatted a bit more, Peter came round to the idea and promised to give it a go. He knew the importance of the fixture because Stockport were one of the two teams below us in the table. If we lost, we would have been in deep, deep trouble.”
Bantams fans responded to the clarion call and more than 15,000 fans poured through the turnstiles, almost 50 per cent up on the previous Tuesday’s loss to Chesterfield. City trailed 2-1 at half-time but hit back to claim all three points courtesy of a ‘95th-minute’ winner from Gareth Evans against a Hatters side reduced to nine men.
“The fans knowing Peter was going took the pressure off,” said Rhodes, who along with Mark Lawn sold Bradford last summer to Edin Rahic and Stefan Rupp. “I knew we had to be together as a club and this seemed the best way of achieving that. Winning like we did so late on was incredible. The scenes at the end were like we had won the FA Cup.
“Who knows what might have happened if we had lost that day? At half-time and with Stockport in front, we looked to be heading out of the League.
“What it meant for Peter was he was able to leave with his head held high. He applauded the fans at the final whistle and then off he went – and when he came back with Gillingham a couple of years later, his reception from our fans was decent.”
Whether McNamara will even be in charge come Saturday’s visit of Curzon Ashton in the fourth qualifying round of the Cup is unclear. Despite York’s lowly position, there has already been strong interest in the post with the club understood to have been contacted by several would-be applicants last week in the wake of the statement that revealed only a “positive result” at Braintree would extend McNamara’s time in charge.
Chairman Jason McGill is believed to have made it clear before the trip to Essex that these approaches were unwelcome. Now, though, with McNamara’s exit confirmed - albeit with the caveat he will continue to take training - the selection process can begin.
Neil Redfearn is among the names to have already been linked with the National League club along with Gary Brabin and Mark Yates. York’s next league outing is against Chester on October 22.
Whether the club’s search for McNamara’s replacement is completed before Saturday’s Cup tie remains to be seen but Bradford did show in 2011 that a manager who has already quit taking charge for one last game can work.
“The players and fans bought into it, as did Peter Taylor,” said former chief Rhodes. “It was unusual but everyone pulled together to make it work. We went on to stay up that season, Phil Parkinson arrived the following August and things took off. But beating Stockport was vital.”