After succeeding in his one job last season, Russ Wilcox can now start looking at the bigger picture in his bid to further revive the fortunes of the Minstermen. Richard Sutcliffe reports.
YORK CITY may not, as had been hoped, be in their new stadium for the start of next season.
But Russ Wilcox is in no doubt as to how important the coming campaign is going to be in terms of ensuring the Minstermen are able to capitalise on their new surrounds during 2016-17.
“It is a big season for us as a football club,” said Wilcox to The Yorkshire Post while taking time out from preparations for the new term. “This next period is very important. We have to make sure we are at least a League Two club and, hopefully, be pushing towards League One when the stadium opens.
“I appreciate there may be some disappointment over the delay but the new stadium will be here for a lot of years to come so will be worth the wait. Good times are around the corner.
“It will be the start of a new era for York City and help the club to keep making improvements in the future, not least through bringing in more finance.”
York had been due to move into the new 8,000 capacity arena next August but, with work not yet under way on a project that should take 62 weeks to complete, that timescale has now been revised.
Wilcox has been involved in his own rebuilding work after being brought in at Bootham Crescent during October last year.
At the time, City were only outside the relegation zone on goal difference and in grave danger of losing the League status that they had fought so hard to regain in 2012.
Eventually, that scrap for survival was won with a late season burst of three home wins inside the final month taking York to safety.
What that late flurry of points could not do, however, was disguise just how poorly the club had done on home soil.
A return of just 25 points and 16 goals in 23 outings at Bootham Crescent – the lowest in the club’s history – was wretched and one that Wilcox is adamant will be vastly improved this time around.
To aid those aims, the pitch’s width has been reduced in an attempt to give the opposition less space to play.
“Our home form has not been good for sometime,” said Wilcox. “In the three seasons since winning promotion, there has been just 21 home wins.
“That is not a good enough return, by any standards. And it includes the season when York got in the play-offs.
“We need to address that and we will address that. We finished last season well with three wins in the last four home games. We have to build on that.
“Our away form last season was excellent, we were the fourth top scorers away from home. But that was let down by us being the lowest scorers at home in the division.
“To try and help change things for the better, we have brought the pitch in a bit. It will allow us to get in and amongst teams a little bit more.
“And, hopefully, play at a good tempo from the start of games.
“What I will say is I do feel the players came back to pre-season with more belief, more focus and more determination.”
York fans who attended the three pre-season fixtures against Middlesbrough, Leeds United and Sheffield Wednesday will have certainly seen grounds for optimism.
Now, though, the challenge is to start well in the league – something that has proved beyond York in all three of the seasons that have followed promotion back to the League.
“The big plus for me this year has been having a full pre-season to work with the players,” said Wilcox.
“I came in with us being effectively joint second bottom and you just can’t plan too far ahead in circumstances like that. The remit was simply survival and to get out of trouble.
“That short-term goal was all that we could focus on. Only then, once safety was achieved, could we try and build.
“Now, while it is not quite a fresh piece of paper, it is my turn to stamp my mark on the club.”
As for the challenge of improving on last season’s 18th place finish, Wilcox added: “I am not one for making predictions. You just don’t know what will happen.
“Look at Tranmere last year. No-one could have expected them to go down again. Things are so competitive. Look at Plymouth last season, they lost 15 times but still got in the play-offs.
“All we can do is look after ourselves. Without making daft predictions, we want to be really competitive. And, if we manage that, we can hopefully push on and give ourselves a good base to build from when the move to the new stadium comes around.”