Worthington’s exit tempered by Minstermen’s development

Former York City manager Nigel Worthington.
Former York City manager Nigel Worthington.
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TANGIBLE evidence of Nigel Worthington’s legacy to York City can be seen on a daily basis at the club’s Wigginton Road training ground.

The facility has been a hive of activity during Worthington’s 19-month tenure as manager, not just regarding players being put through their paces, but also workmen who have been busy carrying out improvements to transform their 18-acre training ground.

Worthington, whose successor is set to be announced today – with ex-Scunthorpe United boss Russ Wilcox in pole position to take over – was meticulous in his quest to give the club an ultra-professional sheen.

Back in the summer of 2013, three months after arriving at the club and staving off the nightmare of relegation back to the Conference, the former Leeds United and Sheffield Wednesday defender issued a ‘to-do’ list to the club to improve their Wigginton Road base, on farmland just off the B1363.

It was viewed as the deal clincher in his decision to stay at York, whose board carried out his requests to the letter.

Thereafter came new training pitches, an irrigation system, a canteen/communal area, new changing rooms and plenty more besides at a six-figure outlay – no small commitment for a League Two club.

There was also an overhaul of the club’s scouting system, with Worthington, a vastly-respected figure who had previously managed his country and taken a side to the top-flight in Norwich City, demanding high standards – his duty-of-care ethos encompassing the whole football club and not just the first team.

Communications director Sophie Hicks said: “Nigel’s legacy comes in a lot of different ways really. I think he added a better level of professionalism.

“Because he had managed at a higher level, he had very high standards and firm ideas of how he wanted to do things, which we as a board bought into.

“I think his main legacy is the development and improvement of the training ground.

“He invested a lot of time and energy into that and we, at the same time, invested about £120,000 to make the necessary improvements. We now have a really first-class facility now.

“We now have a large glass-fronted viewing room, which the first team use to eat at and have meetings and debriefings.

“It is also a fantastic facility for parents when young kids are playing football on a Saturday and Sunday.

“Previously, we had nowhere for anyone to congregate, but just changing rooms.

“Now we have additional changing rooms, a small gym and rehabilitation unit as well as a communal viewing room.

“We also now have numerous pitches in excellent condition for all teams to play on, not just the first team. In the past, I think there was always a view that as long as the first team was looked after, that was all that mattered.

“Nigel’s legacy is very much looking at the whole of the football club from the youth teams right through to the first team.

“He took a great interest in how the pitches were prepared, including Bootham Crescent, and helped everyone raise their game at York City, including all the staff behind the scenes.

“He encouraged people to be better and to raise the standards and that was something that was needed, coming out of the Conference. Obviously, Gary Mills did an amazing job getting us back into the Football League, but I think it was the right time for a higher level of professionalism.”

Worthington may have now left North Yorkshire to return to his family home in Norfolk, but will forever remain a friend of the club, according to Hicks.

His standing is such that few murmurs of protest were heard from supporters amid Worthington’s run of just one victory in 17 games at the end of his tenure.

It was the same for those at the club – Worthington’s relationship with the McGill family growing into a very close and strong one, with testament to that coming in the considerable, if ultimately futile, efforts to try to persuade him to stay on when he told them of his desire to step down on Sunday.

The club will also remain in debt to Worthington, according to Hicks, for raising boardroom morale during the brush with relegation back to the Conference 12 months after returning to the Football League in 2012-13 – and being iron-clad in his resolve that would not happen.

Hicks added: “As a board, we had reached quite a low point when Nigel came in.

“It is easy to get disillusioned when you are facing difficult situations and I think Nigel helped raise the morale of the board and make us think of the bigger picture, not just the first team.

“I do feel the fact that we were able to attract someone of the calibre of Nigel also said a lot about York City to many people as he was very well respected in the game.

“I think the fact he was manager has attracted a really good calibre of applicant too, in terms of those wishing to replace him.

“People think that York City must be a good place to work if Nigel was there.”