Neal Ardley out to put York City back on map as he outlines key to success

Neal Ardley has the chance to put York City back on the map but football has taught the former Premier League midfielder to focus on the here and now.

For the Minstermen, that is an FA Cup first-round replay against National League North side Chester for the right to host 2013 winners Wigan Athletic in front of the BBC cameras.

"There's a little bit of TV money and the exposure that TV brings a football club," said Ardley.

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"All of that is good for our owners and theirs. Both teams will be giving it everything.

"The FA Cup is a magical competition. We've just got to back up what we've done better in the last couple of games."

York are just outside the relegation zone in 19th place in the National League but are fresh from back-to-back clean sheets.

After coming away from Chester with a goalless draw in the original tie, Ardley's men claimed a 2-0 victory at AFC Fylde on Saturday to end a four-match winless run.

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"When you win a game, everybody feels a little bit better," said Ardley.

Neal Ardley is targeting the third round. (Photo: PA Wire/PA Images)Neal Ardley is targeting the third round. (Photo: PA Wire/PA Images)
Neal Ardley is targeting the third round. (Photo: PA Wire/PA Images)

"We just need to go and back it up now. We're showing Chester the utmost respect and not expecting anything other than an incredibly tough game.

"We've got to find a way to win the game. We'll certainly try to be positive and take confidence from Saturday.

"We've got the chance to get a TV game against Wigan and challenge ourselves against higher opposition.

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"I want to get to the third round of the FA Cup and would love to get a good draw. If you can make sure you're in the hat and part of it, watching the third-round draw is special."

The 51-year-old has been at York since September. (Photo: Stuart Rayner)The 51-year-old has been at York since September. (Photo: Stuart Rayner)
The 51-year-old has been at York since September. (Photo: Stuart Rayner)

Ardley, who was a youth player at Wimbledon when they stunned Liverpool in the 1988 final, appreciates the value of a cup run.

But the 51-year-old was brought to the LNER Community Stadium to keep York afloat in the National League and that is his primary objective.

"I wouldn't trade it off for climbing the league table and putting a team together that could challenge at the top of the league going forward," he said. "But it's a close second."

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Ardley replaced Michael Morton in early September after a winless start to the season left York 23rd in the table.

Wigan Athletic await in round two.  (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)Wigan Athletic await in round two.  (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
Wigan Athletic await in round two. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

The Minstermen are not yet out of the woods but Ardley has seen enough to leave him encouraged.

"It's a challenge but a really good one as well," he said.

"The owners have been brilliant. They're right behind everything we're trying to do at the training ground and want to create a culture of excellence.

"I've been really pleasantly surprised with the fans – and I'm not just saying that. I know they've always been a great club and really well-supported but they've been magnificent.

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"We haven't been anywhere near as good as I'd like us to be but I think they can at least see a team that are having a right go every week.

"I want that relationship to stay and build because if the club are going to do good things, the relationship between the management, the squad and the fans is crucial."

Ardley is still very much in his probation period in management terms.

After taking AFC Wimbledon from the lower reaches of the fourth tier to League One, Ardley knows what can be achieved with time and patience.

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"People said when I took the job: 'Blimey, the team is struggling – do you regret it?'" he said.

"I always said no and that the first six months of this job were going to be the toughest. You're walking into something and you've got lots to change, whether it's personnel or the culture behind the scenes.

"It's very similar to when I arrived at Wimbledon in my first-ever job. I was a rabbit in the headlights at that time but am a bit more experienced now. You go in, find out what you need to do and then need the results on the pitch to back that up because it becomes a lot tougher without them.

"I think this club could be the best club in this league to work at and go forward with if we can get these first six months right."

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York's ultimate objective is to end their stay in the Conference and return to the Football League.

Ardley has not allowed himself to think about how long that might take.

"I never look that far ahead in management," he added.

"To be fair, I've been very fortunate. I managed Wimbledon for six years, managed Notts County for two and a half years – which I think was the most anyone had done since 2000 – and had two good years at Solihull, so have had only three jobs in a 10-year period.

"I'd like to spend a bit of time at York and hopefully bring success. The city is beautiful and the fans have been magnificent.

"I'd love to be able to do that – but I've got to get these first six months right first."

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