GARY MILLS has challenged his York City players to make their FA Trophy success the launchpad for reversing the club’s fall from grace.
Relegated to the sixth tier in heart-breaking fashion on the final day of the National League season, the Minstermen are at a low ebb.
We have to face that head on, respect the league for what it is and don’t think we are bigger and better until we have proved that.York City manager, Gary Mills
Yesterday’s triumph at Wembley, however, at least brought smiles back to the faces of not only the players but also the 7,000 fans who had travelled to the capital.
“This was the start of the season for us,” said Mills. “People have been saying to me, ‘Great way to end a difficult season’ but we ended our season three weeks ago. And it has been a long three weeks.
“We had 10 days off after the end of the season. I then told the players anyone who mentioned the R-word would be fined. I wanted this to be the start of next season, and that is what we have done. It means we will come back on July 1 with a bit of silverware.”
York’s second Trophy success under Mills, the first having come in 2012, was hard-won with Macclesfield Town arguably being the better side and creating more chances.
But, the spirit and resolve displayed by the Minstermen suggests better days lie ahead for a club who had looked dead and buried at the turn of the year when propping up the National League table.
“We have found a momentum since the New Year and that is why I want to keep this group together,” added Mills. “They want to play for the club, there is no doubt the majority can play higher but they want to stick around and put things right.
“Let me tell you, York City is a fantastic football club. It is a proud football club that has fallen on hard times. But we will bounce back.”
Mills arrived at his post-match press conference in a shirt that had been soaked to the skin in beer during the dressing room celebrations.
His joy at ending a campaign that saw the former European Cup winner sacked by Wrexham in October was understandable, Mills adding: “I have shed a few tears, I don’t mind admitting that.
“This has been a tough season personally for me, I lost my job at another club. I came here to try and save us but didn’t do that. It has been tough so this victory meant a lot to me.
“We are a proud club and this has made us proud again. Look at those fans at Wembley, after all they have been through. I am over the moon for them. The players also deserve that because it has been tough. What we have to do now is take this into next season.
“We are under no illusions as to how tough it is going to be. When the opposition see York City in there, they will probably raise their game. That is natural.
“We have to face that head on, respect the league for what it is and don’t think we are bigger and better until we have proved that. We have to get out of that league but until we do I won’t let our players think anything that we are in there for a reason.”
Mills will spend the next few days trying to tie down those players he wants to stay. Jon Parkin has already penned a 12-month contract and others are expected to follow suit.
One of those who is unlikely to stay, however, is Vadaine Oliver. Mills added: “Vadaine won’t be with me next season but he was excellent. No-one was more delighted for him than me. He has been a pleasure to work with, as they all have.
“As for the game, it was a good one and Macclesfield played well. Better finishing from them could have changed things, they probably had more chances than us.
“We had to dig in and Hamza (Bencherif) cleared one off the line. I was lucky enough to win a massive trophy back in 1980 and we defended for 89 minutes then, clearing them off the line like Hamza did for us. If you do that and put your bodies on the line, you can win trophies.”
Aidan Connolly netted the winner, albeit by nudging the ball in from on the line after Parkin’s deflected shot had looped goalwards. “He is a brave man is Aidan, to take Jon’s goal like that,” joked Mills afterwards when asked about his veteran striker being denied a 21st goal of the campaign.
“Seriously, whoever scores the goal and no matter how you score it, the main thing is it goes in the back of the net.
“Jon did so well for that third goal. When, as a defender, you pin yourself against Jon with his weight and his size, you are going to be in trouble. He did superbly well on the edge of the box.
“Aidan then got in there to get his goal bonus with his studs on the line. But, to be honest, you never do know – you have to do what Aidan did just in case someone gets back.”