York City v Altrincham - Steve McNulty aiming for famous five

York City's Steve McNulty: Won promotion from League Two with Tranmere last season.York City's Steve McNulty: Won promotion from League Two with Tranmere last season.
York City's Steve McNulty: Won promotion from League Two with Tranmere last season.
York City captain Steve McNulty is enjoying the familiar pressure of pushing for promotion with one of the biggest clubs at his level, and grateful chairman Jason McGill has allowed them to act like it.

The Minstermen host Altrincham in today’s Conference North play-off semi-final after 20 football-free weeks, with centre-back McNulty aiming for a seventh promotion with five different clubs; four of which have come via play-offs.

“It’s a project to get back into the Football League and I enjoy the challenge,” says the 36-year-old. “I don’t just want to play my career out quietly, I thrive on expectations and I’ve been fortunate enough to play for some big teams.

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“Tranmere and Luton Town were massive clubs at their levels too.”

McNulty will need to use all his experience to help a young squad through today and playing behind closed doors.

“I’ve watched a few games since the resumption but they’re hard to get into because there’s no atmosphere, but you can’t use that as an excuse,” he says.

“We’re a relatively young group without much play-off experience. It’s just down to the older lads to get around them and reassure them.

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“Everyone knows their job on the pitch, it’s just about keeping them going and on their toes.

“There will be fatigue because lads haven’t played for three months and players make mistakes when they’re fatigued, especially the younger players.”

Manager Steve Watson, who calls today the “most important” game of his career, says McNulty has already brought calm.

“I was slightly surprised he was available and it was a slight surprise we were able to get him,” admits the former Sheffield Wednesday defender.

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“But one of the first things he said was, ‘I want another promotion’.

“‘We’ll still win this league’ was his mentality all the way through the lockdown.”

Having been top of the table when the coronavirus pandemic brought games to a halt, York were sweating on whether there would be promotion this season. When the call was finally made to draw up the table on a points-per-game basis – putting King’s Lynn into the automatic promotion spot – it meant it would be the play-offs for York.

But there were more fundamental concerns with players out of contract at the scheduled end of the season, as all but three of York’s were, wondering if they would be unemployed by now. Unlike most Conference North clubs, their squad is full-time.

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McGill put all club employees on furlough and kept the squad intact.

“The gaffer and the chairman got their heads together and extended all our deals, so all the lads have been looked after,” said McNulty. “The chairman does put you at the top of the list.

“I’ve spoken to players at other clubs who weren’t looked after. As soon as their contracts were up, that was it.

“I texted the chairman to thank him on behalf of the lads.”

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