York City v Wigan Athletic: Minstermen and Neal Ardley continue FA Cup love affairs as hosts eye more magic - at a new venue

YORK CITY’S fondly remembered former home of Bootham Crescent provided a medley of magic cup moments that football lovers who reside comfortably away from the boundaries of walled city will always cherish – and not just those who live in it.

Those of a certain age will recollect how Keith Houchen stroked home a 90th-minute penalty in front of an ecstatic Shipton Street End to enable the magnificent Minstermen to knock out the mighty Arsenal in January 1985.

The late, great John Motson excitedly exclaimed: “And he’s done it...York City of the third division have put out the Arsenal.. And it’s 1955 all over again”..

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Others of an older vintage might remember York’s Happy Wanderers’ side of 1954-55 knocking out Blackpool and Tottenham Hotspur, while back in that memorable mid-Eighties era, there were also two dates with Liverpool and two fine 1-1 draws in successive seasons.

York City manager Neal Ardley. Picture: Ker Robertson/Getty Images.York City manager Neal Ardley. Picture: Ker Robertson/Getty Images.
York City manager Neal Ardley. Picture: Ker Robertson/Getty Images.

On Friday night, York’s new abode at the LNER Stadium, on the outskirts of the city, will be afforded its first taste of the cup spotlight - in front of a nationwide audience.

There is bound to be a touch of nostalgia in the air. For manager Neal Ardley, no stranger to the glare of cup publicity himself, it’s about the here and now, but also using his own past experiences.

Ardley does have successful 'previous' as a player at Wimbledon and Watford, having reached the semi-finals of both domestic cup competitions in his time at both.

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He has also managed a side in the FA Cup at Wembley, albeit when Spurs had decamped there briefly while their new stadium was built. They hosted Ardley’s AFC Wimbledon in early 2018.

Ardley said: “The FA Cup has that ‘ability’ and we are live on terrestrial TV and we have a wider audience and chance to - not put us on the map as York is a wonderful city and football club - but maybe show that you are still around and pushing in the right direction and we need the lads to put in a performance to do that.

"As for his own memories, he quipped: “I don’t want them to fall asleep if I tell them about my experiences. I don’t think you tell them about it.

"But you do draw on them; as a player I got to the semi-finals of the FA Cup and League Cup (with Watford and Wimbledon) and as a manager, I got to the third round and played away against Spurs at Wembley and at home to Liverpool (AFC Wimbledon played them in 2015).

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"I draw on those experiences. Prepping for a team that are leagues higher than you, with ‘superstars’ or good players in the team, it is hard to do an 11 v 11 in training and cause all the problems you need to cause for the lads to be ready for what they might experience.

"There’s a way of doing that, which I did for the Spurs and Liverpool games which I have tried to carry some of it on (to Friday) and overload us. Hopefully we can produce on the day."

York are chasing a place in the third round for the first time since 2011 and given the position that the club were in when Ardley took over in early September, there’s been a bit of a refreshing sea-change in mood since.

That said, the Minstermen will be down on numbers this evening as they host a former FA Cup winner in Wigan.

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Goalkeeper George Sykes-Kenworthy and recent signing Will Davies are both cup-tied, while striker Dipo Akinyemi is injured.

Quevin Castro is a big doubt through illness, with Ardley’s issues being such that he is likely to struggle to fill a bench.

One player definitely available is midfielder Alex Woodyard after the red card he picked up in the recent National League loss at Maidenhead United was overturned.

Despite selection travails, there will be hope among the York patrons this evening - and understandable pride and hopefully something to look forward to in the new year as well.

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Should that happen, then Ardley is conscious of spin-offs before then.

He said: “I know we are going into the FA Trophy next week, but we are going into December where the games start to come thick and fast around Christmas.

"If you have that little carrot of something in January which could be magical, it really does help.

"For me, it’s a big game for the whole of our December in many ways to try and at least give ourselves a chance.

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"It’s been a tough season. When you look back at the Chester (first-round) game, there was a lot on it. Not only financially, but just to carry a good feeling across and all of a sudden, you are just one game away.

"When we started in that fourth-qualifying round, we had to travel to Needham (Market) for a replay.

"One game more and you are in with the big boys... It’s a big game and a nice feeling away from the pressures of the league and nice to be the 'underdogs’ as we have been expected to win before and hopefully it will be a really good occasion.”