Computer game ‘stardom’ drives Blair’s desire to lift York higher

York's  goal scorer Matty Blair celebrating at the end of the game.
York's goal scorer Matty Blair celebrating at the end of the game.
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There are any number of reasons why a player would want to earn promotion to the Football League, be it the status of playing in one of the most famous leagues in the world or the chance to test themselves at a higher level.

Matty Blair’s motivation for wanting to help York City end their eight-year exile from the top four divisions is a lot more innocent.

“To get my name on FIFA,” said the Minstermen’s play-off hero, in reference to the annually-released computer game that can pitch League Two sides against the likes of Barcelona or Real Madrid.

“That’s always been my target, my aim. I’ve been saying it to my mates that I want to be on FIFA.

“It’s there now, it’s within my grasp.”

Blair has only been at York for one season, since working his way up from Sunday league football, but do not mistake his youthful exuberance as an ignorance of what promotion out of the Blue Square Bet Premier play-offs would really mean for the Bootham Crescent club.

The 22-year-old appreciates as well as any player what a return to the Football League would generate in terms of finances and status for York City.

From their two trips to Wembley, the first of which is on Saturday against Newport County in the FA Trophy final, York will net around £325,000.

But it is their second visit to the national stadium on May 20 against Luton Town in the play-off final, that could transform their immediate future.

Not only with regard to finances, but also the club’s ambitions for a new 6,000-seater community stadium at Monks Cross, which is due before the city council’s planning board on May 17.

Yet money, stadia and computer games aside, it is hard to put a price on the status of being a Football League club.

“To be in the Football League would be such a great achievement for myself and the club,” said Blair, whose winning goal nine minutes from time at Field Mill kept the dream alive for Gary Mills’s side.

“Who knows, we might be able to kick on and go a bit further.

“I didn’t think I’d ever get this far and to say I’ve scored two goals that take York City to Wembley is just breathtaking.

“It’s something I’ll take with me for the rest of my career.

“I’m loving it here at York and I want to see how far I, and we, can go.

“First we’ll get them into League Two and then hopefully League One.

“Stevenage have done it, Crawley have done it – so why can’t we?

“And I’m a Sheffield Wednesday fan as well and they won promotion on Saturday. So it was a brilliant weekend for me.

“It’s been a great season so far but we we can make it one hell of a season.

“We know, though, that there’s still a lot of hard work ahead.”

The challenge now for York is to take their two Wembley trips in isolation.

The play-off final may mean more long term, but there can be no questioning the importance of Saturday’s FA Trophy final against Welsh side Newport.

Opportunities to put silverware in the trophy cabinet are few and far between, but on top of that there is a psychological advantage and a feelgood factor to be gained by beating Newport.

York’s players can also get rid of any Wembley nerves they may have before the play-off final.

“I was lucky enough to go down with (captain) Chris Smith, the manager and the chairman (Jason McGill) last month for the FA Trophy press conference so it was a great experience for me,” said Blair, pictured left.

“That’s not going to replace the wow factor when I walk out, but it’s a start. We played in front of 7,500 fans on Monday, the majority of who were booing us, and it probably doesn’t get much worse than that. So that helped.

“It’s a cliche but we’ll take it game by game.

“We’ve already put the Trophy final to the back of our minds because we had the semi-finals to think about, so we’ll prepare right, and concentrate on nothing but the Trophy final this week.

“There’s plenty left in my legs and of the squad overall. I was a bit tired by the end against Mansfield but that’s understandable. I’ll recover well now and get myself ready for the finals. We’ll prepare for them both separately.”

Not only are the players planning a twin assault on the capital, so too are the fans of York City. Blair has twice answered their prayers with goals that take them to the national stadium, his header on Monday coming in front of the 1,500 Minstermen fans who had made the trip to Mansfield.

“They’ve been supporting us fantastically all season,” he said.

“They’ve been great, you can’t knock any of them. They come from far and wide.

“There’s still 400-500 who go all the way to Salisbury which is right down on the south coast, so when you look back at those games you realise that it’s all been worth it.

“Hopefully, they’ve got a smile on their face. They’ll have enjoyed the game and a few drinks afterwards.”