IN DIFFICULT times, memories are cherished that little bit more.
For York City, toiling in mid-table of the National League North, the forthcoming festive season is likely to be welcomed as much as another serving of gruel following a rancid past few seasons.
In marked contrast to the Minstermen, Manchester City are enjoying the trappings of the high life, very much in the here and now and widely viewed as one of the richest clubs in world football, let alone Europe.
How times have changed since a famous winter’s day at Bootham Crescent on December 19, 1998.
Two decades ago York and Manchester City were plying their trade in the third tier of English football. A famous 2-1 victory for the hosts cut the gap between the pair to just three points, with Joe Royle’s Blues in mid-table – just two places above Alan Little’s York.
It was a time when the Blues were the laughing stock of English football in a season when their arch city rivals Manchester United secured a historic treble.
It was perhaps best summed up by Bernard Halford, City’s club secretary from 1972 to 2010, after a bitter afternoon at Bootham Crescent, when the season of goodwill brought cold comfort.
Halford recalled: “I can still remember being stood in the Portakabin which acted as York City’s boardroom. It was the Saturday before Christmas and the Salvation Army were singing carols beneath us. We had just lost 2-1 and dropped to the lowest league position in the club’s history, so it looked a long way back from where we had fallen.”
Manchester City, knocked out of the Football League Trophy at home by Mansfield Town that December, fell behind as early as the second minute in front of 7,527 fans.
Gordon Connelly fired the Minstermen in front after just 84 seconds, but the visitors levelled on 32 minutes when Craig Russell saw his shot loop over veteran goalkeeper Bobby Mimms, with outstanding home defender Tony Barrass getting a faint touch.
The Blues pressed strongly on the restart, but Barrass, Mimms and co refused to yield – ahead of a late Boy’s Own moment.
Brought on from the bench for his debut, teenager Andrew Dawson, who hailed from nearby Strensall, scored with his first touch in the professional game after latching onto an astute pass from Rodney Rowe, netting with a pinpoint curled finish as the visitors took another body blow.
Blues manager Royle recalled: “I remember I could hear the fans chanting behind me. They were shouting I did not know what I was doing after taking off Craig Russell, who had scored.
“It was not nice and, in all honesty, we were suffering in that division. My assistant Willie Donachie and I were taking the club to all corners of the country that we had never seen before.”
It proved a watershed moment for City, who got their act together and were promoted in a play-off finale against Gillingham.
Sadly, York went onto be relegated – ironically following a 4-0 final-day defeat at Maine Road in front of 32,471 fans.