Wilcox says ‘no’ to regionalisation despite gruelling away days for York

CONSIDERING the huge distances York City will travel this season and the cost that the club is set to incur as a result, it is perhaps no surprise that the topic has been much debated at Bootham Crescent.

York City manager Russ Wilcox. Picture: Tony Johnson
York City manager Russ Wilcox. Picture: Tony Johnson

The Minstermen will travel almost 8,800 miles to fulfil 23 league fixtures on the road, more than any other Yorkshire club and double that of Sheffield United, Barnsley and Doncaster Rovers. It represents a 10 per cent increase on City’s mileage in 2014-15.

A quirk of the Football League this season is behind such a heavy schedule, the basement division being largely filled by teams from the south.

For York, this means no less than 17 overnight trips – a considerable expense for a club at this level – and a campaign that will have to reach April before Russ Wilcox’s men are able to enjoy the benefit of no long trips in a calendar month.

No wonder, therefore, that how to cope with such a punishing schedule has been a hot topic in recent weeks.

“The chairman (Jason McGill) came up with a simple solution to all this travelling we’re having to do and that was to win promotion to League One,” jokes Wilcox when asked about his side’s travelling itinerary this season.

“Seriously, though, it is remarkable just how much travelling we have this season. Every other week, we seem to be having to head off on a long trip.

“I look at League One and the Yorkshire clubs have so many games almost on their own doorstep. They only have a handful of long trips, which is a big contrast to what we are facing.”

Relegation and promotion at the end of last season is behind the huge imbalance between north and south in League Two this time around.

Not only did Barnet and Bristol Rovers come up from the Conference in May as Tranmere Rovers headed out of the League along with Cheltenham Town but Leyton Orient, Yeovil Town and Crawley were among those demoted from the third tier.

The upshot to those ups and downs is a punishing schedule for the likes of York, Carlisle United and Hartlepool United, the latter two set to trek 11,810 and 10,634 miles, respectively, this season.

Wilcox’s men have already been on two long journeys in the league to Wycombe on the opening day and Exeter a fortnight ago.

Throw in the the 560-mile round trip for last month’s Capital One Cup exit at Swansea City and it is clear that York have already done their fair share of travelling in the first month.

Life is not going to get any easier, however, with Saturday bringing a trip to south Wales to take on Newport County. A week later, York head to Stevenage and next month trips to Luton, Barnet and Crawley lay in wait for Wilcox and his squad.

“We have 17 overnight trips in the league,” said the York chief, whose squad did not get back to Bootham Crescent from last month’s Capital One Cup defeat at Swansea City until 5am.

“That is a huge, huge number and a lot more than you would normally expect in League Two.

“It isn’t just the travelling that causes problems for us but also the costs involved. The bill runs into quite a significant sum and it is all money that has to be found.

“Finding that sort of funding is not easy at this level and I have to thank the board for all the support they provide.

“They do all they can. As you would expect, there are limits. Last month we played at Exeter on the Saturday and then Swansea in the League Cup a few days later.

“Bigger clubs with bigger resources than us would have made a weekend of it and stayed down. But that simply isn’t an option for us, it would cost us a fortune.”

The demands placed on York are such that thoughts turn to the pre-1958 days of the lower divisions being played along regional lines.

Back then, the furthest the Minstermen would travel in Division Three (North) was to either north Wales or the Midlands. Derby games against the likes of Halifax Town, the two Bradford clubs and Doncaster Rovers dominated the schedule.

Wilcox, however, is not one to advocate a return to those days with the City chief insisting this term may well prove to be a one-off.

“Of course, we’d love to go up,” said Wilcox. “As the chairman joked, that would solve all our problems.

“But, equally, I like the structure as it is. It has been like this for a long, long time now and I don’t see any reason to change, even if we have to do a lot of travelling this time.

“As a club, we just get on with it. There are lots of clubs in our position, not just us. Yeovil were at our place recently on a Tuesday night that also saw Carlisle head to Plymouth.

“The lads are used to travelling, it is part of their job. And we have to make sure it makes no difference to us come 3pm on a Saturday.”