York determined to keep feet on ground despite climbing up table

York City manager Nigel Worthington
York City manager Nigel Worthington
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COME 5pm today, York City may have to ditch the mantra that has served them so well during this year’s charge up the League Two table.

“The target is simply getting to 51 points and safety,” is how everyone from manager Nigel Worthington through to the board and players has responded when asked about a possible late play-off push.

Should Wycombe Wanderers be beaten at Bootham Crescent, the Minstermen will have battered their way through that landmark and, depending on results elsewhere, possibly leave Worthington’s men in the top seven.

Considering where York were at the turn of the year – 22nd and only above the dropzone on goal difference – such a transformation has been nothing short of remarkable and director Sophie Hicks insists the credit must go to Worthington.

Last night she told The Yorkshire Post: “We are thrilled with how things are going but, equally, no-one is getting carried away.

“We sat down at the start of the season and looked at what we wanted to achieve. We are very fortunate as a board that the manager shares the same ethos about gradual progress on and off the pitch.

“The starting point is to achieve 51 points. That should be enough to stay in the League. That has to be the target every season and then you build from there.

“Obviously, we are close to achieving that now and once it is out of the way then we will have to see what happens. But not yet.”

The midweek win at Mansfield Town was the eighth time York have claimed maximum points from their 13 league outings since the start of 2014.

With City having also drawn three of those games, the 15-point gap between the Minstermen and the top seven has been reduced to just two.

It is a remarkable turnaround, especially considering the club won just one of their final 13 games last year.

Even during that poor run, however, Hicks insists there were no thoughts at Bootham Crescent of the club being embroiled in a relegation fight for the second successive year.

She said: “There was a period when some people were questioning results but our thinking as a board was that things were very much under control. That calmness comes from the manager.

“We also knew who the manager wanted to bring in and we were confident they would make a big difference.

“Clubs do sometimes panic and make rash decisions. But we never thought about changing anything.

“We have a fantastic relationship with the manager and that is really important.

“We are only a small board of directors but that can be useful when it comes to making decisions and planning. We absolutely see the manager as the person to take the club forward.

“It also probably helped that we have been a board of directors now for 11 years. Eight of those were spent in the Conference and there were some very difficult times.

“The club was losing money so it was significant that we got promoted back to the Football League. It was a massive turning point.

“Sadly, things didn’t work out with Gary (Mills, manager who was sacked in March 2013). He did a marvellous job in getting us out of the Conference but we felt we needed to go in a different direction.

“That next chapter has since gone well. We are in a very strong position and delighted with the progress that has been made, especially since January.

“We brought in some key signings that month. As a board, we had sat down with Nigel in December and he went through the targets he had in mind.

“We gave Nigel all the support we could and, happily, that was enough to bring in all the signings the manager had asked for. And within budget, too.”

Whether York can push on and claim a place in the play-offs remains to be seen. But Hicks believes the prospect of a new stadium by July 2016, and the undoubted progress that the club has made on the pitch under Worthington adds up to an exciting future.

The City director said: “Last season was a nervy one. There can be no doubt about that. It is a year ago that we changed manager and we were reflecting on that recently. And, particularly, how far we have come since then.

“As a board, we had a big decision to make back then. Results just weren’t happening and we looked to be in trouble.

“I wouldn’t imagine many York fans would, a year on, argue with that decision. We saw the signs and I don’t believe we would have retained our League status without that change.

“This season, performances had, on the whole, been good even when results possibly weren’t. The problem was we weren’t getting the rub of the green.

“There have been other big positives. Jason (McGill, chairman) has been excellent in terms of his commitment to investing off the pitch. The training ground has a new irrigation system and buildings.

“We have probably got the best training ground in League Two. Or League One, for that matter. There is much more of a professional air about the place now.

“The new stadium is on the horizon, too. Things have been progressing very well and the council will soon announce their preferred bidder.

“I am sure the fans will be impressed when the plans are revealed.

“We are scheduled to move in July 2016. It is important when we do move in that the club is moving forward.

“That is why we are already talking about next season and our plans going forward.

“We really enjoy working with Nigel and he enjoys working with us. Long may that continue.”