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Chris Dunlavy: Fast start in National League North is vital for York City

LEAMINGTON. Spennymoor Town. Blyth Spartans. A couple of years ago, fixtures against such sides would have represented a kindly FA Cup draw for York City.

Now, somehow, they are equals. A top-ten budget couldn’t keep them out of the National League. A top-three budget couldn’t keep them in it.

It beggars belief that Burton Albion, League Two play-off rivals in May 2014, are now four divisions distant.

That, perhaps, is the starkest illustration of the catastrophic blunder made by owner Jason McGill when he handed the managerial reins to Jackie McNamara in late 2015.

The Scot’s abysmal recruitment condemned York to not one but two relegations. That he was sacked, instantly named caretaker manager, then promoted to CEO says everything about the disorder at Bootham Crescent.

McNamara’s failure to front up and apologise – as McGill eventually did in May – served only to solidify his hate-figure status. Whilst McGill, whose company JM Packaging covers annual losses of around £300,000, spoke of “soul-searching” and learning from mistakes, his sidekick kept schtum.


Fair play, you may say. Didn’t McNamara repent enough when he was sacked in October, just days after a 6-1 hiding at Guiseley?

Maybe. But when your club has been humiliated, it is galling to see the architect of its destruction skulk off scot-free and even get paid for the privilege.

Supporters wanted a sacrifice, a head on a spike on Bootham Bar. Failure to offer up McNamara rubbed salt into fresh wounds and prevented a sense of closure. Today, his presence remains a festering sore.

So as York prepare to kick off in the sixth tier for the first time in their history, is there any way back for the man known as Jackie Mac? McGill says the former Celtic star “feels responsible” and wants to put things right.

Having craved a director of football during his own tenure, McNamara should at least know exactly how to support manager Gary Mills.

That, in effect, is his new role. Mills called his predecessor a “great bloke” in October. Further proclamations of support from a bona fide York hero would do McNamara no harm.


Like most things in football, however, much depends on results. York fans don’t want to traipse round National League North any more than Sunderland fans want to watch Championship football.

Supporters of all hues want to see good players and famous teams in town. But if you’re getting whopped by them every week, the novelty soon wears off.

York could play Real Madrid every week and it wouldn’t fill the stands like regular victories and goals galore. Newcastle are a prime example.

After four years being trampled underfoot by the monied monoliths of the Premier League, a season lording it up in the Championship was paradise. The stands were full. Optimism rampant. Nobody had enjoyed themselves so much in years.

Much the same can be said of Bristol Rovers, whose solitary year in Non-League sparked a glorious re-birth still gathering steam today.

When you win regularly – particularly at home – the division and calibre of opponent swiftly becomes irrelevant. So, too, do the men in the boardroom.

But results can go the other way too, especially in a division so savagely competitive. And if Mills’ men stumble from the blocks, we all know where febrile fans will aim their fire.

It won’t be at Mills, who came so close to saving the day last year. Nor at McGill, whose generous backing is so critical to the club’s survival.

It will be at McNamara. Which would be ironic. For while his own results didn’t cost him employment, the results of his successor very well might.

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