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2018/9 Preview

Another season in National League North beckons ...

New Season Expectations

A new season brings renewed hopes. After the end to last season, both on and off the pitch, you might consider York City to be entering the new season with higher hopes and expectations than might have been expected. With talk of a sale and budgeting within means, there was much uncertainty. The status quo seems to have been retained, for this season, at least.

New Signings - Old Failings?

A reasonable squad has been assembled, strengthened by the signings of a couple of decent players (Tom Allan & Kallum Griffiths) from our divisional rivals. Russell Penn and 3 of his colleagues have been recruited and drop down a division from cash strapped National League side Gateshead. Jake Wright became the 7th new recruit. All are experienced players around this level.

The main down side is possibility that the defence and midfield will probably retain a strong resemblance to last season.

In defence, the hope is that Allan and Griffiths bring their previous club form to City whilst the likes of Adam Bartlett and David Ferguson step up. Both arrived with big reputations but neither really truly shone. We need Adam Bartlett to be performing weekly at the levels of Crawford or Kiely or Ingham whilst a little more consistency (and more goals to match his pre City career) are needed from David Ferguson.

To date, there has been no activity in offloading any of the players whose contracts run to June 2019. That's maybe not surprising given that they may well be on decent wages for this level and as a team, we hardly set the division alight last season. Maybe weíll see a little bit of movement closer to the start of the new season.

Given the flurry of signings in early close season, that might suggest our competitive budget is pretty well used up and any further incomings may be as a result of outgoings.

What Is A Competitive Budget?

Many people have asked what a competitive budget is. 2 thoughts.

Almost certainly, it means it is a large budget when compared to the average in the division. However, a word of warning, large wages donít necessarily mean the best players. It is how a club spends its budget that counts, some might even argue that a large budget could lead to waste and inefficiency. I recall before relegation in 2016, Jason McGill was quoted as saying we had one of the biggest budgets in Division 2, so we've had a competitive budget for several seasons.

Presumably competitive doesnít mean unlimited. There is a limit on how much a club can spend. Sometimes it may be more than it can reasonably afford and in excess of anticipated income. A club knows for all its contracted players, what the total outlay is across the season (and beyond for those contracted beyond). That is committed spend, a club canít easily wriggle out of it. So at some stage, once the budget is fully committed, then it is a case of offloading players to free up more funds.

Previously, Martin Gray has said he was looking to offload some players, so far none have gone, more than likely their City wages are too high for other clubs to match and the players are unwilling to move to take a pay cut. Anecdotal evidence has suggested that some City players have been on 3 times what they might expect to get elsewhere.

Little Mites To Mighty Men

Of the younger players, with Vinnie Steels and 3 of last seasonís youth side signing their first professional contracts, there is scope for a youthful side. Steels and Flynn McNaughtonís few appearances at the end of the season suggested they might be candidates for more first team action from the start of the season.

I recall, Richard Cresswell, after 3 seasons around the first team, coming back in August 1998 as a new player. Bulked up after a summer on a strengthening programme, he scored 19 goals and moved onto Sheffield Wednesday for £950,000 just 9 months later.

If any of our youngsters, Alex Kempster included, make such strides across the summer, it could make our season.

Letís hope the youth challenge is around holding ono the players from bigger predators. However, recent experience might suggest as soon as any of them show consistent form, we might succumb to a bid. In recent years, Ben Godfrey, Sam Fielding, Gabby McGill and Ryan Edmondson all moved on to Championship sides probably for a combined initial fee of well under half a million pounds after making just 18 City first team appearances between them.

Upfront

Weíll be happy if we see Jon Parkin repeat last seasonís form and score another 25 goals. It remains to be seen how Martin Gray sets up his side. If he goes 442, there is a chance for someone to make a name for themselves alongside Parkin. McNaughton showed his can score goals in struggling sides for our reserve and youth teams last season, he wasnít fazed by the step up to the first team. In fact, after scoring twice for the reserves in front of Darren Ferguson in the last game of the reserve campaign, I half expected him to join Doncaster and their development squad in preference to signing a pro contract with City.

Equally, Kempster made an instant impact. He later struggled with hamstring injuries which meant his form didnít do himself justice. Perhaps, he was rushed back too soon, but thatís a consequence of running a smaller squad.

That said, with Parkin, McNaughton, Steels, Kempster, Langstaff, Burrow and Wes York, we're spoilt for choice in the attacking positions. Take out Parkin and what have they all in common? None have been prolific scorers at this level, a couple maybe at a lower level, but they all have it to prove.

The Contenders

Across the division, we saw 2 moneybags clubs promoted, generally, the relegated sides appear to be battling financial constraints whilst the newly promoted sides will, as usual, prove to be a mixed bag.

If they recover from their playoff defeat, Brackley should be a force again, as will Spennymoor, especially if they get their pitch sorted out and donít succumb to another dire fixture backlog next spring. Expect one or 2 of the promoted teams to take their success and winning momentum forward and mount a challenge. Having said all that, and without trying to sound arrogant, with our resources, we should be a force no matter what other teams do.

The plight of Stockport, a club many would consider to be on a par with City have been in National League North since 2013, serves as a warning to City. Despite their status and big crowds, so far theyíve been unable to secure promotion. In 2012, it was Cityís 8th non league season in which we finally achieved a return to The Football League. No one can assume success due to stature.

A Settled Side - No Looking Over Shoulders

The upside of a smaller squad can be a more settled side. If you make the team, hopefully you get a good run of games to cement a place, unlike recent seasons with a large squad where I sometimes thought players were always looking over their shoulder, playing with fear, knowing one mistake could see them dropped. Think Alex Rodman, Calvin Andrew, Will Boyle, Scott Flinders and Shaun Miller, all were regulars in Division 1 and 2 sides last season after earlier failing to impress earlier with City.

With no formal reserve side and a youth side playing at a level lower than last season, options to keep squad members fit are more limited whilst the gap between youth and first team becomes even greater.

Whilst still a big club in a little pond, the feeling is that we might need a couple of current players (or new signings) to really step up and make their mark if we are to be successful.

Although Alex Pattison stepped down from The Championship to join us on loan last season, there is a feeling that players are generally reluctant to step down to National League North level. Its the very bottom rung on the professional ladder, so increasingly weíll find it difficult to attract young, talented players from the upper divisions. I got the impression Pattison only stepped down to get some match fitness, he certainly sounded keen enough not to stay around longer than necessary.

Success

Success is what we crave for in our very last season at Bootham Crescent.

Success will put us back in the National League, one step from regaining Football League status.

Success will be The York City Supporters Trust building momentum and support and demonstrating to York City that it is a viable force to do business with.

Failure will condemn us to a much changed future. With nearly all the current ďexpensiveĒ players out of contract in 2019 (Newton is believed to be the only exception), it would allow a drastic cutting of the wage bill if thatís the way the club wanted to go. An unpalatable thought, when most clubs, even at National League level, have to spend to progress.

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