Jackie McNamara

Jackie McNamara was in charge for a torrid 11 month’s in City’s history. Arriving in early November 2015, our fourth manager in just over 3 years back in The Football League, he came with a reputation for developing young players but with far from universal approval, either from fans of his former clubs or City some supporters.

His appointment was heralded as the start of a new way forward, a root and branch reform. Ever since our return to The Football League in 2012, York City have struggled. We’d had a succession of managers, who barely lasted a year, whose results had not matched the above average playing budgets.

Jackie McNamara oversaw an immediate turnover of our loan players, bringing in a new batch of youngsters to replace the underperforming ones. Less than 2 months later he did the same again in the January transfer window. It wasn’t until February that he signed experienced loanees, a couple of non descript Division 1 and 2 squad players who soon showed their worth. In total, we used 18 loan players amongst the club record 42 players we used during the 2015/6 season.

His first month ended with bad defeats at Leyton Orient and Portsmouth and at home to Accrington as we shipped 14 goals.

Meanwhile, soon after his arrival, he stated that experienced professionals Lowe, McCombe, McCoy, Straker and Sinclair were not in his plans and wouldn’t play again. They were banished to the non existent reserve side. They’d been part of an underperforming side before he arrived, but many felt some of them to be better than the callow youth loanees shipped in.

December was a particularly eventful month as club legends Richard Cresswell, Jon Greening and Andy Leaning were dismissed from the coaching staff amid rumours of a fist fight at the club's Christmas party. Club captain, and the previous season's player of the season, Keith Lowe was released early from his contract. It was around this time we had about 36 players in the squad. On the pitch, McNamara sought to play an attractive brand of passing football.

A mini revival stalled in February as McNamara took to regularly changing the starting line up team, even after wins, on a regular basis. Relegation was apparent a long way out. In the end, we used a club record 42 players in the season such was the turnover.

The season ended with dad Rob McGill and sister Sophie, stepping down from the board leaving Jason McGill as the only family member on the board since they and their family’s JMP company had effectively saved the club after the dark days of the Craig / Batchelor regimes.

Meanwhile, Jason McGill stated that he couldn’t continue to bankroll the club’ annual losses and called upon The Supporters Trust to raise funds to cover the predicted £500,000 annual shortfall expected every year until the new stadium was operational.

Summer saw an almost total clear out of players as McNamara sought to build his own side. The 4 or 5 out of contract players he wanted to keep all turned down terms and moved on. The newcomers were essentially young, many had a fair amount of experience behind them, gained around the national leagues. The reserve side was re-instated and the youth set up re-vamped.

We kicked off the 2016/7 season at Maidstone with only keeper Scott Finders surviving from last season. A rearguard action saw us draw 1-1. As our fitness told, we were the much more likely side to snatch a late winner. A last minute equaliser by Boreham Wood a week later prevented us taking all 6 points in the first 2 home games. We looked solid, but not spectacular, lacking a bit of midfield creativity and a cutting edge. Things went downhill from there after losing 6-1 at Gateshead in the very next game.

Despite being a different squad, last season’s frailties quickly re-surfaced as players seemed to lose all confidence at. A couple of 4 goal home wins against part time opposition at the end of August proved a false dawn as away form stretched to over a year without a win.

Last season’s failings came back to haunt us, individual mistakes and no confidence. A team which seemed unable to recover from setbacks.

After the Barrow game in late September, for the first Jackie McNamara questioned his position and not for the first time was particularly critical of individual players.

The following Monday, the local paper (York Press) ran story that McNamara had missed training that day, linking it to his comments after the Barrow game, but without passing any judement. However, the supporters did. A day later they revealed he’d been picking up a new car in Edinburgh where his family still lived. The week ended with him in court, found guilty of travelling on a train without a ticket. Stories which McNamara believed bent the truth, they certainly took away the focus from getting it right on the pitch. York Press delayed publishing the "train ticket" story whilst they sought a comment from City, when it wasn't forthcoming, the story was published. With relationships between York City and York Press / David Flett breaking down, Flett was initially refused access to Gary Mills.

Amid increasing clamour for Jackie McNamara to resign and for Jason McGill to outline his strategy, October started with a home defeat to Aldershot and another crushing 6-1 defeat away to Guiseley, a struggling part time side seemingly transformed by a couple of lower league loanees.

The club issued bizarre statement.

"It has been decided that, if the team fails to gain a positive result at Braintree Town on Saturday, the York City manager will tender his resignation. The manager will be looking for a passionate and committed reaction from the players after the capitulation at Nethermoor Park (Guiseley) on Tuesday evening."

Cue discussion about what “positive” meant and much media attention including live interviews on Talksport which only seemed to raise more heckles. City conceded a late equaliser at Braintree to draw 1-1.

2 days later City announced McNamara had resigned but would stay on as caretaker until a new manager was appointed.

In 11 months as manager, Jackie McNamara couldn’t muster a single win or clean sheet on the road – his team losing 20 of the 26 fixtures on their travels. He won only eight games since replacing Russ Wilcox eleven months earlier. At the time, City were points above the relegation zone.

The following Saturday, City struggled to a draw 1-1 game with Curzon Ashton in The FA Cup 4th Qualifying Round. A day after, it was announced that Gary Mills had return to City as “First Team Manager” and that McNamara would remain as "Chief Executive”.

Subsequently, Mills was to state he’d never arrived at a club where the players were in such a low morale when he arrived.

Over the last few weeks of McNamara's reign, there had been increasingly talked about a bromance between Jason and Jackie. In reality it was probably no more than the close relationship the McGills had enjoyed with other recent managers, remember Gary Mills being treated like a big brother and Uncle Nigel enjoying meals in the McGills' family homes. It is probably the sort relationship that most chairman wish for, open and honest, people talking to each other on a very regular basis. At the same time, rumours and gossip circulated that McMamara had made a financial investment in the club. One only has to look at recent accounts to know the club, with a near £3m annual turnover and leaking big sums of money on an annual basis, it would take a very brave or very foolish or visionary man (you decide which) to invest in such a concern.

It remains to be seen how the Chief Executive role will work out. It can mean many things to different people and may not necessarily be the same as a CE role of a big financial firm.

Given City’s recent turnover of managers, It is a role I welcome. Indeed, when Nigel Worthington resigned, I mentioned that he might would make a good CEO / Director Of Football. He would set the strategic mid to long term direction for the club and a football man to sit between manager and chairman. Someone who knows football has football contacts and has a good name with in football. Someone who can sense when things are not right, allowing the manager to get results on the pitch. Obviously, any such role needs 3 people who get along and can work well together. Time will tell.

Criticisms of McNamara includes a reliance on too many young players with little or no first team experience, no knowledge of the lower English leagues, too many team changes, a desire to play a passing game from the back and open criticism of his players. You can't really disagre with any of them and most are valid.

The local press, which doesn’t always enjoy the best relations with the club seemingly keen to sensationalise every story. Accompanying nearly every story, the message boards become increasing full of abuse and vitriol being aimed at manager and chairman. Over the past 3 years, a common theme has been “sack the manager, bring back the previous one”, so welcome back Gary Mills. Nigel Worthington and Russ Wilcox, maybe we’ll see you back in 12 months.

Repeatedly we're lead to believe we have a big budget, what we really need is someone with the vision to implement a sustainable future putting an end to the annual managerial swinging doors.

In his 2021 book he reveals how he tried to replicate the leading sides in the division and the difficulty in passing on tactical instructions to players at City's level.


  • Speaking on York Hospital Ball (April 2022) Sophie Purves recalled that both Jason and their Dad (Rob) felt that Jackie McNamara interviewed well. Sophie didn’t get it and felt he had no charisma. With hindsight, she regrets not expressing her reservations more strongly at the time. A strong Jason McGill / Jackie McNamara bond quickly formed. Sophie and Rob McGill attended their last board meeting in January 2016. Subsequently, Sophie was asked to leave the board and JMP whilst Rob was asked to leave the board. Companies House notes their board resignation as being May 2016. Sophie went onto say that there was now no relationship with Jason and that Jason didn’t speak to his father when near death or attend his funeral.
  • In 2023, Speaking on a behind a pay wall edition of Jon Parkin's ”Undr The Cosh!" podcast, he said he “did not know the level when he came to York and that was ultimately a problem and that there was a cold atmosphere at Bootham Crescent, he bought in a medium in an attempt to pacify the unhappy spirits that were present in the corridors of the Main Stand. He admitted he didn’t enjoy one minute of his time at York City. He also noted Jason McGill was putting £60,000 a month into the club.