City's Big Rivals and Rivalries

... decide for yourself ...

So who are York Cityís biggest rivals? The answers depends who you ask and when you ask.

Any Yorkshire side might be considered to be a rival, big away supporter followings for teams coming to York and City taking big followings to away games.

In the former days of regionalised football, rivalries were good natured and opposing fans freely mingled together.

The 1970s saw the rise of football hooliganism and some rivalries took on a different perspective.

At Bootham Crescent, fans swapped ends on the coin toss and again at half time via the tunnel that ran behind the Popular Stand, it was enclosed, dark and no more than 2 metres wide. Fans could stand behind the goal their team was attacking in both halves. The early 70s saw the tunnel closed and with Cityís promotion to Division 2, crowd segregation was gradually introduced.

Rivalries come and go, often one team thinks itís a rivalry and the other thinks itís a minor irritation. Iím sure that is how Leeds fans felt as City went up through the divisions in the early 1970s, many considered Leeds to be our rivals. After all, at about 25 miles, they were the closest league team to us. Indeed fixture pairing meant that our home games never clashed, some people followed both sides, a convoy of buses and cars full of Leeds fans departed York for every Leeds game. So whilst some York fans considered Leeds to be our rivals, Iím sure many Leeds fans didnít give us a second thought, but named Manchester United and Liverpool as their big rivals.

That era saw Bournemouth emerge as an unlikely rival. We were promoted together from Division 4 in 1971 and vied for promotion to Division 2 in 1974. That rivalry intensified with Bournemouthís status as big spenders, they ripped the guts (and goals) out of our side by signing Ted MacDougall, Phil Boyer and Ian Davidson from us. Divisional rivals, they were the team many despised the most.

In the same way that Leeds fans viewed York, over the years York have viewed Harrogate and Scarborough as irritants, like an attention seeking little brother, not worthy of consideration, even when they reached (or exceeded) our position in the pyramid.

For many years, although a well respected non league side, often packed with ex City players, Scarborough posed no threat, they were just a little club who you looked out for. For many years, Harrogate were not even just a little club, some might say not even the biggest club in Harrogate. They didnít reach National League North until 2004, but under the chairmanship of Irving Weaver they started to gain momentum.

Like Leeds with York, the Scarborough / York rivalry was largely one sided until the formation of the Conference and automatic promotion to The Football League which allowed the 2 teams to compete against each other in the Football League.

Another long standing rivalry can be dated back to the late 1970s when City played Bury in an FA Cup tie. The rivalry persisted over the years, possibly reaching a new high point in 1993 and the Division 3 playoff semi-final. One well known female City fan had her ankle broken at Bury. The rivalry went up a further notch or 2 in 1996 when Dean Kiely moved from City to Bury for a derisory fee at the end of his contract. He and Bury were not popular when the clubs met later that season. The rivalry re-emerged in 2022 and the FA Cup clash with the reformed Bury club when some Bury fans assumed a game with York City gave them free range to run amok.

The Bury rivalry ran alongside the emergence of The York Nomad Society. Originally founded to provide reliable (and cheap) travel to away games, they were also keen to uphold club honour and look out for each other.

Doncaster emerged as rivals in the 1980s as Denis Smithís side took Division 4 by storm with Doncaster trying to join the party. The era saw City have the upper hand on the pitch. The games saw big crowds and a memorable 5-0 City win in a League Cup tie, not doubt the rivalry fuelled by Billy Brennerís presence and the popular press perception that he was building big things at Doncaster.

At the same time, Hull were a big rival whose fans caused mayhem after an Associate Members Cup game in February 1984 when many of their large following overturned cars and smashed house windows in the terraced streets around Bootham Crescent.

Later, Burnley were to regularly bring large (and generally more peaceful) followings to Bootham Crescent.

Cityís Conference years saw a whole new set of rivalries emerge. Maybe some of the vitriol was down to City ourselves, we didn't help it by proclaiming ourselves to be ďThe Arsenal Of The NorthĒ and thinking weíd walk the division. It took us 8 years. Equally, to many other non league clubs, York City were the big boys, the established team whilst opposing players (and fans) saw a visit to Bootham Crescent, even a dilapidated Bootham Crescent, a big away game compared to some of the other venues on the non league circuit. The biggest rivalry proved to be with Luton, an unlikely source to the uninitiated.

Cityís 2010 playoff semi-final win over Luton didnít help. City fans (and players) had to endure a torrent of coins and abuse at the end of the game. Richard Brodie, for one, frankly feared for his own safety. Even John Sentamu, The Archbishop Of York wasnít immune to the abhorrent behaviour of Luton fans. An abandoned game in December 2010 deepened the rivalry, when despite heavy snow falling, the game kicked off, that allowed Luton to pocket the gate receipts before the game was abandoned. A 5 0 lose (and Michael Ingham sending off) in the rearranged didnít help.

Fast forward to 2012, we met again at Wembley in the Play Off Final. Weíd already played them 4 times earlier that 2011/2 season (3 wins and a draw for City), so the rivalry was greatly intensified. Despite going an early goal down, we won 2-1, thanks to a controversial winner which surely would have been disallowed if VAR had been in operation. City fans gloated, Luton fans, who outnumbered City fans by about 3 to 1, sulked. How we gloated. 10 years later, it is perhaps better to suppress that gloating given our respective league positions. That said, many Luton fans still donít have a good word to say about City and havenít forgotten Wembley 2012.

Even before Wembley, a new rival, semi final opponents Mansfield, had emerged. Their striker, Matt Green was sent off for 2 yellow cards in the first leg, the first for a foul on Michael Ingham and the second for a silly hand ball. Fury from the Mansfield fans behind the goal and one, Carolyn Radford (nee Still) in the directorís box. Post match, Michael Ingham received much abuse, so much that the police considered there to be a real threat to his safety in the second leg. Given Cityís promotion, that rivalry never festered.

Over the years, Darlington and Hartlepool have both considered City to be big rivals. Iím sure both sets of fans would agree a day out in York being preferable to their more local rivals and have traditionally brought big followings to York.

West Yorkshire has always been a challenge rivalry wise. Whilst the likes of Huddersfield, Bradford City and Halifax have had at times been our closest league neighbours, often those clubs have 2 or more clubs who theyíd consider to be more local rivals than City. For them, even the likes of Rochdale, Oldham and Stockport are geographically much closer than York. Add to that the cross pennine element and it means that City often don't get a look in when it comes to rivalries.

Given City's geographical location, few, if any teams, would possibly name City as their greatest (local) rivals. However, rivalries will change over time given divisional status and even "grudge" matches.

I'm not even going to start on Curzon Ashton, in recent non league times, they could be considered a "bogey" team, but no more.

Today (2023/4 season), geographically, Harrogate are our closest rivals whilst FC Halifax are the closest in our league.