Football Sport

York City’s Rise: From Mediocre to Top

The Minstermen have had an incredible turnaround - here’s how Steve Watson achieved it

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After twelve games of the new National League North season, York City find themselves at the top of the table, three points clear of second-placed Chester and having beaten third-placed Kings Lynn Town in their last game (September 28<sup>th</sup>). This seems to be some turnaround from when Nouse published ‘York City FC: The Minstermen’s Decline Continues’ (January 22<sup>nd</sup>). At the time, Steve Watson had just come in and the Minstermen sat closer to the relegation places than to the Play-Offs. Watson steadied the ship at the end of the season and for the second year in a row, City found themselves in a mediocre mid-table position in the sixth tier of football.

To say the side have looked different this season would be an understatement, York have come out firing and most teams have been setting up against them in a very defensive manner. The team are unbeaten so far and have had the upper hand in almost every game. The Minstermen are also the only team in the top seven tiers of English football that are still undefeated in this early stage of the season, City also progressed in the FA Cup with a win against Irlam. This is surprising given that unlike in the last two seasons, City has not been trying to buy an entirely new squad. Most of the key players in the early stages of this campaign were at the club last season. After the game against Kings Lynn, left-back David Ferguson said to the York Press “There is a different feel about the place and
I think you’ve got the credit the staff for that, the gaffer and Micky (Cummins)”. Ferguson is one of a handful of players that have stepped up this season under Watson, playing in the left wing-back position, he has been pivotal for starting attacks and assisting in goals. Watson has been increasingly
praising the former Blackpool and England C player for constantly improving.

So why has York City been so much more successful this year? Not only has Steve Watson shown that he is a great coach of players but also a great motivator of them. In the same interview, David Ferguson mentioned how Watson has done a great job of getting the players to push each other, which is a big change from the blame game that has seemingly plagued York teams in the past. York’s player recruitment in the past has always made the team the favourites for the league title, however,
former managers were never able to properly capitalise on the talent that they had brought in. Watson has cultivated an atmosphere around the squad that means each player focuses on themselves and to push to get into the first team, with everyone playing so well, no-ones position is guaranteed. The defence has also picked up this year, with just six goals conceded in the opening 12 games, the
turnaround can be pinpointed on an experienced defence this year. York’s biggest signing of the summer was Steve McNulty, who had just captained Tranmere Rovers to back-to-back promotions, adding to a defence that featured David Ferguson, Sean Newton and Joe Tait, who have been playing above National League North level. The defensive solidity was again proved in the game against
Kings Lynn, another clean sheet against a side that has been one of the best in the league offensively thus far. Whilst York are top of the league, the dressing room will still be “buzzing” according to Ferguson. Whilst York are this hard to break down at the back and this creative in attack, they’ll be a
hard side to beat.

The team will also be moving into the York Community Stadium later in the year, the stadium is now expected to be completed in February after being pushed back several times. Despite the pushbacks, with the way York City are performing, there is more hope than ever that the downturn is ending and that the first full season in their new stadium will be in the fifth tier and closer to where City fans will think they belong.

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