Following York City through ‘thick, thin and thinner’ – a fan charts his journey

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Praying for a win… a detail from the cover of Dan's book, Keep The Faith
Praying for a win… a detail from the cover of Dan’s book, Keep The Faith

Twenty years a City fan, Dan Tait has written a book charting the lows – and occasional highs – of following the lads from Bootham Crescent. He tells YorkMix about the rollercoaster ride

When did the York City bug strike?

It officially struck in 1992, when York City beat Wrexham 4-0 though my Dad had taken me to a game some years before but said I was more interested in the chips at half time than the match itself. I think the Wrexham game came at the right time because I had started playing football at school and we lived next door to Dean Kiely who was the club’s goalkeeper.

He saved a penalty to keep Wrexham goalless and from that game on I just became a regular – we went on to win promotion that year so it was a good season to start going – although didn’t represent what would follow.

What are the best and worst things about being a City fan?

The best things are those moments where it all comes together are quite few and far between so you really cherish them. That feeling of beating Man United at Old Trafford just won’t be repeated, and that double Wembley win in eight days felt like those years in the non-league were almost worth it.

The worst things are that ultimately if you aren’t a Premier League club with someone bank rolling your finances, things move in cycles pretty quickly and you can quickly end up in a spiral. The non-league years were probably the worst. Losing 3-0 at half-time to bottom club Northwich Victoria who didn’t have their own ground was a personal low point.

What’s special about City supporters?

I think it’s special when anyone supports their local team, especially these days when you have can have a season ticket to every top team in the world via a remote control. Historically York has never been much of a football city but there are a hard core set of people that keep it going. These people rallied together when administration was upon them and when City were relegated to the non-league for the first time in their history.

Lowest point supporting City

Weirdly, I think one of the lowest points I have felt was last season when we were on a horrendous run and we needed to keep beating teams to avoid going back down after just one campaign back in the football league (which would have been an unwanted record).

One match against Southend sticks out: they scored a winner late on and I just slumped back in my chair thinking “can we really stomach going back down to the conference…?” Then luckily I saw the linesman’s offside flag and within five minutes we scored to win the match. That’s what supporting York City is like… a rollercoaster.

Highest point supporting City

Like most supporters I think the Wembley win against Luton takes some beating in terms of sheer adrenaline. But for me, it’s that famous win against Manchester United at Old Trafford. My school was full of United fans (not supporters in the way that York City fans are) so to go there and not just win, but batter them 3-0 on their own patch, with the likes of David Beckham and Ryan Giggs playing was a magnificent achievement.

Double winner and Dan favourite, former York City manager Gary Mills. Photograph: YorkMix
Double winner and Dan favourite, former York City manager Gary Mills. Photograph: YorkMix
The City faithful cheer mascot Yorkie the Lion. Photograph: YorkMix
The City faithful cheer mascot Yorkie the Lion. Photograph: YorkMix

Favourite…

York City player/s – My favourite player of all time has to be Jon McCarthy. When he was on song, he just unplayable – fast, skilful, scored lots of goals and ultimately proved he was a level or two above York City. In fact, most of the first team I ever saw in 1992 would make my all-time best York City team; Dean Kiely, Paul Stancliffe and of course Paul Barnes.

York City manager – It has to be Gary Mills. Though I think he could be stubborn and sometimes a little arrogant, he has to go down as one of York City’s best ever managers. He succeeded where many failed by getting us back in the Football League and that should never be under-estimated. It was a massive shame the way it ended for him at the club and I am sure he will argue that he deserved better but I am delighted he is back in football and Gateshead are benefitting massively.

What prompted the book and what’s it about?

The book has been on and off for about eight years. It started completely unplanned, in Thailand to kill some time after problems with flights on a travelling trip with a friend after university. It basically describes my own personal journey following the team through thick, thin and thinner.

Another friend who knew about the book pushed me to get it published and after the Wembley double said “here’s your happy ending” – but because York City have such a story, my book seems to have wedged in around a few other publications about the club. The great thing about supporting a football team is that we all have different opinions.

Where my book perhaps is unique is that is more or less tells the story across a 20 year period, which means there is plenty of doom, gloom and sarcasm in there. It’s really light hearted and tries to describe the trials and tribulations that go with supporting a club, whose history is very up and down. The feedback I have received has been really positive and seems that everyone relates to the dry sense of humour that underpins it all.

What do friends and family think about your City obsession?

I think people don’t really understand it but just accept it. I took my wife once as I think she wanted to see what all the fuss was about, and we beat old enemies Scarborough 3-1. But for one of the goals I winded her in the chest as I jumped up to celebrate after David McGurk scored. Surprisingly it didn’t convert her.

All my family know that 3pm on a Saturday every other week there is one place I will be and that’s Bootham Crescent.

How do you rate the current team, manager and board?

I think the current team is an improvement on the one pulling on the shirt this time last year. Josh Carson is a fabulous player, and I believe there is much more to come from the likes of Wes Fletcher. Nigel Worthington did a great job keeping them up last season and clearly he has decent contacts that are enabling us to sign top loan players like Luke O’Neil and Ryan Brobbel.

I believe the board have been quite ruthless in previous seasons; no one could have predicted Gary Mills getting sacked less than a year after what was described by chairman Jason McGill as the “greatest week in the club’s history” so don’t be surprised if they take drastic measures if the club’s Football League place comes under threat again.

What are your hopes for City’s future?

I look at teams similar to ourselves in terms of fan base and potential resources and see the likes of Doncaster Rovers who came up through the non-league, got a community stadium and now operate in the Championship and think “why can’t that be York City?”. They should be the benchmark for me.

But whilst being ambitious there is always a part of me that sees the likes of Stockport County who due to mismanagement have ended up near the bottom of the Conference North and closer to home, Darlington, who went bust and reformed, and think maybe supporters of York City should just enjoy what we have right now.

Whatever the future holds, I just hope I am not writing a follow up in ten years time called “losing the faith”.


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