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York v Watford, 21/2/98
York: they exist
By Matt Rowson

It's quite difficult to know what to write about York City. They are quite possibly the most anonymous club in the division... the Sporty Spice, if you like, the Graham Chapman, Dick in the Famous Five, Björn in ABBA, "Faceman" in the A-Team. If you're ordering the 24 Division 2 clubs by preference, York come 5th by default (For the record, Kev'n'Ray's travelling circus beat Luton into 24th. But you probably knew that). Even most of the alphabetical lists on the Net (and there are plenty of indexes of Websites) forget that York exist and stop when they get to Wycombe. Like Alan Smith (except the York bit). You look at the fixture list, scan down to February 21st and think "Oh, yeah...".

Still, here goes...

In one of the later volumes of "The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy", Arthur learns how to fly. The trick, apparently, is to fall over and forget to hit the ground (my bed suffered several heavy impacts... but only when I was much, much younger, obviously). Problem is, if you pay too much heed to what's going on around you and think something like "Well blow me, I'm flying", you'll hit the ground faster than Robbo's victims in the Luton midfield last Saturday.

Which is sort of what's happened to York, by all accounts. Favourites for the drop at the beginning of the season (even amongst their own fans), they've surprised everyone by hanging around sneaking a fag with the big lads behind the play-off bike sheds all season. Three weeks ago they lost 7-2 to Burnley (like being beaten up by the swotty kid with the bad haircut. Who probably has a part-time job at a sausage factory... or am I getting carried away ?), understandably went through a bit of a confidence crisis, and have since stumbled to a fortunate 1-0 victory at home to Walsall and a 0-0 draw at Plymouth, both results far more like one expects.

City have been managed since the departure of John Ward to Bristol Rovers by Alan Little, brother of Aston Villa's Mr.Charisma, Brian. Little has done well on a limited budget, putting together a handy team devoid of remotely "big" names who were by all accounts unlucky not to get three points from their trip to the Vic early in the season.

If there is a star turn, Neil Tolson is probably it. Once pursued by Everton (and probably Manchester City and Birmingham, although I'm guessing now), Tolson is big, mobile, and thankfully absent at present. Also missing from the team recently has been long-serving right back Andy McMillan, who had a corker in this fixture last season. I haven't been able to dig out the reasons for or lengths of either absence on York's Websites.

Goalmachine of the first half of the season, former Huddersfield reserve Rodney Rowe, has slipped quietly from the limelight and is now on the bench. Striker David Rush was sacked earlier in the season for being a bit of an arse including, allegedly, giving a teammate a black eye. Meanwhile Gary Bull is still completely failing to bear comparison with his more celebrated relative (Jordi Cruyff anyone ?), and the team as a whole have only recorded 5 goals (and just the one win) in their last 8 games.

A strong area is the middle of defence, where skipper Tony Barras, recently subject of a bid from Wigan, is now partnered by recent addition Barry Jones, from Wrexham. In midfield, Mark Tinkler is one of the many members of Leeds' Youth Cup winning side of a few years back who now populate the lower divisions, whilst ex-Newcastle winger Paul Stephenson has had to battle back from an horrific life-threatening collision, suffered during his time at Brentford.

Reading through what I've written it all seems a little bit condescending to York, but it's amazing what Guinness does for the confidence (a few members of the mailing list could do with giving it a go !). At any rate, even if I've tempted fate too far and York recover their form and give us a whipping on Saturday, we will have the slim consolation of the knowledge that they'll probably do the same to Bristol City next week. That's right, the same Bristol City who played Gillingham last week and Luton this weekend. Does anyone get the impression that the fixture computer's getting a bit lazy ?

It would be nice to win this one, not because I have anything against York...remember, they beat both Everton and the Red Filth in recent Cup competitions (worth a pint of beer and a slap on the back in my book). It's just that the French students who arrived at work two weeks ago have already begun to harp "But Maaaatt... your team never weeens....".