THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

Minstermen just above relegation zone

icon league2b8 March ~ York City have stumbled back in the Football League, eight seasons after dropping out of the rat race to find our inner selves in the smoke-filled haze of the Conference. And the fans are not particularly comfortable with what they've found. Gary Mills, the manager who led York to two Wembley victories in eight days last May – the FA Trophy and the play-off final – is gone. He was sacked last weekend after the club was infected with a chronic case of players who only remember to score every other game.

The optimism that led this correspondent to tell WSC's pre-season preview that the existing squad "should be capable of sneaking into the play-offs" initially morphed into contented mutterings about a season of consolidation, before being replaced by a panic that we could be relegated straight back out of the Football League after winning promotion.

Chairman Jason McGill, a packaging magnate with a good line in vacuum pouches for smoked salmon, despatched Mills after a 2-0 loss to Bradford City left us four points above the relegation zone – a decision that was as sad as it was inevitable. But the manager's legacy can already be seen in the appointment of his replacement.

While Mills was recruited from Tamworth, the badge of Football League membership means we have been able to attract Nigel Worthington, the former Norwich and Northern Ireland manager who cheerily admits to knowing sod all about League Two but talks about ambitious plans to climb through the divisions. For those of us who spent the last decade worrying about trips to Stafford and Salisbury – the Conference North always looming in the background – it's all a bit baffling.

Perhaps it's churlish to moan but the Football League is less fun than the alternately anarchic and infuriatingly incompetent Conference, where fallen greats in old-fashioned grounds rub up against sugardaddy-funded village teams in one badly administered competition. The quality of football is little better in League Two but increased ticket prices, blander stadiums and the uncomfortable realisation that York might have found their natural level leave some fans wondering whether it's worth all the fuss.

Tomorrow we play AFC Wimbledon, currently sitting bottom of the league. They've already beaten us twice this year and a recent upturn in form means it wouldn't be surprising if they made it three out of three. But with ten games left there's still enough quality in York's squad to eke out a few more draws and ensure we finish the season as the 90th best football club in the country, before a mass clear out this summer. Overall this year has been a sad reminder of why you should never try to get the old gang back together – what happened in non-League should have stayed there, as should a lot of York City's players. James Waterson @jimwaterson

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