It’s the moment when York City superfan Christopher Backhouse reveals the top players ever to wear the club colours
“Each to his choice, and I rejoice that the lot has fallen to me” – Rudyard Kipling
On reaching the end of my meander through the post-war history of York City and the players who made it, I am faced with the task of selecting my best ever City team.
And to play against them I shall pick a team from the best players who have appeared against City at Bootham Crescent since the war.
I have appointed myself as manager of York City, entirely responsible for picking the team. I had to start somewhere and have chosen the most successful cup team ever, that of 1955/56 as one benchmark. For the other I have picked the promotion team of 1983/84, thereby covering almost a thirty year span.
The cup team, the Happy Wanderers as they were known was, Forgan, Phillips, Howe, Brown, Stewart, Spence, Hughes, Bottom, Wilkinson, Storey and Fenton. I have considered whether any earlier post-war player would strengthen this excellent team. I thought long and hard about the vital centre forward position but retained Norman Wilkinson although sorely tempted to replace him with my boyhood hero, Alf Patrick.
Wilkinson scored 143 goals in 401 appearances. Patrick notched 117 in 241 games, a slightly higher rate but I think Norman’s experience just carries the day. I also contrasted Billy Hughes’s record with Johnny Linaker’s. Billy gets the nod on the grounds of achievement over a longer period, having played about three times as many games.
Incidentally Tommy Forgan is still going strong on the golf course in Australia, and Alf Patrick, a spry 91, in York.
Next to my other benchmark, the 83/84 team which holds an all time record of gaining 101 points in a single season. The team was Jones, Senior, Hay, Sbragia, McPhail, Hood, Ford, Crosby, Walwyn, Byrne and Pollard.
I had to decide if any player from later years would have improved this team. I could easily insert any one of Canham, Hall, Barnes or McCarthy in attack without weakening the forward line at all. In defence would Tutill, Stancliffe, McMillan or Kiely in goal have added steel? From these I have promoted only two. I chose Andy McMillan in place of Senior and Paul Barnes to replace Crosby.
The next task was to establish whether any players from the in-between years would have improved either team! Should I have preferred Wragg, Addison, Jackson, Aimson, Burrows, Macdougall, Boyer, Topping, Lyons or Swallow to mention but a few?
Having thought long and hard I finally arrived at my best City team ever! I allowed myself five substitutes. My final choice:
Substitutes: Jones, Howe, Barnes, Jackson and McCarthy.
To complete my task I had to choose some opponents – the best team from the visiting players who have appeared at Bootham Crescent.
I have had lots of advice. George Davidson, Chris Forth, Mick Barley, Peter Gildener, Brian Shields, Patrick MacCauley, Thomas Moran, Peter Prokoff, Neil Hicks and the great Josh Easby have all suggested names.
The most mentioned were Southall, Banks or Schmiechel in goal, Ramsey and Sansom as full backs, Moore, Molby, Bruce and Blanchflower in midfield, then Giggs, Dalglish, Rush, Charlton and Beckham in the attack.
As if that was not enough, on the bench – a very long bench indeed – would be Len Shackleton, Wilf Mannion, Brian Douglas and Raich Carter of the much older generation. Beside them would be defenders O’Leary, Irwin, Pallister and Parker. Midfield substitutes include Keane, Scholes, Speed and Irwin. I nearly forgot to mention Gazza, who I saw playing in a friendly a few years ago.
In attack I had Kanchelskis, Cantona, Toshack, Kidd, Coles and Sinclair to choose from. Less likely candidates were put forward: Viduka, Horsfield and Ian Botham all had supporters, or in Botham’s case just one!
The manager would be Sir Stanley Matthews. He managed Port Vale for a while and led them at York. Sir Stanley, with my help, chosethe following team.
Even having chosen five substitutes, namely Southall, Bruce, Scholes, Speed and Cantona, there is an abundance of talent to call on should there be a replay at any time in the future.
At the time these jottings are published, we still don’t know whether City will be playing in the Conference next season or remaining in League 2. Whatever our fate there will surely be as many ups and downs in the future as I recall from the past.
I would like to say a huge thank you to David Batters whose book I have used to check some dates and facts, and for his permission to use the photographs which have illustrated all of my reminiscences.
- Part One: When goalies wore green
- Part Two: Backs to front
- Part Three: Left, right and centre
- Part Four: Halfs time
- Part Five: On a wing and a prayer
- Part Six: Inside out
- Part Seven: Spearpoint
- Many thanks to David Batters for kindly giving us permission to reproduce pictures from his books Images Of Sport: York City Football Club, published by Tempus, and York City: The Complete Record, published by Breedon Books and available from the York City shop and online here