Simon Hood gave up his job and flat to embark on a unique adventure: to cycle to every York City match over the course of a season. As his book chronicling the odyssey is published, he recalls six of his most memorable matches
By the time I started going to Bootham Crescent, the mid-1980s glory years were a distant memory. I also managed to miss out on the League Cup wins over Manchester United and Everton, due to being in Scotland at University.
Given the lean years that followed, I should definitely have skipped a few lectures for those brilliant victories.
1. February 10, 1990: York 0-0 Lincoln City
Nothing remarkable about the match at all, in fact I can’t remember anything about it. But it’s the first game I know I was definitely at. If you were to average out all the games York City have ever played, a goalless home draw against Lincoln would probably be a fair representation.
2. February 27, 1993: York 5-1 Scunthorpe United
The brilliant Paul Barnes grabbed four goals in a great attacking performance. Amongst our group of friends, it was my turn for the half-time chippy run, which I had to do in heavy snow. So much fell during the interval that they came back out in the second half with an orange ball: the only time I can remember us playing with one.
3. May 29, 1993: Crewe 1-1 York AET
City win 5-3 on pens
We’ve been to Wembley so often recently that it’s difficult to recall that it used to be a rarity. The play-off final was York’s first appearance at the national stadium and ended with a shoot-out win to send us up. Left back Wayne ‘Ginner’ Hall tucked away the winning penalty to set us off on what seemed at the time would be a long unbroken period of success. In truth, last season’s was the club’s first promotion since, and there have been two relegations in between.
4. January 14, 1995: York 2-0 Birmingham City
Birmingham were top of the league when they arrived at the Crescent, and unbeaten in twenty matches. Barry Fry had just paid Southend £800,000 for their striker Ricky Otto, who hit the bar with a fine lob. But Alan Little’s York managed to hold their own and come out on top in front of a crowd of nearly 7,000, with wingers Jon McCarthy and Tony Canham scoring the unanswered goals. Birmingham won the league that season, and around that time we seemed to make a habit of beating the division’s runaway leaders. The season after we beat Swindon 2-0; the season before we saw Reading off 1-0, for whom Jimmy Quinn hit a penalty out of the ground and down Bootham Crescent.
5. November 6, 2004 York 1-3 Forest Green Rovers
Welcome to the Conference. A catastrophic run the previous season had dumped us in amongst the non-league dead men for the first time. A home humbling against a village side was a new nadir. Charlie Griffin was applauded off for his hat-trick, but the City players were booed all the way down the tunnel. It was an abysmal, disjointed, sickening performance that showed we wouldn’t be bouncing back to League football any time soon. There have been lower lows since, including thrashings at Canvey Island, St Albans and pre-money Crawley, but I wasn’t at any of those. So this one goes in as a counterpoint to the highs, as you can’t fully enjoy the latter without having experienced the pain of the former.
6. May 20, 2012: Luton Town 1-2 York
Redemption. Eight years in the wilderness thanks in no small part to successive owners’ despicable actions, all over in a flash at Wembley. Luton took a first-minute lead to suggest that our non-league agony would be prolonged for at least another season, but Ashley Chambers hammered in a deserved equaliser. Our group missed Matty Blair’s hugely offside winner due to taking too long over a half-time pint. Fortunately, so did the linesman. There was something special in being surrounded by so many happy, teary York fans at the final whistle. It’s been a long old wait to get back into the Football League, and it looked at times as if we’d never make it. Let’s make sure we never return.
- Bicycle Kicks by Simon Hood is published by GJB Publishing
- You can buy the paperback here for £7.99
- Click here to buy the Kindle version for £4.99
- Read more on Simon’s website Hood Words
- And follow him on Twitter here