RR: How has pre-season gone so far for York, then? You might not be surprised that it hasn’t escaped my notice that your lads beat Newcastle’s first team the other day...
[Michael - Y Front Fanzine]: Pre-seasons are funny old things, and as an old campaigner I don’t try and read too much into performances, good or bad.
However, the two games so far have gone very well indeed.
Whitby away was more of a good day out for most City fans, and just getting a chance to have a good old catch-up. It was a solid performance on the pitch, despite it being disjointed with players mostly partaking for just 45 minutes, and a lot of trialists on show.
As for the Newcastle game - it was the first game in our new stadium that fans have been allowed to attend. I think for most fans it was a historic occasion, even if the club didn’t seem to follow our thinking.
The fans really enjoyed the performance from City, which was as good as you could get in pre-season. I wasn’t expecting a great deal from Newcastle with it being their first run out, but they were just awful - very lacklustre and lethargic. Even some of their bigger names failed to shine against opponents that should have made them look like superstars.
I predict a relegation battle for them unless miracles happen.
RR: Has your summer transfer business got the pulse racing?
[Michael - Y Front Fanzine]: The summer transfer window has been really good for us - but there again, they always are until the season starts.
Getting Clayton Donaldson to us from Bradford City is a real coup. Even at 37 he looks as fit as a fiddle, and should be potent in this league. He will be a different kind of player to the raw young thing when he was with us the first time, but hopefully his experience will be invaluable.
Up front will be new signing Kurt Willoughby, who dazzled is with 3 goals in 4 games in a loan spell 18 months ago. A player you and other Sunderland fans may be aware of is ex South Shields striker Jason Gilchrist. His awareness of other players on Sunday against Newcastle and his touch was very exciting indeed.
RR: There are so many clubs from up north in the National League North - does that make it hard when it comes to recruiting players, given it essentially dilutes the pool?
[Michael - Y Front Fanzine]: In the last few years we have been able to get most of the players we have wanted by paying a fair wage, and there’s the attraction of being a big club at this level (I find it hard to see us as big, as we were always little York City in the league).
The problem we have now with a slashed budget is that players can earn much more money by playing part-time and having a full-time career as well.
RR: When I was a kid, York were always a Football League club, but it’s been a few years now since you played at a higher level. What has gone on there then?
[Michael - Y Front Fanzine]: Honestly, I don’t know how far back I’d need to go to answer this question. Things started to wrong in the early 2000’s when our then chairman split the ground from the club, and gave everyone who had a share in the club a share in the ground.
With him owning 80% of the shares he then put the club and the ground up for sale. To cut a long story short, the fans - led by the Supporters Trust - managed to get the ground back, but in a deal that meant we had to look for a new ground.
We have never really recovered from this blow, and much of the time from then on has seen us in non-league, which stings for fans used to being in the Football League.
Oh, the memories of going to such exotic places as Crewe or Rochdale have been replaced by Curzon Ashton and Spennymoor!
Our present chairman has bankrolled the club for much longer than he has expected to. Currently, he isn’t around much even though he is a fan, and no one knows what his true intentions are. Under his watch he has taken us to the lowest point in our history and to owing him nine million pounds. Whether he wants all that money back or not is unknown as of yet, but it feels an uncomfortable position to be in.
His recruiting of managers, with the odd exception, has been poor - most noticeably Jackie McNamara, who lost us our league place, and ex-Sunderland player Martin Gray, who was as dull as ditchwater!
RR: I remember coming to York for a 2-0 win in the cup at Bootham Crescent. Were you there? If so, what are your memories of it?
[Michael - Y Front Fanzine]: Yes, I was at that game. Andy Warrington was in goal for us and he dropped a clanger for the goal. I went to the second leg at the SOL but we got hammered.
As a York fan the biggest memory I have of Sunderland is the riot at Bootham Crescent in 1988 after a bottom-of-the-table City beat top of the table Sunderland 2–1, with Dale Banton scoring a diving header - which is still the best York goal I have ever seen.
It was chaos that day and the ground was heaving. There must have been 6000 of your fans in all four stands in the ground, with only around 2500 York fans in attendance. Lots of fancy dress and one of your fans climbing up the old floodlights, which were bloody high up! The violence was more directed at the authorities and police than the York fans, but the goalposts came down during the pitch invasion at the end of the game.
RR: So, onto the game. As I already mentioned, you took a canny scalp in Newcastle at the weekend. Do you fancy your chances against our lot?
[Michael - Y Front Fanzine]: Well, if we play anything like we did on Sunday we will certainly give you a game and a workout, but if I’m being honest, I expect a much better performance for your team than the one that we got from the Geordies.
I will be looking to see a more settled side against Sunderland. Less substitutions and also seeing our strikers having a real go at your goal.
RR: Is there anyone in Sunderland’s team you’re looking forward to seeing?
[Michael - Y Front Fanzine]: To be honest I’m more interested in seeing how many of your fans get in to the game rather than who you have in your team. There were Newcastle fans in the ground on Sunday, but I said to my cousin that I bet more Sunderland get in.
I know some really good Sunderland fans, especially the lads behind clothing label Fritidskalder, plus also there are a good number of Sunderland fans living in York and the surrounding areas. I once did a poll about York fans having soft spots for other teams and Sunderland came out on top. I guess with the connections of mangers and players over the last 30 years or so. So, most definitely fans over players tomorrow night.
RR: Give us a prediction then - what’s the score gonna be?
[Michael - Y Front Fanzine]: My prediction is that it’ll be a decent workout for both teams, and the result will be a very fair 1-1!