Chris Brass presumably enjoying the first four games of the season
We have a confession to make, Rob and I. We've got lazier in our old age so series are easier to do than write proper articles. So, true to form, here is Spongers' own Adam Bushby kicking off our new series with a quite remarkable winless streak.
The 2003/4 season in England is best remembered for Arsenal’s ‘Invincibles’. Thirty-eight games unbeaten and a Premier League title. Twenty six wins and 12 draws. Yeah, yeah, yeah. It’s impressive, if in an obvious way. But I tell you what is more impressive. Gaining just 16 points between November 22 and the end of the season. Sixteen points. (Clamouring from soapbox) SIXTEEN. From 27 games, between end-November and May. I tell you what is more impressive even than that. Not winning a game from January 10 to the end of the season. NOT ONE. And these things happened that very season at the other end of the pyramid.
It had all started to go very wrong for York City back in December 2001 when long-serving tosser Douglas Craig put the club and Bootham Crescent up for sale. It’s easy to forget now, being the Barcelona of the Conference as we are, that City were a whisker away from folding in April 2002. The club’s saviour was to be none other than John Batchelor, armed with delusions of grandeur so great they make Rob MacDonald’s laughable pulling efforts on a Saturday night look respectable. A pillock of such epic proportions that even the mild-mannered Jeff Stelling had a pop at him on Soccer Saturday on learning he wanted to buy Mansfield Town. But alas, this piece is about a very specific period of shitness and so back to the main plot.
City, remarkably, began the 2003-4 season with four wins from four, beating the to-be-promoted Huddersfield in the bargain. Automatic promotion was a given, of course on this sort of form. Indeed, after the first 20 matches, York had the decent return of seven wins, eight draws and five defeats – play-off form. I chose the first 20 games because that number is to be significant in the second half of this piece. We expected to be treated with apples in the 2003-4 season. Lots of them. But what we got was an oniony nightmare.
Player-managed by 27-year-old Chris Brass – the eagle-eyed of you remembering that 27 is the amount of games between November 22 and the end of the season that York amassed the grotesque and measly sum of 16 points – for whom one moment of buffoonery is infinitely more telling than I ever could be. For those who have never seen this own goal scored by Brass while playing for Bury, sit back and enjoy.
Again, back to the plot. A 2-1 defeat against Northampton at the Sixfields Stadium on January 17 began a run that would be punctuated by gross ineptitude. Indeed, York never scored more than one goal a game throughout this and the next 19 matches. Twenty games – remember I said 20 was to be significant, yes you do – pockmarked with shit football, led by a man who would later go on to score an own goal by twatting the ball into his own stupid face and breaking his own nose. A dreadful, nightmarish season where we would lose 4-1 to both Lincoln City and Kidderminster Harriers, and most embarrassingly of all 2-0 at home to Macclesfield Town (as any lower league football fan will tell you, the single most horrific fate that can befall your club) on a SUNDAY.
And thus it were so. Relegation to the Conference. A horrible place where former distinguished football league clubs go to rot. York have been in these doldrums ever since. Trips to Histon and Salisbury in recent years serving only to reinforce the haunting presence of former glories. A brief glance at the league tables of the 2003-4 season, however, did offer a chink of optimism. To highlight how quickly a side’s fortunes can turn, consider that York drew home and away with now Premier League side Swansea that season. Consider current League Two favourites Crawley Town, sat in second place at the time of writing, finished the season as champions of the Southern League (the precursor to the Conference South). Every action has an opposite reaction though of course. 2003-4 Conference champions Chester City sadly folded in March 2010.
There’s scant consolation being relegated with 44 points though (a total that would have kept us up in 1997/98, 1999/00 and a season later). Not when I think back to that hideous 2004, which at least saw the back of Brass who buggered off in November.
So for all you Arsenal fans who think you have it hard, or for the Chelsea lot who think they are in ‘crisis’ right now, here is real pain. Here is real unpleasantness. Here is York’s final 20 games in all its grisly W/D/L glory: L,L,D,L,L,L,L,D,L,L,D,L,L,L,D,L,L,L,L,D.
*Special thanks goes to this unofficial Boston United site where I found my upsetting, if necessary, Division 3 results.