Season Preview – Men’s Football

Following post-season advances on and off the field, the University Football Club are limbering up for the 2009-2010 season

Photograph: Arran Bowen-la Grange

Photograph: Arran Bowen-la Grange

Always conscious of posterity, Brian Clough famously boasted: “I wouldn’t say I was the best manager in the business. But I was in the top one.” This unashamed notion of supremacy – to be the biggest, to be the boldest, to be the best – has also been the mantra of our university football club for as long as anyone can remember.

It’s appropriate, then, that they should be starting the new campaign under the auspices of someone with first-hand experience of Old Big ‘Ead himself. Terry Curran served under Clough at Nottingham Forest during the mid-1970s, the attacking midfielder scoring 12 times in the 1975-1976 promotion campaign at the City Ground, before playing for Derby County, Everton, Southampton and both Sheffield clubs amongst many others.

In a move which reflects a wider trend at the university, and within their BUCS division, the football club have decided to arm themselves with such a wealth of professional nous, recruiting Curran and Peter Renton, a youth team coach at Leeds United, to take care of off-field matters on matchdays.

“This year they’ll accompany our first team to BUCS matches,” said Greg Gardner, the Club President for 2009-2010. “This will make Cloudy’s [Mark Mcleod, the first team Captain] life a lot easier and help us establish ourselves in [BUCS Northern Conference] 2B, a very competitive league.”

By bringing the coaches on board, the firsts are, in effect, merely coming into line with the other, all-too-familiar bunch of opponents in league 2B. The likes of Sheffield, Newcastle and Leeds Met have long enjoyed the perks of an established sporting pedigree, hiring staff to oversee every aspect of the team’s preparation. Not that this policy is always without embarrassment – an irate coach from Northumbria University was unceremoniously dismissed from the sidelines during a BUCS Cup encounter on the 22 Acres last season.

Football Mens 1sts Sam Newsome 2009-05-10_MG_7185

A case of ‘Spot the Ball’ as Andrew Emmerson punches the ball clear in York’s 4-0 romp against Lancaster at Roses 2009. Photograph by Sam Newsome.

But this is just one part of what can be described as a ‘clean break’ for the club. Replicating the professionals on every front, UYAFC have just agreed a sponsorship deal with IG Property, securing funds to provide new equipment for all four teams. “We’re delighted to have IG Property’s financial backing for the season – the last few years we haven’t made the most of sponsorship, but with them on board we’ll be able to provide the players with the equipment their talent deserves,” said Gardner.

Commercially sound, the real test will, of course, come on the pitch, where the realities of the ‘fresh start’ will really bite. Last year’s core has been ripped out through graduations, leaving pretty much every shirt up for grabs fromthe outset. The President predicts tough competition for places, contested between second and third team players seeking promotion and newcomers: “Another key theme for UYAFC this year will be flexibility within the squads.

“University sport, especially football, is often seen as one big clique – captains pick their friends. UYAFC could not be further from this and with the number of players who graduated this summer gone, there’s going to be loads of spots that we hope and expect freshers to fill. If that means I’m struggling to get into the teams then I’ll be both delighted and gutted!”

A broad reshuffle is expected, then, but Mcleod can still fall back upon a dependable axis of Gardner, the defensive anchor, Mark Johnson, midfield playmaker, and Ian McKellow, a versatile and experienced York campaigner.

“Greg Gardner: Club President and the organiser of a new looks defence. A natural leader on the pitch, he leads by example. Mark only made a handful of appearances last season but is one of many players I expect to make an effortless transition to first team regular. Good technique and can provide goals from midfield. Ian is one of the most experienced players in the first team squad and certainly the most versatile. I think he could play in pretty much any position and do a good job. Look out for him in a more attacking role this season,” elaborated Mcleod.

Football Men's 1sts, 10.05.09, Photo: George Lowther.

The UYAFC First team squad at Roses 2009. Most of these players have since departed the university, allowing second team and incoming players the opportunity to replace them. Photograph by George Lowther.

New faces, new management, even a new black and gold logo to bring the football club under the York Sport aesthetic yoke – but where will all the changes lead?

“It’s a hugely exciting year for UYAFC that could go any number of ways. Rather than moan [about losing last year’s team] we’re moving forward at a fast pace to maintain UYAFC’s position as one of, if not the, most important societies on campus,” said Gardner.

“As far as BUCS season aims go; on the pitch I’m hoping for at least one promotion from the seconds and thirds, a mid-table finish and a cup run would do for the firsts, but I’m hoping for a lot more! Off the pitch, we’re hoping for a big influx of freshers to boost the squads and also make Wednesday nights bigger and bigger.”

But maybe even this is too conservative an aspiration? Mcleod thinks so. “I see no reason why we can’t compete in the league we’re in, so we have to be aspiring to promotion. This may be a tough task, but should certainly be the level we are aiming to take UYAFC to. It’s a very exciting year to be captaining the first team!”

Positive sentiments shared by Ben Smith, the second team Captain: “Well the second XI are about to embark upon a very exciting campaign, with the exodus of the majority of last year’s first team, every shirt is up for grabs and I believe the fierce competition for places in both the first and second team can only be beneficial for the teams and club a whole.

“Last season the second XI finished second in BUCS division five and reached the NUL [Northern Universities League] cup final. I have every belief that we can go one better this year and win the league to gain promotion and put right the cup heartache.”

UYAFC are holding Freshers’ trials Monday to Friday during Freshers’ Week – meet outside the Sports Centre at 1.45pm, bring boots and shinpads.

BUCS AND NUL FIXTURES – MEN’S FIRSTS

Wednesday 21st October – Sheffield University Firsts (A) BUCS League
Saturday 31st October – Leeds University Firsts (H) NUL
Wednesday 4th November – Hull University Firsts (A) BUCS League
Saturday 7th November – Leeds Met Carnegie Firsts (A) NUL
Wednesday 11th November – Teesside University Firsts (H) BUCS League
Saturday 14th November – Hull University Firsts (A) NUL
Wednesday 18th November – Teesside University Fourths (A) BUCS Cup
Wednesday 25th November – Newcastle University Firsts (A) BUCS League
Saturday 28th November – Leeds University Firsts (A) NUL
Wednesday 2nd December – Leeds Met Carnegie Seconds (A) BUCS League
Saturday 5th December – Hull University Firsts (H) NUL

Wednesday 20th January – Leeds Met Carnegie Seconds (H) BUCS League
Saturday 30th January – Leeds Met Carnegie Firsts (H) NUL
Wednesday 3rd February – Sheffield University Firsts (H) BUCS League
Wednesday 17th February – Hull University Firsts (H) BUCS League
Wednesday 3rd March – Teesside University Firsts (A) BUCS League
Wednesday 17th March – Newcastle University Firsts (H) BUCS League

If your club would like a season preview, contact [email protected]

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