The first York City Football Club was formed in 1908 as an amateur organisation and joined the Northern League.
The first York City Football Club was formed in 1908 as an amateur organisation and joined the Northern League. The club acquired a ground in Holgate Road with the help of a couple of open stands from York Racecourse. Their earliest captain was Tom Hillary and their first game at home to South Bank, which City won 2-1. The club also entered the FA Amateur Cup in which they knocked out Withernsea and St Paul’s before losing to Scarborough in a replay.
For the first couple of seasons they performed adequately before in 1910-11 joining the Yorkshire Combination in order to reduce travelling expenses. That allowed them to play one paid player and therefore the club signed their first professional, who was named Corrighan. This prompted their secretary Mr J.E Wright to advocate the formation of a limited liability company to run a professional club.
This was duly formed in 1912 and a rough area of land in Burton Stone Lane, known as Field View, was obtained as their pitch. In May of the same year a deputation was sent to the Midland League’s annual meeting in Nottingham and the club was allowed entry into that competition. Former Irish international full-back Peter Boyle was appointed as player-manager. The opening of the Field View ground then marked a clash with Midland League champions Rotherham Town and there were 5,000 paying spectators in attendance.
However, the club continued to struggle to establish itself, often due to regular fixture clashes with York RLFC. Tommy Collier replaced Peter Boyle as manager and he was followed by ex-Barnsley FA Cup winning captain Archie Taylor. In August 1914, City received an invitation from the Nelson club to attend a meeting and discuss the formation of a Third Division of the Football League. But war suddenly broke out and this proposed assembly never took place.
Instead the club completed its third season in the Midland League in 1914-15 before the competition was suspended due to the hostilities. The following season a few friendly games were played before the club sadly folded in 1917. Under pressure from a creditor, York City FC went into liquidation overnight and their Field View home was turned into allotments and then a building estate. It was the end of York City Football Club after just five years in existence, and it was to take the same duration of time before the emergence of the present club.
That was to arise after the formation of the Yorkshire League shortly after the war created the demand for another senior team in York and a number of meetings and private discussions soon took place. There was then a public meeting at the Guildhall attended by around 400 people where a resolution was passed for the formation of a new club.
On 6th May 1922 it was decided following a meeting at the Co-operative Hall to form the York City Football and Athletics Club Limited. W.H Shaw was duly appointed chairman and the club immediately submitted an ambitious application to join the Football League. With neither a ground nor players at the time this was never going to happen. However, while Halifax Town and Rochdale were both admitted, York did receive one vote and were told to go back and establish the club in the city before trying again.
The following month York were admitted to the Midland League after being the sixth and final choice of the seven clubs applying, with only three more votes than Sutton. Hughie ‘Spud’ Murphy was appointed trainer after a long career in the army. But in 1922 the club were again beset with financial difficulties and introduced a new initiative whereby supporters could purchase shares and thus become shareholders. A new ground was acquired in Heslington Lane and Nicol Hendry was appointed player-coach on a salary of £4-per-week.
Their first match was away to Notts County Reserves on Wednesday 6th September 1922. York performed commendably against such strong opposition before eventually going down 4-2. Their first goal was scored by skipper Billy Smith direct from a free-kick and Jack Woods added a second. York wore maroon and white striped shirts and white shorts and lined up as follows: Hendry, Holmes, Thorpe, Lynch, Smith, Acklam, Elliott, Moult, Woods, Lemmons, J. Harron.
With Fulfordgate still not yet ready for use, York played their first home game three days later at Mille Crux, Haxy Road, which was the ground of Messrs. Rowntree & Company Limited. They celebrated by beating Lincoln City Reserves 3-2 with Acklam, Elliott and Woods on the scoresheet. York then lost to Boston Town 4-2 at Rowntrees before in their first match at Fulfordgate, City hammered Mansfield Town 4-1. Eventually their season fell away, however, and after being in mid-table early in March they slumped to 19th place.
Meanwhile, York were performing excellently in the North Riding Senior Cup and reached the final, where they lost out 4-2 to Middlesbrough Reserves at Ayresome Park. Jack Woods and Joe Harrow, in his final game, were their goalscorers. Financially the season had proved disappointing, though, and the Supporters’ Club, who had earlier been formed on 20th April 1922, then sponsored many improvements to their ground.
The following 1923-24 season York entered a reserve team in the Yorkshire League and also took part in the FA Cup. In the extra preliminary round Castleford and Allerton United were defeated 2-1 at Fulfordgate and Tommy Rippon had the honour of scoring the club’s first FA Cup goal. York then won at Cudworth before being knocked out by Mexborough in a second replay. One very notable name at this time was teenage right-winger Joe Hulme, who was sold to Blackburn Rovers for £250, with a further £50 based on appearances. Within eighteen months he was on the move again to Herbert Chapman’s Arsenal for a fee of around £3,000. He won League and FA Cup honours with the Gunners and was capped by England nine times.
In the summer of 1924 the Midland League was thrown into crisis after eight reserve teams of Football League clubs withdrew and helped form the Midland Combination. To offset this loss the Midland League created a Principal Competition to run until February and then followed it with two subsidiary North and South sections. This resulted in an improved showing by York following successive 19th positions over their previous couple of campaigns. They finished sixth in the Principal Competition and runners-up behind Denaby United in the North Subsidiary Competition.
During the season a local full-back named Lester Marshall hit the headlines when after being asked to play at centre-forward, he struck five goals in an FA Cup tie against Horsforth, another five in a League game with Castleford, and then six in an 11-1 North Riding Senior Cup thrashing of Grangetown St Mary’s. In January 1925 he was sold to Lincoln for £100. The Reserves team also did well that season, winning both the York Senior Cup and York Charity Cup.
There was also the appointment of one of the directors, George William Sherrington, as honorary secretary, and he went on to give 37 years of outstanding service to the club. He was later to become full-time secretary and thus relinquished his position as a director, and also earned himself the Football League long service medal in 1951. He became the club’s president after retiring in 1961 before the man known as ‘Mr York City’ died sixteen years later.
The Midland League was restored for the 1925-26 season, although York made a disappointing start and finally trailed in 16th place. But they did perform well in the FA Cup and embarked on their best run when reaching the third qualifying round and losing to Wath. The arrival of a number of new clubs meant several more long trips. One such occasion against Alfreton found York one player short and having to recruit a local player from a nearby pub, who finished his pint an hour prior to kick-off before scoring City’s only goal in a 5-1 defeat.
But things were gradually getting better and for the 1926-27 season York finished in sixth position in the table and netted 96 goals, while also reaching the FA Cup second round. Charlie Flood struck 17 goals for them in just 15 appearances and was promptly sold to Swindon Town. Progressing to the first round proper of the FA Cup, York were drawn at home to Worksop and 3,500 fans at Fulfordgate watched on as they took the honours 4-1. They were then paired away at Second Division Grimsby Town and fought valiantly in front of an 11,000 attendance until losing out 2-1 in a tremendous encounter. This brought about a second application to join the Foootball League in 1927, although this time a far more serious effort. However, once more they were unsuccessful as both Barrow and Accrington Stanley were re-elected. York gained only six votes but their financial accounts for the season had been excellent with a profit for the first time.
The following season witnessed the club finishing a creditable seventh in the table and an FA Cup exit at the fourth qualifying round stage after losing a home replay with Shildon. In an earlier round they had entertained Midland League newcomers Scarborough in a 1-1 draw at Fulfordgate before a record 6,422 attendance. York then triumphed in the replay 4-0 in front of a 4,073 crowd. The club again tried for Football League membership over the summer, but were again left disappointed as with only seven votes they witnessed Carlisle United being elected to replace Durham City.
Former referee Arthur Brown was again named chairman at the start of the next season and was to hold the post until 1939. Meanwhile, the club was still planning for Football League status and appointed John ‘Jock’ Collier as player-manager. He soon recruited a fabulous goalscorer from Raith Rovers by the name of Jimmy Cowie, who went on to score an incredible 49 goals in 49 appearances and not surprisingly was Midland League top marksman. Twice he netted six goals in a game, once five and twice four. The club still only finished ninth that season, while again progressing well in the FA Cup in which they finally beat Jarrow 3-2 in front of 6,843 in a fourth qualifying round second replay at Newcastle’s St James’ Park. York were then drawn at home to Barrow in the first round proper – it was the first time they had faced a League club in a competitive game. But the Cumbrians scraped past them 1-0 as 6,957 supporters watched on. Even so it all helped to fuel the club’s ambitions of election to the Football League, and on 24th April 1929 they received significant encouragement when a meeting of Northern section clubs in Manchester voted that York be elected and Hartlepools re-elected, although this only took the form of a recommendation to the far more powerful First and Second Division clubs.
With renewed hope in their hearts, brave little York City FC therefore made their fourth application to join the Football League on 3rd June 1929, and this time they finally made it as they gained entry to Third Division North at the expense of Ashington. The voting read: Hartlepools United 33 votes; York City 24; Mansfield Town 16; Ashington 14; Manchester Central 2; Prescot Cables 1; Chester 0; Rhyl 0; Workington 0 …. York City were now a Football League club.