Farewell Bootham Crescent
Aerial View: Credit: Clubs from Above
On Wednesday 1st December 2021, Bootham Crescent closed its gates for the final time. In an awful state, the ground was opened up for the last time to the public on Sunday and Wednesday to say a final farewell.
Home to York City since 1932, Bootham Crescent is one of the few traditional English football grounds still standing. It all started when York City moved out of Fulfordgate and began a new era in a new home - Bootham Crescent. The ground was based in the heart of the city, not far from the station, which was helpful for many fans for travel purposes.
The football ground had the typical four stands you would expect. The roofless away end behind one of the goals was named the Grosvenor Road End where fans from Liverpool and Manchester United to North Ferriby and Gainsborough Trinity were housed. At the opposite end was the David Longhurst Stand. Originally known as the Shipton Street End, it was renamed after the tragic death of City player David Longhurst. In 1990, Bootham Crescent hit one of its all time lows after a match against Lincoln City was brought to an early conclusion following Longhurst’s collapse on the field. City fans and players were silenced and brought to tears on a very sad day for the football club. Subsequent to Longhurst’s death, the stand was built a year later, with a roof to accompany it. Running along the east side of the pitch was the Main Stand (and the Family Stand), seating 1,757 York supporters. Another stand holding seats was built opposite - the Popular Stand. Home supporters were held in this stand as well as space for some away fans, in case they wanted cover.
The initial capacity was 30,000 but unsurprisingly, that attendance was never achieved. However, on 5th March 1938, York hosted Huddersfield Town in an FA Cup tie which hit a record attendance of 28,123. At this point, the ground’s capacity was 23,000 with more seats built to store more fans.
Tom Mitchell and Josh King - Two players who played in completely different generations but will still go down in the history books of Bootham Crescent. On 31st August 1932, York played their first ever game there, a Third Division North match against Stockport County. It ended in a 2-2 draw but Tom Mitchell made his name famous with the inaugural goal there. However, come 32,261 days later and who would have thought that centre-back Josh King would be there with the final goal at the Crescent in a 1-0 win against Guiseley.
The Minstermen have had some amazing moments at their 88 year old home, such as their 7 promotions, the incredible season where they broke the 100 point mark and some brilliant cup runs. An astonishing FA Cup performance in 1954/55 secured a place in the semi final for York City which included home wins against rivals Scarborough Athletic and giants Tottenham Hotspur.
Keith Houchen scoring against Arsenal
Arguably the most iconic moment seen from the terraces at Bootham Crescent was the 1-0 cup win over Arsenal. On a snow covered pitch, Third Division York City were set to face First Division Arsenal with all the odds against them. The game looked to be heading for a replay at Highbury in the closing stages, but then the referee awarded a penalty to York in the 90th minute. Keith Houchen stepped up and put City into dreamland, coolly slotting his spot kick into the bottom left corner and sending the fans wild.
There were also some other unforgettable moments at Bootham Crescent. In a game against Bristol Rovers in 1994, play was brought to a temporary halt after a dog had invaded the pitch! On the rare occasion, City goalkeeper Dean Kiely made the most out of it, diving
sarcastically in an attempt to ‘keep out the dog’.
Yorkie the Lion on his bike
Plus, during a bore draw with Dagenham in 2005, the unexpected happened. Some fans still recall the event as the funniest ever moment at a football match. In the second half of the game, club mascot Yorkie the Lion hurtled down the touchline by the Main Stand on a bike, to the fans’ delight! It raised spirits despite the nature of the game overall.
The David Longhurst Stand in its final stages
York fans were recently given the chance to relive all of these memories in a final walk around the ground, which wasn’t in the best state. Although some fans couldn’t bear the thought of returning to the place they once called home, in its current form, over 2500 people attended over the two days to say their farewells. The ground will be forever remembered to everyone who has walked through those turnstiles and never forgotten.
Stadium Development Director Ian McAndrew spoke to the club following this and remarked, “people have come from the Wirral to see this!” He also mentioned, “there have been some really good stories about Bootham Crescent.”
Additionally, some fans shared their thoughts and memories about Bootham Crescent:
John Spaven pictured holding his winning programme
John Spaven remembered the time he featured in the matchday programme, “I was about 11, and walking to BC for the first match in Division 2 ( Aston Villa) - a friend of mine said “you are in the programme!“ I was the first ‘Face in the crowd’ winner. Plus I got a free ticket to the next game - Cardiff I believe. I went back about 2 years ago to recreate the picture - but for some reason they never ran the story in the programme.”
Being asked about his best moments at the ground, City supporter Paul Baker said, “Any moment standing on the shippo end with my friends, my then girlfriend & most of all my dad. No new will ever create the memories I have. I stood with strangers who became friends for life & Bootham Crescent will live on forever........”
City fan Dean Wade celebrating in the 80's.
Lifelong fan Dean Wade looked back on his memories at the ground, “My first visit to Bootham Crescent was in April 1981. A 2-0 win against Crewe Alexandra. I don't recall too much of the game itself but I do have vivid memories of being sat in the Popular Stand with my dad, gazing out over the white picket fence towards the pitch & the City players in their matt red Admiral shirts, blue shorts & white socks.
A little over three years later in May 1984 I was sat in the Popular Stand once again with my dad watching City beat Bury 3-0 in front of 8,000 fans. This was a very special day in the history of YCFC & Bootham Crescent. The football club were crowned champions of the Canon League Division Four. Not only was this amazing team league champions but they were also record breakers too. The first club to reach over 100 points in a season. At the final whistle the white picket fence was vaulted & both me and my dad alongside thousands of other City fans spilled on to the hallowed turf to salute Denis Smith's champions. I was 9 years old & as a follower of York City Football Club for 40 years that day remains my all time favourite game & my most treasured memory of Bootham Crescent.”
Barry King recounted the moment, almost a year ago when the final goal at Bootham Crescent was scored: On the 28th December 2020, he witnessed his son (Josh King),”score not only the winning goal v Guiseley but the last goal York City scored at Bootham.”
Steve Mortimer said his, “best moment was watching Andy Provan score with a header at the Shipton St. end!”
Finally, here is what Christopher Taylor had to say about the departure from Bootham Crescent: ”Having been invited to write about my "best moments" at Bootham Crescent, I immediately thought of a league match in 1997 when we came back from 3-1 down against Carlisle United to win 4-3. I thought of Liverpool's visits, Manchester City and United, and more big matches. I also thought of the FA Cup match versus Stockport County in October 2019, when the atmosphere felt as good as ever.
Sincerely though, what I miss most of all is the feeling of an ordinary league match in, say, 1987, versus Chesterfield or Doncaster or Grimsby or Exeter. Anybody. The exact year and opposition do not matter; it's the ordinariness of a mid-table occasion with no threat of relegation and no realistic hope of promotion that I miss.
Why so? Well, the unremarkable stature of the match is what underlines my great affection for the venue. I look back with fondness at a time when Bootham Crescent's days were not numbered. I look back at ordinary home wins, but also at indifferent performances and bad results, the disappointment of which I was insulated from by the warmth of many years of memories and familiarity, all contained in the bricks, concrete and surroundings of a very special place. I miss Bootham Crescent awfully. Leaving it is not progress in my book.”
To close out this article, I would like to say a huge thank you to every single fan who has contributed above and I really appreciate it.