For a man that has probably been busier than any manager in the National League, York City boss Jackie McNamara cuts a surprisingly relaxed figure.




As he sits in his office, fresh from a training session with his revamped squad, enthused by completing the signing of former Hartlepool United striker Scott Fenwick, McNamara takes a deep breath and offers a straighforward assessment of the task in hand at Bootham Crescent this season.

“Sometimes in football you have to take a step back to be able to take two steps forward”

His face turns stern and his demeanour becomes more serious as he adds “It’s the two steps forward that we all have to ensure we take now”

The step back that the former Celtic defender is referring to is the Minstermen’s gutwrenching relegation from the Football League last season.

A 3-0 defeat against Accrington Stanley confirmed their demotion to the Vanarama National League and now McNamara believes they have a chance to create

“We were planning even before the relegation was confirmed.

“We knew we had to change a lot of things at the club. We knew we had to change personnel, we knew we had to change attitudes and we knew we needed a new outlook
mcnamaraon things.

“The relegation impacts on everything at the club. Whether that’s people’s jobs, the finances, the budgets, it hits everything.

“I think the way we have recruited has changed and I am pleased about that because we have brought in players that want to play for this club, they are hungry for success, I can sense that in training.

“Maybe in the past that hasn’t been the case and I found that frustrating because during my career I haven’t seen it much.

“It’s hard to accept that players just want to come in and take money without really earning, that has changed here now.

“Sometimes in football you have to take a step back to be able to take two steps forward, it’s the two steps forward that we all have to ensure we take now”

After managerial spells with Partick Thistle and Dundee United McNamara moved South of the Border to the Minstermen in November 2015.

With the club in the midst of a relegation battle he turned to Premier League academies to try and pull the club away from the drop zone.

McNamara took youngster from the likes of Newcastle United, Spurs and Arsenal on loan deals but feels that the jump from academy football to the pressures of senior football was too much, too soon for them.

“They are told how to do everything in the academies” he said. “When they come to play under serious pressure, where jobs are at risk, they can’t handle it.

“It’s a fear, a fear of losing, a fear of making mistakes, they forget the things that made them footballers in the first place.

“We have now introduced a reserve team and I am a great believer in kids playing the way I learnt, playing against senior players, getting that experience in the reserves.

“Some can’t handle it physically, they are found wanting and we found that getting kids in from academies to try and help us survive. They couldn’t cope with the hussle and bussle, academies only help them so far but it’s not like that at our level.

“There is a bit missing between academies and first team football, the reserve or development team will be more beneificial for our younger players and for the club as a whole”

mcnamara fenwickA well as changing the structure of the club with the implementation of a reserve team, McNamara has also changed the club’s recruitment methods.

Scott Fenwick became McNamara’s nineteenth signing of the summer when he agreed to move to Bootham Crescent following his release from Hartlepool United.

The former Scotland international has completely overhauled the Minstermen squad and in doing so believes he has brought in players that will reward the club with hunger and desire on the pitch.

“The method before we came in was to try and get players to stay in League Two, whereas I would rather target League One players to get up to League One.

“Now we are in the National League we have changed slightly. We have brought in players that have had a slight taste of it, ones that have come in from a level below and are hungry to be successful.

“We had to have a big turnover of players, even if we had stayed in the league.

“We wanted a freshness and the club have been fantastic giving players everything they want but some have taken advantage.

“The chairman is a good man and he will continue to help me and the club but now we have players that will represent him, myself, the fans and the club in the way they should.

“Hopefully we will be rewarded with success”

This year looks to be one of the most competitive National Leagues in a long time.

With Eastleigh and Forest Green Rovers leading the bookmakers odds, York are seen as one of the big challengers just in behind those two clubs.

For McNamara, the National League provides a new challenge.mcnamara home

As a player he has shared the dressing room with the likes of Henrik Larsson, Paul Ince and Paul Lambert and played in the Old Firm derby on a number of occasions.

Now he moves into a new environment and he admitted that he has spoken to a manager that has acheived success in getting his club out of the National League to get a feel of what is required over the coming months.

“I went to the dinner at Celtic Manor and got a taste of what the league is about.

“There are clubs spending a lot more money that we have on recruitment, with signings from the Football League.

“The likes of Forest Green Rovers, Eastleigh, they are putting money in.

“Then there is Gateshead who are really going for it. A lot of clubs want to get into the Football League and we are no different.

“Other teams have done it, look at last season with Cheltenham Town or Bristol Rovers the season before. I spoke to Darrell Clarke to get a feel of what they did and how they went about it.

“We have the fanbase to help us, but now we need to put a long-lasting structure in place and we are doing that”

The forty two year old shrugged off suggestions that he is under pressure to return the Minstermen to the Football League at the first attempt.

And he challenged his new-look squad to “do our business on the park”.

“It’s not pressure, not really. The only pressure is what you put on yourself.

“There is a want there, a desire to do well. I have dealt with pressure during my whole career and I wouldn’t want it any other way.

“I don’t want to function in an environment where they is no desire to do well, or to improve and progress.

“We want to get back and I am sure Dagenham and Redbridge are saying the same, Tranmere Rovers are saying the same.

“We have to just do our business on the park and use the environment we are creating in a positive way”

mcnamara boothamAll in all it has been a busy summer on and off the park for McNamara and everyone at York City.

It won’t stop there either with plans progressing to move into a new stadium in the future.

But he believes that the club are now heading towards being in a position to give their supporters, who he admitted have been through “a tough time”, something to be proud of.

He said “I think the fans have had a tough time. You speak to them and they have felt we have limped along for a number of years.

“It has been tough but hopefully they appreciate what we are trying to do and to change the thought process of the club.

“That includes the academy structure in place, it includes the reserve team being put in place.

“The chairman brought me in to change the club and we knew it would be difficult.

“Hopefully there is a lot to be excited about, with the new stadium and things changing off the pitch.

“Now we have to find success on the pitch to add to that.

“It’s all part of making the supporters and the city proud of this club again”

From Champions League as a player, to National League as a manager, Jackie McNamara is looking to build a long-lasting legacy at York City and if he can succeed then he will acheive his aim of making the supporters proud of their club once again.

Interview: Mark Carruthers (@MarkNLDaily)
Images: www.actionimages.com


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