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Issue 080. March 24, 2021.
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The daily email newsletter serving York City fans since 1997

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Grahame Hicks (Pocklington)

I remember Peter Lorimer playing for York. A class act but the early bath  I remember well.

As a Chelsea supporter prior to relocating up North, I also had the pleasure of seeing him play in the First Division. Obviously not playing for Chelsea!
Richard Adams (Chairman, York City Vice Presidents)

Vice Presidents ‘200 Club’ 

The third of four draws took place on Wednesday 24th March 2021. The draw was carried out complying with the Covid 19 Guidelines and Protocol and strict social distancing procedures, the winners were drawn by the Mr Grant Niblo.  

The draw took place in The Residence Foyer where Grant is the head concierge – my thanks to Grant who is also a Manchester City fan.

Due to the increased membership for 2020-21 we are able to add a second Bonus Prize to our usual structure.

Bonus Prize:  £200.00 67 – Dave West
2nd Bonus Prize: £150.00 213 – Adele Walker
1st Prize:  £100.00  107 – R Blackburn  
2nd Prize  £75.00 121 – Graham Walker
3rd Prize £50.00 84 – Mike White
4th Prize  £25.00 183 – Richard Moor

Congratulations to the winners and my thanks to all members for their support and contribution.
We catch up with news of former York City players, managers and staff.

Former York City star Matty Blair's career story: From promoting toilet roll to becoming promotion specialist

By Jon Palmer

Cheltenham Town wing-back Matty Blair once appeared dressed as an Andrex puppy at the Bullring shopping centre in Birmingham.

He was promoting toilet roll before becoming a specialist in a different kind of promotion in his current job as a professional footballer.

“I have done pretty much everything and anything, but all the jobs I did were based around giving my football the best opportunity,” Blair said.

“I knew that if I reached 23 or 24 and not made it, my chance had probably gone and I’d just play part-time along with a career.

“I spent one year at sixth form, but basically just played table tennis every day, did very little work and failed.”

An apprenticeship as an electrician followed, but he struggled to make the hours complement semi-professional football, so he spent time working shifts in a pub and a restaurant before a spell as a courier.

He was then given the opportunity to work for his brother and sister-in-law’s company, which resulted in some weird and wonderful roles and gave him some unforgettable experiences.

“You know those people you see in town handing out freebies or flyers and you just ignore them? I was that annoying person!” Blair said.

“It was often at the NEC and related to the Good Food Show or something like that, when the big events were on.

“But one of the best was dancing around the Bullring as an Andrex puppy and nobody knew it was me.”

Blair started out in senior football with Racing Club Warwick before a spell with Stratford Town, who were then managed by Cheltenham's current director of football, Micky Moore.

He began a rise through the divisions by joining Bedworth, Redditch, Telford and then Kidderminster, but he continued to pick up bonus cash outside of football with some more weird and wonderful roles.

“I remember scoring a hat-trick for Kidderminster at Grimsby in a 3-3 draw and after the game I want to meet my brother and his wife in Nottingham,” he said.

“We were giving out Captain Morgan Spiced Rum in a pub and nobody had a clue who I was or that I’d just scored three goals in a National League match.

“Another time we played Crawley at home on a Tuesday night and I went home, played Call of Duty for about four hours and then did milkman style shifts dropping Tropicana orange juice outside people’s doors around Solihull, Coventry, Birmingham and Nuneaton.

“The shift was 2am to 7am, but it kept the money coming in and worked around football.

"I’d go to training in the morning and then go home and have a sleep, but I did what I could and it’s all worth it now.”

Blair’s enterprise paid off and his upward trajectory continued after signing for York City in 2011, giving him a truly memorable season under boss Gary Mills.

“I remember discussing it with my brother and it’ll be 10 years this summer since I joined York, but you couldn’t write it any better than how that season panned out for me,” he said.

“I scored 20 goals, played pretty much every game and scored in the semi-finals and final of both the FA Trophy and play-offs and we won both.

“That season set me up to kick on into the Football League and I’ve not looked back, trying to stay in it for as long as I can.”

Blair operated on the right of a 4-3-3 formation under Mills, with Ashley Chambers on the left and Jason Walker down the middle, forming a deadly forward line.

“The manager let me do what I wanted effectively because he knew I’d never sack it off,” he said.

“All 20 of my goals were one touch, never more than six yards out because I was also tapping them in at the back post.”

Mills’ replacement Nigel Worthington withdrew a new contract offer at Bootham Crescent and Blair very nearly joined Portsmouth, with the signing erroneously announced.

“I went down to chat to Guy Whittingham (Pompey manager), but Fleetwood and Mansfield were also interested and I wanted to meet with all of them,” he said.

“Guy had to apologise because a story had gone out saying that I’d signed and I remember suddenly getting a lot more Twitter followers as it’s obviously a big club.

“But Graham Alexander at Fleetwood impressed me the most and I felt that was the right club for me to kick on again. We went up to League One, so it proved to be the right decision.”

During his early months at Fleetwood, Blair spent time on loan at Northampton Town, scoring against Cheltenham at Whaddon Road in what was Chris Wilder’s first match in charge of the Cobblers.

He picked up an injury after a training ground collision with ex-Robins midfielder Darren Carter and returned to Fleetwood to regain fitness.

It was at that time Blair’s elder brother Ross was diagnosed with a brain tumour, which claimed his life at the age of 32.

“The diagnosis changed everything and I didn’t want to go from home in Coventry and Fleetwood to train, but Graham Alexander was superb with the way he treated me throughout," he said.

“He told me not to worry about football and to focus on family, but he always kept in touch with me. When it was time to go back up and crack on, I felt like a different player because a lot of worries about why I hadn’t been playing and things like that had gone.

“I was focused on trying to enjoy my football and after not even being in the squad, I remember being called back into the team against Bristol Rovers at home and I actually thought some of the lads were bantering me at first.

“But I started the next 15 or 20 games, including the play-off semi-final and the final at Wembley and it all clicked for me.

"That was some of my best football, enjoying my football and worrying about family, nothing else mattered. We beat Burton in the final and went up.”

Blair found opportunities hard to come by the following season and joined Cambridge United for a loan spell, before making a permanent switch to Mansfield.

“I decided it was time to call it a day at Fleetwood and I could commute to Mansfield from home,” he said.

“I then had the first experience of a serious injury to contend with and that was a learning curve because when you are younger you feel indestructible.”

Blair moved on to Doncaster in the summer of 2016, helping them win automatic promotion under Darren Ferguson in the first of his four years with the club, where he played alongside current Cheltenham team mates Alfie May and Andy Williams.

“We had some really talented lads when I joined like Tommy Rowe, James Coppinger and John Marquis, who is now flying at Portsmouth,” he said.

“The only thing that went wrong is that we didn’t win the league, which we should have, but promotion was secured at the end of March.

“Portsmouth (who thrashed Cheltenham 6-1 on the final day) were only top of the league for 15 minutes of the season, but they were there when it mattered, but we know we should have won it.”

Blair had been in League One with Fleetwood, but he was given his first proper taste of regular football in the third tier, signing a new three-year contract.

He helped Rovers reach the League One play-offs in 2018/19, but they lost out on penalties to Charlton Athletic in the semi-finals.

That season provided him with another moment to savour, rivalling his previous successes at York, Fleetwood and Donny.

“From a career point of view York was a dream season and at Fleetwood there is a photo of me on the pitch with my brother and cousin celebrating, with all my friends there watching and that was a ‘wow’ moment.

“But in terms of a single moment, winning against Coventry to get into the play-offs was special.

“We were doing a lap of honour and my wife (Xanthe) and boy (Archie), nieces, nephews, sister and sister-in-law were all running at us and we had one big hug – it’ll take a lot to top that moment.”

Blair was hit by an injury early on last term, which was misdiagnosed. He ended up being sidelined until January and it was not long before Covid-19 halted the campaign in March.

“I was offered a contract with a massive reduction in wages and one thing I am not is greedy, but I couldn’t afford to take the contract,” he said.

“I asked to go back and train as I was in Doncaster’s Covid bubble, but in the end I was told I couldn’t as trialists weren’t allowed.

"I feel I was used in terms of the political side of it all, but it happens, there is no point crying about it and you just crack on.”

It was then that Blair was invited to train with Cheltenham to regain his fitness, with his old manager at Stratford Moore playing a big part in the opportunity.

“I’ve always stayed in touch with Micky, who has helped and advised me all the way,” he said. “I speak to him about football and life and we get on well.

"I had been training on my own and even went to my local side Balsall Hornets to do a few sessions to get the football going again.

“I was then given the chance to train with Cheltenham for a couple of weeks, but they said there was nothing for me in terms of a contract.

“The gaffer (Michael Duff) was also very honest and said he knew what I could do, but couldn’t offer me anything.”

Things changed quickly, with Sean Long suffering an injury and Ryan Broom departing for Peterborough United, opening the door for Blair to earn a one-year contract.

“I am grateful that Broomy 's move happened!” Blair said. “I played in a couple of friendlies having not had much football for five months and I felt my hamstring and thought that might have been that.

"But the gaffer said the deal was there for me to sign a couple of weeks later as long as the hammy was okay.

“I knew Gav (Crowe) from Kidderminster and he's a protective physio.

"He persuaded me to come off at Bristol City when I felt the twinge because I could have made it a lot more serious.

"I got back fit, played more games and here we are; hopefully we can finish off the season now.”

Cheltenham go into this weekend’s trip to Morecambe top of the table with 10 matches left to play.

Blair is chasing yet another promotion, although like everyone in the camp, he is refusing to look further ahead than trying to win the next half of football.

He has however already achieved one of his early career goals, which was to stop people always referring to him as “Andy Blair’s son”.

His father enjoyed a successful career as a pro with Coventry City and Sheffield Wednesday, also being, including in Aston Villa’s match day squad when they won the 1982 European Cup.

“I always had that tag and it was always in the programmes during the early part of my career,” Blair said.

“It drove me on more than ever really and regardless of how far I made it, I wanted to be my own person and make my own name.

“People might think my dad’s career helped me get to where I am, but it didn’t open any doors or do me any favours and it actually hindered me in some regard. I just started out at my local club and worked my way up.

“My dad now gets his football kicks out of watching me along with my uncle Mark, but obviously they can’t at the moment due to Covid.”

Blair, whose wife is 37 weeks pregnant with their second child, has been a revelation at right wing-back this season, making 38 starts and four substitute appearances, along with two goals.

At 31, he is one of the quickest in the squad and retains the energy levels that have served him so well throughout a career that has blossomed since those early days of trying to sell toilet paper in a bid to pursue his dream.

“Managers knew they’d get 100 per cent from me and a threat at the back post – that’s always the sort of player I was,” he said.

“I was very quick, probably slightly erratic, but had the energy to get up and down, which I still hopefully have now.

“I am in the top bracket in terms of speed along with George Lloyd and Alex Addai, and Alfie (May) is getting quicker too, but I like to remind Lloydy I am 10 years older than him!

“I am pleased with how it's gone and that I’ve been able to put last season to bed. I am feeling strong, so let’s crack on.”
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About TOOAB

There’s Only One Arthur Bottom was first published as an almost-daily email newsletter in July 1997 and has been distributed continuously since. Subscriber numbers peaked at more than 1,100 when the club’s future was threatened by potential closure in 2001 but more than 800 subscribers, living in more than 30 countries, will receive this edition. Editor Josh Easby started the newsletter from New Zealand (where he lives today) but has variously produced and distributed it from the United Kingdom, Australia and (briefly) Italy.
 
Over the years, TOOAB subscribers have variously supported the club in many different ways, using the newsletter at times to share ideas that have helped the club and to raise money which has been used to buy much-needed equipment (for the physio room), sponsor members of the youth team and to sponsor senior players’ kit. Subscribers (who often call themselves ‘Arthurites’) often meet up for pre-match/post-match drinks and have arranged functions together.

Editorial policy

The opinions expressed in There's Only One Arthur Bottom do not necessarily represent the views of the publisher, nor is this newsletter endorsed in any way by York City Football Club.  Wherever possible, the contributions by subscribers are published unaltered.  However submissions will be rejected or amended if they are potentially defamatory or contain language likely to offend other subscribers. Unless good reasons are given, anonymous submissions are rejected. The publisher reserves the right to reproduce contributions to this newsletter on any website associated with the newsletter.



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