Book Review: Keep the Faith by Daniel Tait
“Keep the Faith” is the personal reflections of Dan Tait in supporting his team over the last twenty years. His story starts back in 1992, when the nine year old York-born Tait ignored the lure of the shiny new Premier League and the ‘big’ clubs, to support his local team York City. It was to prove a fantastic first season following The Minstermen, as the team gained promotion from the ‘old’ Fourth Division via a Play-off win at Wembley against Crewe. Just as the book begins on a positive note, so does it end in this manner, with York retaining their League status on the last day of the 2012/13 season.
So you might think that the events all seems positive and pretty unremarkable, and therefore where’s the story? Well if Horrible Histories published a book on the last twenty years of York City Football Club, then it would look a lot like “Keep the Faith”. Yes, Tait’s first season on the terraces at Bootham Crescent started well and indeed 1993/94 nearly saw a second successive Play-off Final, but what followed up to 2012/13 is a series of seasons which had some gruesome lows before the highs that emerged in York’s last two league campaigns. Tait details the activities on and off the pitch in a pragmatic manner, but with the gallows humour that supporting your team brings. On the surface Tait offers his opinions on the players, managers and board which saw the club continue to haunt the bottom two rungs of the Football League and the disastrous period which saw Chairman Douglas Craig hand the reigns to John Batchelor and nearly put the club out of existence. Worse was to follow in 2003/04 when after 75 years of League football, City were relegated to the Conference. The Minstermen then endured an eight year exile, until the Conference Final Play-off win over Luton Town in 2011/12, secured League status once more.
It is in the part of the book which relates to the years in the Conference that the sub-text to the book emerges. Relegation from the Football League to the Conference has proved to be a significant factor in the declining fortunes of a number of clubs such as Scarborough, Chester, Halifax Town and Darlington in recent years, which necessitated ‘new’ versions of these teams having to start their journey back to the Football League lower down the football pyramid. As mentioned earlier, Tait expresses his opinions and reflections in a reasoned manner through the book, but his frustrations at life in the Conference are evident in his descriptions as he follows York around the Conference circuit. Most telling of all is his expression of relief at winning the Play-off Final when Tait exclaims, “…eight long, painful years in the most tin pot of tin pot leagues…” On the surface this may seem to be disrespectful, but should be taken in context in that it is a statement of sheer joy, very much of the moment at Wembley on the day, allied with the belief and perception that his team is a Football League team with a long history.
“Keep the Faith” is a record of what it is like to follow a team in the lower echelons of the Football League, reflecting the reality of survival and the battle to avoid relegation to the Conference. It is a fans perspective on the ups and downs of football on a different planet from those who inhabit the world of “Super Sunday” and “Monday Night Football” Ultimately, Tait has captured an incredible twenty year period at Bootham Crescent in a very readable and accessible way, and which would be a good addition to the shelf of any football supporter, York fans or not. So as the 2013/14 season begins football fan will dream of what is to come and once more continue to “Keep the Faith”.