A rough guide to... Mansfield Town

Cod Almighty | Article

by Peter Anderson

1 August 2016

They own their stadium again, but its got a sponsors name. They've ditched long-ball tactics but the crowds are staying away. Peter catches up with fellow-Conference escapees Mansfield

How are you?

Mansfield escaped the Conference a full two sponsors before we did. They did it in style too. Town spent longer in top spot in 2012-13 but the Stags were numero uno when the music stopped after a stunning run of 20 wins from 23. Town were thrashing about in their wake, doomed to spend a season wondering what the hell a Skrill was.

So they’re back in the League and some pretty significant off-field issues have been positively resolved since we last met. However, this is football 2016 and you’re only as good as your club's last tweet. Let's catch up.

Short time, no see?

Promotion from the Conference was obviously important. However, if you remember our last Mansfield rough guide you'll recall some pretty awful boardroom shenanigans that needed sorting too. Don't mention the name of former owner Keith Haslam on Saturday. Just before he relinquished control of the Stags in 2008, he generously paid himself £2.3 million from the club coffers. The club didn't actually have the cash, but he nonetheless used it to buy Field Mill and made Mansfield tenants. Then he tried to evict them when they fell behind with the rent. Makes you want to send John Fenty a thank you note and a box of roses. 

It took current owner John Radford four years to sort this mess. 1 March 2012 was declared Amber Day as the ties with Haslam were finally severed and Mansfield owned Field Mill again. Unfortunately, they weren’t finished dicking around with Field Mill; it's now known by some dreadful corporate tag which I'm damned if I'm mentioning. I genuinely dread the day we have that gubbins at Town.

Back on the pitch, finishes of 11th, 21st and 12th since promotion aren't much to get the blood flowing. Worse, on face value they resemble the lost seasons just prior to relegation in 2008.

Paul Cox, the manager who took them up, left in November 2014 using the old 'mutual consent' routine. Despite the success, Cox's direct tactics were not that popular with Mansfield fans. Town fans would agree; Matt Rhead scored the opener in our last meeting. A playing budget cut and the fact that Cox himself felt he had grown stale in the role were also contributing factors. Owner Radford promoted from within and replaced Cox with midfielder Adam Murray, initially as player-manager.

Last season was Murray's first full run. He made radical changes to the squad in pre-season, on a similar scale to Paul Hurst's revamp of Town this season. The clear out included ex-Mariners Hearn, Heslop, Ravenhill and Palmer. The rebuilt squad was smaller in numbers but performed well. The Stags were play-off contenders until a winless March dropped them out of contention. They raised their hopes briefly with their season's highlight in April: a 5-0 tonking of neighbours Notts County. The visitors didn't take the hiding well. They trashed the away stand toilets and welched on the £20,000 owed for their advance ticket sales.

In the end a 12th place finish represented good progress for Murray. It would have been better but for some poor home form; Mansfield won more points away than at home. It's a pattern that's continued into this season and the fans aren't pleased despite a respectable tally of 12 points and ninth place.

The consensus is that the Stags are not adventurous enough at home. In keeping with this, they haven't scored at home in three games. If you're encouraged to read that stat, just consider that they are probably happy to see our defensive record.

Whatever happens, our visit will probably see the first 3,000+ crowd at Field Mill this season as gates thus far have reflected the fans' frustration. And like Blundell Park, those that do come can sometimes be as frustrated as the ones who stay away. During their play-off run last season Murray had to endure calls for his head

To improve their cutting edge and quiet the critics, Mansfield have signed Oscar Gobern, brother of ex-Mariner Lewis. That's not why they signed him though. They got him for his pedigree of promotions from division three with Huddersfield and Southampton. Remember Lewis? Signed in 2010, he left Town with a settled up contract and a broken nose in January 2011 (did Woodsy ever tell us what happened there?)

Mansfield gazumped Lincoln in the summer to sign Pat Hoban but the owner of the most famous blocked shot in GTFC history has been limited by injury to two short substitute appearances; neither made headlines like his cameo in May. Darius Henderson who was reported to be a Hurst target-man target in July eventually signed for Mansfield. He too has been injured and is yet to trouble the scorers.

How are you feeling?

Frustrated with their form, Mansfield supporters are also a little grumpy with the local plod getting them up early on a Saturday for a 12.15pm kick-off. It's understandable when an extra 1,000 GTFC supporters made the trip to nearby Notts County and were allowed a 3pm kickoff.

They warmed up for our game with a 0-0 draw away to GTFC B last week but arguably had a better week off the pitch when they went viral on social media with a bit of Alan Partridge or Phoenix Nights – take your pick.

If you do put your foot in by mentioning Haslam or Notts County, a quick recovery is guaranteed by mentioning Dis. We know what a class act he is so it's no surprise that he is still held in high regard at the club where he started his career way back in 1999.

Where are you from?

Field Mill may have a different name but physically it hasn't changed since our last visit three years ago. Despite the football fortune of returning to the League and some big money televised games, one side of the ground remains boarded up. This leaves the capacity at a Blundell Parkian 9,265.

Another thing to go unchanged is Mansfield's home shirt – well done to the Stags for bucking a trend and keeping last season’s shirt. Credit too for a nifty limited edition third kit based on their first-ever kit in 1897, worn when known as Mansfield Wesleyans. It's chocolate and light blue and sponsor-less. When GTFC attempted a retro shirt the idea was abandoned because these same colours didn’t work with the Young's logo. Sort it Town.

You must be so peeved at being called sexist
Mansfield are sponsored by One Call. As a promotional tool, they now and again have ladies in lycra going about distributing tokens for free beer. The witty sponsors call them the 'One Call Girls'. This isn't a gag from the pages of a Viz parody about a Man's Field (Football! Girls! Beer!), it actually happens.

But you see they can't be sexist because they have a female chief executive, Carolyn Radford (by coincidence also the owner's wife). I dunno, if West Ham can be lauded for employing Karren Brady whilst being owned by a couple of porn peddlers, anything is possible. Regardless, to increase attendances at Field Mill, the club might consider broadening their target demographic as well as showing more adventure on the pitch. 

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