Mansfield Town

After securing promotion from Division Three on the final day, Stag Colin Dobell can take a deep breath and look back at where it all went right

What has been the single biggest reason for the club’s successful season?
The promotion of Stuart Watkiss from youth team coach to assistant manager at the start of the season, and then to manager, brought a new sense of pur­pose and belief, especially for the young players Stuart had nurtured through the youth team. The success of players like Lee Williamson, who made the PFA Third Division team in his first full season, has made all the difference. 

Are there still areas of support for the club that could be tapped into if they continued to move up the league?
We are regularly told that the Mansfield and Ashfield areas have a population in ex­cess of 350,000 which, we are assured, is sufficient to sustain a First Division club. The amazing average gate increase from 2,300 to 5,000, and two crowds of over 8,000 at the end of the season, suggest there may be enough sup­port to sustain genuine progress if interest can be maintained. The new stadium has a large part to play if we are to move forward. 

Are there still people who prefer the old Field Mill to the redeveloped version?
The new stadium is generally very popular. Replacing our beloved West Stand with an even more im­pressive structure has won over most doubters. Some fans still pine for the days of con­demned toilets, eastern bloc catering and being able to turn up 15 seconds before kick-off and still find a seat with time to spare. Personally, I think the new ground is outstanding.

Does the miners’ strike still feature as a source of rivalry/abuse from other fans?
Chants of “scab” are still occasionally heard, though they have been almost entirely absent this year. I think the quality of football and excitement at the vast majority of home games has lightened the atmosphere. Having said that, I’m sure the strike will feature heavily when hostilities resume with Chesterfield next season. They are without doubt our big­gest rivals – it’s the north-east midlands version of the Manchester derby.

Milestones & millstones
1861 Field Mill used as a football ground for the first time, possibly making it the second oldest in the UK.
1897 Mansfield Wesleyans founded – the true forerunners of Mansfield Town.
1929 The Stags reach the fourth round of the FA Cup, losing 1-0 to Arsenal at Highbury in front of 45,000. The Gunners pack the defence to hold on against “plucky Mansfield”, a title still used to this day each time we lose to higher division opponents.
1931 Elected to the Football League.
1953 Field Mill welcomes 24,467 to watch the Stags lose to Forest in the third round of the Cup. The away fans are heard saying they get a much better view from the Brian Clough Stand and they are really too big for the First Division – sorry, that was in January, but some things never change.
1963 Promoted from the Fourth Division.
1964 Mansfield players involved in fixed odds betting scandal. Either that or we just looked as though we were throwing games.
1969 Reach the sixth round of the Cup and are included in the semi-final draw – 28 years before Chesterfield.
1978 Finish 21st in Second Division, the highest position in the club’s history.
1987 Win the much-maligned Freight Rover Trophy at Wembley, beating Bristol City on penalties in front of 59,000.
1993 Keith Haslam buys the club for £1. New ground promised within three years.
2001 The New Field Mill opens, quickly ­followed by Mansfield’s promotion from the Third Division.

Fondly remembered
Keith Cassells~ Never-say-die and stylish striker whose goals gained Town ­promotion in 1986 and in the following year helped us reach our only Wembley final. Possibly Ian Greaves’s most important signing – even more important than the legendary George Foster.

Best forgotten
Keith Haslam~ While the chairman is fast becoming a hero to many at Field Mill, the memory of starting the 1999-2000 season with only seven professionals and the ongoing saga of the missing AGMs, lack of accounts and the personal loan drawn on the club are hard to forget.

From WSC 185 July 2002. What was happening this month