Welcome to volume two of my blog paying homage to the football clubs I've visited all over the world and the wonderful people responsible for keeping them going and looking after the stadiums, and in some cases basic grounds.

Since I was a little lad I've been fascinated in football and more so where games are played. With my love of travel and curiosity of the game I wanted to visit as many grounds and see games wherever possible. I was lucky that my Dad also loved the game and spent so much of his spare time taking me to matches. As I got older the boundaries widened owing to my location and increased wages to Europe and indeed the world. The sight of a stand or a floodlight pylon in the distance immediately hightens my senses and eagerness for a closer look.

I hope this site gives you the chance to share in my pleasure and experiences and maybe one day set you on the road to adventure. If you get half as much out of the hobby as I've done I can guarantee some great memories, good friends and stories to pass on to future generations.

Give your local club a go today. They'll be pleased to see you!

Everlasting thanks primarily to my late and very much missed and dearly loved parents; my Dad Bob Bernard and my Mum; Ann, who put up with endless years of football chat and my brothers Nick and Paul who gave me the chance and encouragement to do what I have. Thanks to all my friends who offer encouragement and Sally and Stan who inspire and give me great pride. Young Stan is showing a keen interest in my hobby!

Please feel free to post any comments (please use sensible language - I want everyone to be able to enjoy reading) or ask any questions relating to visiting grounds or events. If you want to see any ground reviewed please let me know. It will take quite some time for everywhere to appear, but make sure you keep having a look as the site is continually updated.

If you click on a lot of the pictures you will get a larger version on your screen.

I have also added links to video clips on youtube where appropriate for those of you who are bored of reading or are filling in time at work. I haven't always gone for the most obvious choices, but items that will be in some cases unusual but always historically interesting.

Click to see volume one of HAOTW.

Rob Bernard


September 2015

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Mansfield Town

Mansfield Town FC are a football club from the former mining town of Mansfield in north Nottinghamshire. The club were formed as Mansfield Wesleyans FC in 1897, like many clubs of the day through a church. Having begun playing friendlies, the club joined the local league in 1902. Four years later they turned professional, with the church abandoning them, so their title was changed to Mansfield Wesley FC.

The club took on its present title in 1910 and up until World War One, Town played their football in the Notts and District League, Central Alliance League and the Notts and Derbyshire League. After the war, Town took over Field Mill from rivals Mansfield Mechanics and became members of the Midland League in 1921.

Town were crowned Midland League champions in 1923-24, 1924-25 and after a short spell elsewhere, once more in 1927-28. Their successes paid dividends as the club were elected to the Football League Division Three South under Manager/Secretary Jack Hickling. Mansfield had a season in the North Division, but returned south until the outbreak of World War Two.

Once peace was restored Town found themselves in Division Three North, where they remained until being placed in the newly formed Division Three in 1958, following League organisation. Two years later they were relegated. Promotion came in 1962-63, but it was marred as players Brian Phillips and Sammy Chapman were banned for life after being found guilty of bribing Hartlepools United players to lose against Town.

The 1968-69 season saw 'The Stags' embark on a fine FA Cup run that went all the way to the quarter final stage. After defeating Tow Law Town, Rotherham United, Sheffield United, Southend United and West Ham United they went out 1-0 at Field Mill against Leicester City.

In 1972 Mansfield were relegated once more, but they bounced back by winning the Division Four title in 1974-75 with the goals of Dave Syrett providing the fire power. In 1976-77 Town won Division Three to find themselves in the League's second tier. However, their spell lasted just one season.

To see action from the 3-3 draw with Tottenham Hotspur in Division Two, click below:


By 1980 Mansfield were back in Division Four, where they remained until the end of the 1985-86 season when another promotion was won under the popular Ian Greaves. In May 1987 the club made its first ever Wembley appearence when they defeated Bristol City on penalties in the final of the Football League Trophy.

The early nineties saw Town be relegated twice and promoted once to find themselves in the bottom tier for the start of the 1993-94 season. It was around that time that Keith Haslam bought the club. Andy King was in charge of team affairs as The Stags reached the play offs at the end of the 1994-95 season. They were beaten in the semi final by local rivals Chesterfield.

The defeat saw several players including Paul Wilkinson leave the club. With a depleted squad the side deteriorated and just over a season later King was dismissed to be replaced by player Steve Parkin. After several poor seasons the club were placed under a transfer embargo in June 1999. Parkin resigned, with Billy Dearden replacing him.

Nothing really improved as Field Mill was massively redeveloped between 1999 and 2001 as new cantilevered seated North and South Stand's went up behind each goal. The final construction to open was a new two tiered West Stand to replace the wonderful old structure. 

A promotion followed in 2001-02, but they were demoted after just one season. Keith Curle arrived as manager in December 2002 as he gradually built his own side including Liam Lawrence. The 2003-04 season saw Town reach the Play Off Final at the Millennium Stadium, but they were defeated by Huddersfield Town after a penalty shoot out.

Curle was dismissed after bullying a youth player the following December with Carlton Palmer taking over, much to the disappointment of fans who were beginning to get vocal in their opposition to Haslam's running of the club. Palmer lasted around a season to be replaced by Peter Shirtliff who had early signs of promise, before Dearden returned in December 2006.

The 2006-07 season saw the creation of SFFC; Stags Fans for Change, who wanted the removal of Haslam and started to arrange non aggresive protests to get their point across. Form in the League continued to disappoint as Dearden was left with a poor budget, despite the occasional good FA Cup result. He was sacked to be replaced by Paul Holland at around the same time the controversial ex York City owner John Batchelor put in a bid to buy the club. Amongst his plans was to change the club name to Harchester United after the team in Sky TV's fictional series to gain more publicity. The bid was turned down following protests.

In April 2008 Mansfield Town were relegated from the Football League, with Holland being shown the door. Billy McEwan was appointed as the new boss to begin Town's life in the Football Conference. Haslam's reign came to end when he sold the club, but not Field Mill to a consortium headed by Colin Hancock. McEwan only lasted a few months, with The Stags at the wrong end of the table. David Holdsworth took over.

After two mid table finishes Holdsworth departed to be replaced by Duncan Russell. The Stags found a new owner in John Radford. The multi millionaire lifelong Stags fan and owner of the One Call Insurance Brokers came in and despite suffering a short spell where Town were locked out of Field Mill by Haslam, the side reached the 2011 FA Trophy Final. Unfortunately Mansfield went down 2-1 to Darlington in the Wembley showpiece. The Eastwood Town boss Paul Cox was appointed as the new team manager for the 2011-12 season.

Radford supplied Cox with funds to build his side and he was rewarded as The Stags reached the play offs, but went out in the semi finals to York City. Better news had arrived on the 1st March 2012 when Radford finally bought Field Mill from Haslam.

The 2012-13 season was one of the greatest in the clubs history. An FA Cup run led to Town being drawn at home to Liverpool in the third round, in a game shown live on TV. Despite the 2-1 defeat, the team gained much admiration for their display. However, this led as a catalyst in the league as Town won twenty of their last twenty four games to lift the Conference title. Radford was so overjoyed win an 8-1 win over Barrow in the run that he gave Cox his £85,000 Aston Martin car.

After a mid table finish on their return, the Stags finished too close for comfort to the relegation zone. This had led to Cox's departure in November 2014, to be replaced by former player Adam Murray.

Mansfield Town will play in Football League Two in the 2015-16 season.

My visits

Mansfield Town 3 Hull City 1 (Monday 3rd January 1983) Division Four (att: 4,517)

Hull City under Colin Appleton were half way what would prove to be promotion season. I was a regular at Boothferry Park at the time so I looked at this encounter around Christmas as a doable away game. My old mate Pete Walker agreed to accompany me, so we booked out train tickets to the nearest station at the time; Alfreton & Mansfield Parkway.

The journey meant that we had to change at Leeds. The train south from there was packed with United fans heading to their game at Wolves. I didn't envy them that as a day out. There was also a couple of Yorkshiremen who supported QPR and they were heading down to Derby for their Division Two encounter. We stood in the area now known as the vestibule, enjoying the chat.

On arrival at our station we thought that a bus was the only option as it was eight miles away from Mansfield. As it was a Bank Holiday the service was only running hourly. Another Tigers fan also got off the train. He was quite a bit older than us and lived in York. He said he was going to get a taxi, so we agreed to share the cost and save the mucking about. We got there early and found a pub up Quarry Lane for a couple of pints.

The walk down the lane to the ground took us past the rear of the imposing Main Stand and training pitches behind to the away fans turnstiles. Both ends curved slightly behind the goals. The Quarry Lane End was an open terrace, with the North Stand at the far end being covered for standing fans, with a clock placed in the front centre of the roof. To our right stood  the small seated Bishop Street Stand between two small open terraces. Finally to our left was the magnificent West Stand which stood behind a decent sized open terrace. It had a large seating deck with all the facilities underneath and had been purchased from Hurst Park Racecourse in Surrey when it was closed in 1962.

The Tigers faithful had turned up in large numbers, but they were subdued as the home side led up front by John Dungworth led City a merry dance in the first half in front of us, going into a three goal lead if my memory serves me correctly. This naturally subdued the atmosphere, but greatly enthused the locals. There were one or two scuffles in the paddock in front of the stand after City fans had gone in with the Town fans.

At full time we went back to the pub so that we could sort our taxi back to the station. It had been an adventure and even though the result was disappointing it must have been a good day out for me to be able to compile this report thirty years later.

Mansfield Town 2 Scarborough 0 (Saturday 9th September 1995) Division Three (att: 2,419)

Boro were regular opponents of Mansfield's for several seasons in the bottom tier of the League. My only visit came during my time while working at the awful Malton Bacon Factory. Although plenty of pals went to matches with me, those that went to every away game had rides sorted in full cars. I went to this encounter on the Supporters Club coach on my own.

I relaxed as our driver took us down the A1. I read my paper and started to get a little concerned as we continued south. I didn't want to poke my nose in. Our driver was a big bloke who had once offered to do awful things to me with his cricket bat after I bowled a couple of unintentional full tosses around his waist as a lively youth. Fortunately someone plucked up courage and went to have a word with him and thank goodness that they did.

For some reason our pilot thought that we were playing at Peterborough! By now I was crossing off the amount of beers I might get before kick off. The route back to Field Mill and then the traffic meant that we got there twenty minutes before the start. The stewards ushered us straight inside the ground.

It was a lovely day. The weather was warm and sunny and we were placed on the terrace next to the Bishop Street Stand. The Seadogs fans numbered around three hundred. We were optimistic after a reasonable start to the season under Ray McHale. The team with Andy Ritchie up front seemed to be gelling well.

However, this turned out into a nightmare afternoon. The referee was a total incompetent and gave us absolutely nothing as well as sending off Mark Todd. Our mercurial winger Jimmy Gardner turned into the invisible man, but worst of all was the conduct of the stewards.

The over numbered squad placed in front of us was run by a trouble making middle aged idiot, with several others looking for confrontation. The referee's actions was causing plenty of angst and the stewarding only added to it as at least one fan was ejected for next to nothing. I was struggling at the time with a a loss of voice owing to polyps on my vocal chord. I was losing the plot as I screeched at them as loud as I could. It was probably just as well that we didn't have time for the pub before the game.

It later transpired that the stewards were hired in from other events. We rowed all the way to being put on the coach. Luckily our driver managed to find his way back to Scarborough. He was no doubt ready for a beer, but not nearly as much as I was.

The photos on this page have been taken from the internet, as I did not have my camera with me on either visit.

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