A final hat-trick!

December 7, 2009

As you may be aware, this is my last blog. Don’t get all disappointed and teary-eyed on me, as a reward for your loyalty & devoted support- I’m writing 3-in-1. You can also call this your Christmas present – after all, times are hard! So without further ado . . .

(Part 1) Negative Dominance & Craig’s Half Term Report!

Following Tuesday’s emphatic midweek win away at Gateshead, spirits where high in the Stags’ dressing room. David Holdsworth could welcome back more fire power to his squad with Rob Duffy returning from suspension – would he have to settle for a place on the bench with Kyle Perry and Lee Morris impressing at Gateshead? Who would fill the gap at centre half with Scott Garner suspended? My money was on Craig Armstrong. Would Ollie Hotchkiss get a place in the starting 11 after his thunderous free kick?

These questions were answered — but with some surprises. Michael Brough started at centre back; Paul Heckingbottom came back in at left back – meaning I lost my £5 bet with a friend about Armstrong starting! Ollie Hotchkiss replaced Matt Somner in midfield to partner John Challinor, while Rob Duffy came straight back into the side to partner Kyle Perry.

As everybody will know by now, Stags dominated 90% of the game and should have ran up a cricket score against a shoddy Grays side – the first side to my knowledge to travel to the fixture via two mini-buses and a car: perhaps players and supporters travelled together, it was the lowest away attendance I’ve ever known – eight fans! Fair play to them! It was obvious to everybody in the ground that Grays’ keeper was the weak link, dropping everything! 0-0 at half time and Stags came out fighting and when they earned a penalty everyone thought the outcome was a foregone conclusion – Rob Duffy would bury it and get the scoring mêlée underway! But he missed, and then spooned the follow-up which was a simple tap-in. This is where Grays won a point for me – penalties are a psychological battle between keeper and taker – the keeper won and grew in confidence while Duffy hit a wall and failed to produce – eventually getting substituted for Lee Morris.  No matter who we threw on or what we threw at the keeper – he somehow, much to everyone’s amazement, kept the Stags at bay. Final score 0-0, everybody went home, pleased at how we played but frustrated at how we failed to run up a cricket score – we had enough chances, it just wasn’t our day!

Luke Jones (Pic Dan Westwell)

This game now takes us to half way through our season, and I think that despite some suspect results, we’re not doing too badly. We’re in the play-offs and will probably have to settle for that come the end of the season. I think that with all the tinkering Holdsworth has made he needs to settle on a side that will play together constantly – our best form of attack seems to be when we play the ball on the floor, our centre back pairing of Jones and Garner is good enough to bring the ball down and pass into the playmakers. Matt Somner/ Kyle Nix/ Ollie Hotchkiss/ Gary Mills all have potential to change a game and I think if they can get the ball wide early (especially at home) to Williams/ Burgess/ Briscoe we are a real force going forward. I’d like to see Daryl Clare back – now he’s got a few games and goals under his belt he could be a key asset to our side. If we’re to push on, we need to switch on and be aware of counter attacks, turn these draws into wins and make the most of our chances.

My player of the season tip is Luke Jones, closely followed by Marriott and Silk!

But hey, what do I know? I’m just a fan, just a writer! This concludes Part One.

(Part 2) Answering Questions!

I’m just going to answer a few questions I’ve been asked since announcing I’d step aside to let someone else have a go at this blog. Where better to start than ‘Why are you stepping aside?’

Well, since climbing over that fence in Barrow to join Mansfield 103.2, I’ve really started to enjoy sports broadcasting and after many conversations I feel I have a real chance of making it, but only if I take off my ‘Stags Fan’ glasses. The only thing stopping me doing that is writing this blog, and as much as I love it, it becomes difficult for me to write when I have to look at the game from a different perspective.

‘What next for you?’

Although I’m not going to walk straight into a career, I have to take a gamble and am currently looking to study sports journalism. I think I will continue to join Mansfield 103.2 on a match day, if not I’ll go back in the stands and just become a normal fan – meaning my gamble will not have paid off, but I’m focused on working hard enough to make it work.

‘Is this the end of your writing career?’

Fear not! It is not the end. I’m hopeful to return to the Chad on occasion should they give me the opportunity to write a few one-off pieces about Stags. Long term I’m also working on a book about following the Stags and how it differs being in the BSP from the league, called “Into the Unknown”. I just need to get the green light from a few people, so you’ll have to keep your eyes open!

‘Will the blog end now your leaving?’

Definitely not! The Chad are looking for a new blogger, and I would urge anyone to send who’s interested to send in an example blog entry to them: it’s thanks to this blog that I’ve been recognised and have the chance at a career. Although nothing is guaranteed, if you work hard enough you might get a chance like I have. There is no pay, but it only takes about 20 minutes on a Sunday- and they’re boring anyway, so it helps pass the time.

Give it a go, whether you’re young or old this could potentially get you recognised- and it’s really enjoyable too.

‘Which has been your favourite blog entry?’

Although I enjoy writing them all, I like most the ones where I share the stories of what happens on away trips – that always brings a huge smile to my face. I’m also proud of the ‘Meet the Manager’ one, which got published in the paper, – this got me recognised and I still get great feedback from it. I wasn’t asked to do it, I just did it so it’s little things like that which can make the difference.

(Part 3) Thank you and goodbye.

I’d just like to say a HUGE Thanks to the following people who have made this blog possible and made it so enjoyable. Tom Pegg – who gave me the opportunity to start writing it. Tim Morriss/ John Lomas and everybody at the Chad office who gave me advice about writing. Mark Stevenson at the club, who has been a regular reader and has helped me to get a few players reading! Dan Westwell for supplying some fantastic photos. Gary Mills for taking the time to comment on a few entries and chat with me. Craig Armstrong / Luke Jones – great people to interview and talk to – they’re defo on my Christmas card list!  David Groom/ Chris Priest/ Matt Gibbons/ Stacey Webb/ Bekii Watson/ Nigel Kemp & EVERYONE on the SSA Bus who provided some great days out and resulted in the funny stories being shared via this blog. Anyone I’ve missed off – there are so many- you’re all great!

Last but not at all least – YOU, for reading without fail every week, coming up to me and being generally brilliant! None of this could have happened without your support – please do the same for next blogger and if you’re thinking about being the blogger, get your entries sent in, you won’t regret it.

This concludes my blog. Thanks as always; until we meet again; COME ON YOU STAGS – Get behind the squad and get us back to the league.

Craig ‘Blogger001’ Priest.

“Mansfield Town FC; The greatest club”

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Back Home for Christmas!

December 3, 2009

Hello People! Apologies for the lack of posts recently, there was one written but I can’t find it anywhere so I thought it better to start a-fresh! I’ve been a very busy guy recently and there’s been so much going off at Field Mill, I’m back from my grotto of Stag-land to bring you up to date with my thoughts.

 I can’t believe I’ve been writing these for nearly a year now, time flies when you’re having fun! For those who haven’t noticed all the adverts on TV & Radio- it’s December, meaning it’s Christmas!

Since I last posted, one man has made a huge list, he’s checking it once, he’s checking it twice, he’s finding out who’s naughty & nice! David Holdsworth has made ‘a few’ changes to the Stags squad. Through the Field Mill doors have come John Challinor, Andy Burgess and Lee Morris. Out on a permanent basis goes the last player from our football league days, Jon D’layrea, who joined Northwhich after a successful loan spell. Also out on loan is Craig Dobson & Stevie Istead. It certainly looks like Mr Holdsworth will swoop again come January, to try and strengthen our promotion push.

Since my last post (After the win at Crawley) the side suffered their second home loss of the season, crashing out of the FA Cup to Forest Green Rovers 2-1 right in the dying seconds as the game was heading for extra time. Forest Green have since gone on to beat Bath City and now face an away tie with Notts County – gutted, yes! Eastbourne came to Field Mill and grabbed a well earned 1-1 draw – Holdsworth not at all happy with his side’s performance. As the final week on the loan transfer window approached, our home game with Luton was postponed due to bad weather, given Holdsworth’s new signings (mentioned above) chance to settle in ahead of our trip to struggling Ebbsfleet last Saturday. We hugely expected to win, and over-confidence became our greatest downfall, losing 2-1.

As November came to a close, October’s manager of the month had been victim to the curse – his next task was to break a curse as we travelled to Gateshead on Tuesday 1st December.

It’s a well known fact that Mansfield struggle away from home midweek, the last win coming at Lincoln City during the relegation season. With key players out through injury and suspension, Holdsworth’s side had what seemed like a huge task ahead of them. On a wet and windy night, Stags started brightly and had chances to go ahead, however they were caught on the counter attack once more and trailed 1-0 at half time; same old story. Clearly the side had been subject of a ‘ticking off’ at half time, and they responded by winning 3-1! Ollie Hotchkiss came off the bench to bury a beautiful free kick to level things up before the wind caught hold of Andy Burgess’ corner to make the game 2-1 Stags. The travelling fans didn’t care about the wind or rain; they could sense a Stags victory on the cards. With 5 minutes remaining Stags threw on Lee Morris who made the game safe with a neat finish! A 3-1 midweek away win, I didn’t see that when I opened my advent calendar!

So now I’m up to date with this, I think Stags have to really kick on this December and get maximum points to cement a definite play-off spot, and maybe – just maybe – push for that glorious top spot. Grays Athletic visit Field Mill Saturday, make sure you’re there! Tamworth the following week is the first hurdle of our FA Trophy run – don’t forget David Holdsworth wants to win it!

I must now get back to Stag-grotto and make sure everything’s on track for the big day! If you don’t hear from me for a while don’t worry I will return, I’m just trying to concentrate on my radio work for now. Be good children, Santa watches over you all the time! Merry Christmas, Let’s hope it’s a very Merry Christmas for the Stags too.

Thanks for reading, catch you all soon.

Craig AKA Santa!

“Mansfield Town FC; Making a list, checking it twice!”

These Are the Days

November 16, 2009

As the majority of you, my loyal readers will know, I go through certain patterns before an away game. One of these involves adding new music to my MP3 player for the journey ahead. A few weeks ago I was adding yet more music when I came across an artist called Jamie Cullum (he appeared on the Jonathon Ross show – another one of my pre-match rituals!). One of his tracks is called “These are the days” and whilst struggling to write this week’s blog, I heard this song and suddenly an idea popped into my head.

I was struggling to write because was once again I was involved with the commentary on Mansfield 103.2, and was asked to travel to the game with the station’s MD and my co-commentator TonyDelahunty – meaning I was not involved with all the banter between what is a tight bunch of friends. The Stags fan inside of me was sucked out, mile by mile. This causes havoc for me on a Sunday morning when writing the ‘Stags Fan Blog’ – how can I possibly do that when not feeling like a Stags fan!

Crawley3

The Crawley staff check the pitch following a huge downpour before kick-off.

I debated not writing an entry at all – but I don’t like letting people down, which why I was so relieved when I heard the above mentioned song – it was these lyrics in particular which gave me the idea. ‘These are the days that I’ve been missing, Give me the taste, and give me the joy of summer wine. Sometimes when the nights are closing early, I remember you and I start to smile. These are the days of endless dreaming.’

Even being away from them all for a short trip like Altrincham hurt me. I’m sure you’ll remember me telling you what it felt like. I had some relief with that trip as I travelled with my dad, but this trip to Crawley was a new kettle of fish- I was alone, with no family or friends with me – nobody who shared the same memories as me. I don’t mind admitting – how ever daft it sounds – that I felt afraid,-empty and lonely.

So many little but funny things happen on that coach – it hurt me to think I’d miss out on another classic moment. I remember a few seasons back when me and a friend created the ‘Boogie Bus’ even though the Stags had lost, the radio was blaring some classic tunes and to ‘up the spirits’ me and a friend who shall remain nameless randomly got up and started to dance – albeit badly, randomly and probably stupidly. I remember the time we were travelling back from another Stags defeat – singing along to Take That songs – renaming the group ‘Take TAT’ because of a wrong quiz answer someone had given on the way down! Signing classic hits as people got off the bus when dropped off near home. Winning away on Boxing Day – singing Jingle Bells and various other Christmas hits – Santa was a Stags fan! Going on a weekend away to Bristol, mid November and lying to the group making out the hotel owner was some sort of horrible witch! Celebrating a Stags win – laughing, joking, singing, dancing! Doing impressions of past managers, imitating the coach driver’s hatred of hot food on the coach!

I could get lost in these stories- there are so many I could get a book out of them. Maybe I will – watch this space! Back in Tony’s car, I was longing for a taste of this once more – the longer trips generally are the best for such classic moments. I’d often fall asleep on a Saturday night with a huge smile on my face because of this moments: it’s these days when you’re away from the gang that you have these endless days of dreaming.

Somner

Matt Somner's joy turned to dismay - sent off on his return to the side (Photo: Dan Westwell)

Enough! I hear you cry! Tell me about the Crawley game!

A game Stags headed into on the back of a great run, earning David Holdsworth manager of the month. Although Stags stumbled with a late equalizer in the last two games, results were still positive. David Holdsworth, clearly not pleased with performances, made changes to his side. Rob Duffy and captain Gary Mills missed out; Matt Somner and Blair Sturrock came into the fray- one of those choices caused some stir not just amongst the fans, but in the dressing room too.

Stags started brightly and showed the flair that has been missing over the past two weeks. Their dominance paid off – taking the lead on 11 minutes thanks to a Jake Speight ‘net buster’ from a yard. He told me afterwards that he just wanted to make sure it crossed the line! The lads kept Crawley at bay and even though the commentator in me is forcing my fingers to type that, Crawley did have their chances to equalize. In the second half Matt Somner was wrongly sent off for a second booking – neither of the two yellows he received were yellows, perhaps the ref needed to take a look at the conditions! So shortly after returning from suspension, Somner misses out again.

Crawley upped their game but Stags were not going to be ploughed into the mud, they kept going and earned themselves a free kick on the edge of the area following a quick break away – the most unlikely of sources popped up to score: Paul Heckingbottom curled the ball brilliantly round the wall to put the game safe.

Game over. Normally I’d be heading back to the coach singing and celebrating with my people. But once again I’d miss out and have to stay behind to do the post-match interviews with Tony. Don’t get me wrong – I enjoy these, I just miss my mates! Three points makes the trip home easier and before I knew it I’d arrived home shattered. I sent a few ‘well done’ messages to players I have become friends with and headed to bed.

I received a text this morning asking if I enjoyed the game – as a fan, no I didn’t. As a commentator yes I did – but right here right now I am a fan – bring on Tuesday night’s FA Cup Replay: even if I’m in the commentary box, at least I’ll be surrounded by Stags fans!

Thanks for reading as always and I apologise if this blog seems to lack the thoughts of a fan! I must also thank one very special person for keeping me sane via text during the trip- I appreciate it greatly.

Craig

“Mansfield Town; these are the days of Mansfield Town!”

 P.S. To anyone who’s not heard the song- I suggest you get it via iTunes, it’s brilliant!

‘R’ is for . . .

November 9, 2009

Rockets, Rescue, Replay & Relief!

After Horrible Histon presented us with the frightening prospect of defeat on Hallowe’en weekend, Ryan Williams banished the evil with a thunderous rocket – a goal that won’t be forgotten for quite a while!

Fireworks DW

Free Fireworks BOOMED The Stags Into Life (Captured By Dan Westwell)

As a Stags fan, I don’t enjoying watching my side desperately chasing an equalizer, staring defeat in the face. OK I accept it has to happen once in a while . . . but  as long as it doesn’t happen again for a while I shall be relieved and grateful!

The magical FA Cup would provide the bonfire weekend entertainment. A trip to Forest Green Rovers may not have been the most mouth-watering of ties, but it was still winnable and in my eyes the perfect opportunity to show that last week’s minor scare against Histon was just a blip. At least that’s what I thought!

I was back on the SSA bus for this trip, still involved with Mansfield 103.2 , which I will come to later. The normal topics of conversation emerged, along with a few laughs about my Hallowe’en puns in last week’s blog “Remember Remember”. I Promised not to do the same this week with bonfire night, so like a sparkler being extinguished in the water bucket, my puns are well and truly finished!

As I said above, I was still to be involved with Mansfield 103.2 – but in a different capacity. Because of contractual reasons the station was not broadcasting the show from Forest Green; instead they were doing something totally different. The station would be taking calls throughout the show from people wishing Stags or whichever local team well – and for each call taken live the station gave £5 to Macmillan Cancer Support. My role would (apparently) be key to the show – providing live reports on how the game was going and keeping the station updated, a prospect I was looking forward to. For those wondering, yes – the station DID donate £5 for each one of my calls, which must of clocked up at least £50. I had lots of airtime!

Michael Brough FGR dw

Debuatant Michael Brough In Action (Picture by; Dan Westwell)

This situation meant I was back in the stand, without the suit which has been lucky for Stags in recent weeks (so I’m told!) Back in a Stags shirt and amongst my people I quickly soaked up the atmosphere and was ready to watch the Stags win. If only Rob Duffy’s third minute shot had trickled in and not wide! If only new signing Michael Brough’s shot would have sailed into the top corner and not the keeper’s hands. With Stags unable to break down the Forest Green barrier, it was only a matter of time before things got worse for the travelling side. At 28 minutes it did. Forest Green went in front catching Stags on the counter attack following a free kick.

With the rain pouring, darkness descending and wind blowing, Stags were still unable to break down the barrier and almost conceded a second, having Luke Jones to thank after he cleared one off the line whilst I was on air! Alan Marriott also kept the score at 1-0 with a string of fine saves – routine for him really!

Before the game the players and management expressed their desire to progress in the FA Cup. With this in mind, David Holdsworth changed tactics from 4-3-3 to 4-4-2 bringing on wingers Craig Dobson and Ryan Williams. They had some impact but Duffy and Perry couldn’t hit the target. With the clock ticking down Stags threw on Blair Sturrock to try and rescue us. He couldn’t really break through, so the ball went to Williams and Dobson, who managed to win several set-pieces for the Stags.

Scott Garner FGR dw

Like a rocket- Scott Garner Celebrates his late goal (Picture By; Dan Westwell)

Somebody near the ground thought they heard the final whistle and let off some premature celebration fireworks as Stags won a corner. Centre halfs Luke Jones and Scott Garner set off a rocket-like run to be in the box for the corner, Garner exploded and headed the ball home – spreading some pretty colours amongst the Stags fans! In a flash the final whistle went, meaning a replay will be needed at Field Mill- relief for not only me and the commentary team in the studio, but relief for the players and travelling fans that had to endure a rare taste of deja vu.

I headed back to the bus, desperately trying to reach the studio to update them as I’d lost my signal. I eventually did get through and gave a post match analysis on the bus, ended with a relieved chorus of ‘Yellows’.

The way home was nicely wrapped up with talks about the game and our new signing Michael Brough, who I personally thought did well in midfield – though others will and did disagree with me. Everyone has their right to an opinion! I’m looking forward to seeing what else Brough can bring to the side in the coming weeks. The FA Cup draw hasn’t been drawn at the time of writing – I’d like a home tie, but of course we have to beat Forest Green yet!

I was told that with my help, the station had raised over £1,500 (and rising) – so a huge thanks to those who listened and called in.

Thanks for reading. With a sigh of relief I know we must not focus on the Cup draw – it’s Crawley next week so let’s focus on that and get back to winning ways!

Craig

 “Mansfield Town FC; did not get burnt on bonfire weekend!”

Remember Remember….

November 2, 2009

“White Rabbits!” or whatever the phrase is to welcome in a new month! Now into November, I’m starting to realise how quickly time flies as a Stags fan! Only 10 months ago I was sat upstairs writing my first ever blog entry, nervously debating what to write – hoping that everyone would enjoy it. So far so good I hope, and now we move into November – a month full of fun events to write about – employing various puns along the way.

And where better to start than Halloween! Ok some will argue that Halloween takes place on the 31st October, but seeing as Stags played host to Histon on that date, I’m kindly allowing myself to use Halloween related puns and gags.

On Friday evening I was told I would once again be working with Mansfield 103.2 – now extending my run to four games! I was informed by Tim Morriss of the Chad that when it came to Halloween there was a tradition amongst the press that you had to dress-up! I debated heading down to ASDA to pick up a costume, however I chose the faithful suit which some would say is scary enough!

Hot-Air..ways! A hot-air baloon flew dangerously close to the mansfield roof-topsUpon arrival at Field Mill, I found out that the club was running a Halloween-styled fancy dress contest for the kids – a great idea to get a few more families into the club, and they also held a Halloween theme party for them afterwards which again is great! I had help setting  up the broadcasting kit and was enjoying watching the warm-up when I was informed I would be doing my first live lone broadcast – I was to go down to pitch side and report on the aforementioned contest. I hope I did it justice!

If that wasn’t scary enough, Lord Barker of Mansfield arrived about 2.45, apparently he wanted revenge for me bullying him during last week’s encounter! He walked towards me looking tired like he’d been awake all week devising a master plan of evil genius! Luckily for me, he didn’t do a gruff voice saying ‘I’m going to kill you *Evil Laugh*’ – he just smiled and said hello and asked me how I was keeping. For those wondering why he looked so tired, he’d come straight from the Scunthorpe training ground after a busy week in his new job – overseeing the development of the Scunthorpe Under 9s to Under16s.

Back to more important matters. Histon were the visitors at Field Mill and hoped to spoil our recent good form by adding some ‘horror of Histon’ evil to the Field Mill cauldron! And their attempts to throw a rotten apple onto our field of blossom and happiness were working. Last week Stags played a pacer game against Altrincham with Alan Marriott getting the ball on short to either Gary Silk or Paul Heckingbottom. Horrible Histon prevented him from doing so, and reduced our distribution to direct and long – meaning Rob Duffy and Kyle Perry didn’t get the excellent service which last week brought Mansfield goals.

Ryan Williams Saved The Stags From The Jaws Of DefeatDon’t get me wrong, Stags managed to get control of the Histon broomsticks and re-capture the ball, playing some good football through Ollie Hotchkiss, who made his second debut for the Stags since returning on loan from Leeds, in the side for suspended Matt Somner. Evil Histon gave us a fright late in the second half when they broke past our defence system of lucky charms – they were awarded a penalty – which was harsh on Keeper Marriott, who in my opinion got the ball. The evil witches of Histon stabbed the knife right through their voodoo doll of Stags fans, slamming home the penalty with about five minutes left to play.

It’s at time like this that you need to balance out the ‘tricks’ with a ‘treat’. Step up club captain Ryan Williams – scoring what can only be described as a ‘blood-thirsty’ goal. Stags fans will remember that goal for months, rescuing the side in a time of need and making sure the lads didn’t fall victim to the biggest fright of all – llosing a game following all that hard work and effort. Cheers Ryan, thanks to that net buster, you’ve turned into ghost buster – banish the nightmare of defeat away from the Mill for another week or so!

Whilst the later stages of the game were perhaps a little dull, fans were treated to not one but two alternative forms of entertainment. A fireworks display which was a bit naff and badly timed (it was still light) and a hot air balloon flying dangerously close to rooftops before eventually landing (we hope) on a nearby field!

Next up, Stags head to Forest Green Rovers – it’s FA Cup time once more. Can the side go one stage further than last year – or will they fall victim to a bonfire night prank, being the naff sparklers to FGR’s Rockets!

I’ll catch you all next week, with less Halloween puns & maybe a few Bonfire Night ones instead! Until that time, thank-you for reading. Please be careful on bonfire night and I’ll see you all at Forest Green next Saturday, where the stags hope not to get their fingers burnt!

Craig

“Mansfield Town FC; Ryan Williams is not afraid of the blood-sucking Histon boys!”

To Chase A Dream

October 26, 2009

AS a young wannabe footballer, every Saturday afternoon you would head down to watch your local team play. But every now and then, they would set aside their league ambition and compete in the greatest competition in football history – The FA Cup.

You would watch your heroes, players who nobody had heard of in the bigger world, battle against various opposition to try and get a crack at the big boys.

If you worked hard enough, in years to come you would make the grade as a pro-footballer and play for the team you once watched. Then the time would come for you to play in the FA Cup and if you got lucky, you’d make the third round, leaving your lowly club’s name mixed in with the giants of Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool.

You would be overwhelmed with excitement when your small-town club from the lower leagues were handed a tasty day out and a real tough test against a Premier League side. To make things better, your childhood hero is now an established player with international experience, he is the captain of the club and now it hits you. When the sides meet, you will walk out side-by-side – as captains – as equals’. This day will be remembered and it’s all because of that magic trophy – The FA Cup.

Every child has a dream, whether it’s to captain England, score a goal at Wembley or be the all-time top goalscorer for your little club – at some stage the FA Cup would trickle into the dream. Although Richard Barker had many a dream during his footballing career, one of them was playing against one of his heroes, Alan Shearer. This opportunity came about during the later stages of his career, while captain of our club – Mansfield Town. Of course, Shearer never played for us and the story I told at the start is just an example. Barker, however, did feel that Mansfield was his ‘home town club’, telling me that he wanted to break the club’s all-time goalscoring record and retire shortly afterwards.

To answer the question that’s in your mind right now (‘How do you know this?’), Richard was working with Mansfield 103.2 radio on Saturday covering our clash with Altrincham. I wasn’t meant to be in the press box, but after bumping into Tony Delahunty in the car park, one thing lead to another and before I knew it, I had the headset on once more. Dressed as a fan, for once I 99.9 per cent felt like one. The press box is in the upper tier of the West Stand, just above the board room/directors box – therefore I was mixed in with ‘my people’, you the Mansfield faithful.

Craig Dobson Made His Debut For Stags (Photo; Dan Westwell)

Craig Dobson made his debut for Stags (Photo, Dan Westwell)

David Holdsworth made two changes to the squad that won at Eastbourne, changing his system to 4-4-2 from the favoured 4-3-3. Craig Dobson made his first start, replacing Jake Speight and club captain Ryan Williams replaced Stevie Istead. Those present at Field Mill witnessed another moment of stags history – the unveiling and switching-on of the new scoreboard. The entire ground also fell silent in respect of the late John Jarman, who sadly passed away during the week.

The Stags where determined to test out the new scoreboard and its operator, playing some nice football and not giving Altrincham time to breath. Rob Duffy and Kyle Perry were impressing Lord Barker, especially with the first goal. Rob Duffy’s quick-thinking played Kyle Perry into the box, where he held the ball up brilliantly and floated in a nice return ball to Duffy, who nodded home. Again the pair combined well for the second, Perry put the Altrincham keeper under pressure and stole the ball from him and Duffy picked up the loose ball and tapped home. Perry got the third to put the game to bed in the second half and ‘Alty’ lived up to their reputation following the clash only two weeks previous by getting a player sent off. The referee ended the game and Stags where in the hat for the first round proper.

The New Scoreboard In Action (Photo;Chad)

The new scoreboard in action (Photo, Chad)

Now being in the Conference, the first round draw has become like the third round draw – anticipation is above normal. We want a shot at our former league companions to show them that Mansfield Town are by no means a poor side. Fans where left to dream of a cup tie against arch-rivals Chesterfield or Notts County – a few dreamed of Leeds United at home. In reality, it’s Forest Green Rovers away – fine by me as we won’t get carried away with the prospect of a big cup tie and we can treat the game as a league tie and continue our brilliant form.

It’s back to league action on Saturday, Histon are the visitors to Field Mill. However, our FA Cup dream is still alive and no matter who you are, you have a dream.

One man who does not just have a dream, but also has superstition is Tim Morriss of the Chad, who was quick to point out it would be my fault if Stags lost as I was a new face in the Mansfield press box. Another man who wasn’t happy was John Lomas (also from the Chad). He was upset because he didn’t have his normal car parking space. It’s quite obvious I’ve ditched the yellow bib and taken a seat in the press box. I did feel the need to apologise to him, but after what he called me in the press box, I blatantly refuse. I’m joking of course, the guys in the press box have made me welcome and for that I thank them.

Thanks for reading, I’ll see you next week – I wonder if I’ll be sat in my seat or up high with the radio – time will tell.

Craig

‘Mansfield Town FC –  chasing the dreams of their heroes!’

Question Time

October 19, 2009

Another week passes by and Mansfield Town have yet another three points. To add to the delight of winning, we managed to do it away from home – which is a bonus considering just a month ago, Stags were lucky to get a point away from home, suffering the traditional ‘Bad Spell’.

 

  

 

 

 
 

 

Back With My Friends- The Stags Fans! (Photo; Dan Westwell)

Back With My Friends- The Stags Fans! (Photo; Dan Westwell)

 

Admittedly I’m struggling once again to write this Blog from a fan’s perspective as the business with Mansfield 103.2 is still ongoing and getting progressively stronger. I mentioned last week that should the radio business become a permanent fixture I would stop writing this blog, I would like to say thank you for all the messages asking me to carry on, it’s nice to know I’m making a difference.

  

I will be carrying on for now, until the radio business kicks off, but I will be stopping for the simple reason that I no longer fell like a supporter. Be assured that I am 100% a Mansfield Town fan, whenever I bleed, I bleed amber & blue. I just don’t feel like a Stags fan when writing these and doing the radio, because during the game I am not mixed in with you guys. I can’t get a feel of the atmosphere and write with the passion I have done in the past, it all seems a bit ‘journalistic’ and that is not the purpose of the Blog. 

 
 
 

 

Kyle Perry Shows His Delight After Scoring (Photo; Dan Westwell)

Kyle Perry Shows His Delight After Scoring (Photo; Dan Westwell)

 

For now I shall continue and what a better place to start than Saturday’s game at Eastbourne. The result, a 2-1 win, and three vital points in keeping up the chase on Oxford and that glorious top spot! Stags started well, scoring after five minutes through Kyle Perry, a nicely worked set piece floated in by skipper Gary Mills and flicked on by the returning vice-skipper, Luke Jones before Perry slammed home from close range. What better place to do so than in-front of the travelling faithful – putting a huge smile on every face; even me who I could see from the press box, jumping around and celebrating with various people! I need to see a doctor about the things I see in my head! Stags had their second on 11 minutes thanks to Rob Duffy. The Stags were now looking comfortable on the attack and it looked like the fans would enjoy a relaxed afternoon unlike last week at Alty! Had Jake Speight’s header his the back of the net instead of the crossbar about five minutes later, I think Stags might have won with ease. They didn’t and Eastbourne took some inspiration from their let-off and constantly piled on the pressure. They scored in the second half with a freak goal, and could have equalised in the later stages, keeper Alan Marriott playing the ‘Superhero’ role, making a string of saves. The final whistle went and Stags had the points in the bag. 

 
 

 

Luke Jones Gets Fixed Once Again! (Photo; Dan Westwell)

Luke Jones Gets Fixed Once Again! (Photo; Dan Westwell)

Yet another comfortable start from Stags, meant the game was safe (eventually) but a flurry of injury scares kept the Stags’ bench busy! Paul Heckingbottom and Kyle Perry fell victim to the hard pitch, whilst returning defender Luke Jones again had eye trouble, taking a knock which eventually lead to bleeding. When ‘Jonah’ gets through a game without having eye trouble, perhaps we should present him with a trophy! Perhaps the blog could sponsor it or something! “And it gives me great pleasure to present the ‘Eye not bleeding for 90 minutes’ Trophy to Luke Jones”! Sorry folks comic mode as I get lost in the moment. 

 

 Talking of trophies and cups, next Saturday sees us compete in the FA Cup 4th qualifier, taking on Alty once again. After last week’s fiery encounter, there is much hype in both camps about the game, will we see another fireworks display so close to bonfire night!? I’m not bothered if we scrape through by the odd goal, as long as we find ourselves definitely in the 1st Round proper.

Should we fail with our promotion aims, we will need a good cup run to help us financially next season. Hopefully we will avoid a replay, and secure a tie with one of our old League2 ‘Friends’! Only time will tell.

That’s just about it this week, again I’d like to thank you for all your comments and messages of support. I’m really grateful, should the radio thing kick-off I hope many of you keep in contact with me and wish whoever gets the opportunity to take over the production of this blog, the best of luck. I did toy with the idea of carrying on but as a great friend of mine said to me on Saturday evening, “if something doesn’t feel right, then it’s time to try something different.” I had to agree and also chuckle at the fact our leader David Holdsworth must have came across that expression, clearly feeling something was not right away from home, therefore trying something different which has so far paid off – long may it continue.

Thanks for reading, I shall see you next week, bringing you an update of what’s happening with regards to the blog and, of course, my supporters view on everything Mansfield Town.

Craig

Mansfield Town FC; Forever & always – your team”

Split Personality Disorder!

October 12, 2009

The question that was on every Stags fan’s lips last week: “Could the Stags win away from home?” On Saturday we answered this question with a ‘yes’ even though the result, a 2-1 victory over 9-man Altrincham was hard fought and scrappy.

With no game during the week, I was either going to be bored stiff, or by some stroke of magic be a busy Stag. As it happened, I ended up being a busy Stag – enjoying a brilliant and surreal week, mostly as a result of my Radio exploits at Barrow. I’d like to thank everyone for all their kind comments following that night – I was flooded with no end of texts and messages via Facebook and Twitter – most of which asked the question ‘would you do it again’?! 

On Saturday (vs. Forest Green), I was instructed to ring Tony at the radio station on Monday morning. I did as I was told. I was asked in for a chat – I’m not going to go into real details, the gist of the situation being  he wanted me to give co-commentating another go, but without looking through ‘yellow eyes’. Of course I agreed and announced on the Facebook page late Friday night I would once again be in the commentary box.

This brings me to the title of my blog, “Split Personality Disorder”. I didn’t travel to the game on the SSA bus, because I knew my presence was required after the game to do interviews with whoever was sent. This would take between 10-30 minutes, and the coach wouldn’t wait for that amount of time – I wouldn’t expect them to either! I was dressed in a suit, so I didn’t even feel like a supporter. I was very nervous as I knew that if my performance was up to standard, I could be looking at a career. Again I received messages of support from people, so thank you.

I relaxed by listening to Vernon Kay on Radio 1, live from the Phoenix Club in Bolton with Peter Kay – priceless comedy! Eventually I arrived in Alty, getting phone calls to arrange a meeting point with Tony. Whilst walking to the arranged point, I bumped into the SSA bus and got a few wolf-whistles – “ooohhh look at you” comments amongst other things – as well as the good luck messages. Into the ground and straight to the press box ready to set up the equipment. Most of it’s a blur, besides the view I had of the ground and the empty stands. I looked over to the away end and I saw myself laughing and joking with my friends, seeing visions of celebrating a goal, or hurling ‘friendly’ banter towards the home goal keeper! I blinked and remembered I had a job to do!

My view from the press box! From my phone.

My view from the press box! From my phone.

Myself and Tony would be giving live updates from the game every 5 or 10 minutes- depending on what was happening in other fixtures, back in the Mansfield area. Stags started 4-3-3 with Briscoe returning to the side, one of four changes, two forced with Daryl Clare and Kyle Nix at home with flu.  What a game it was from a commentator’s point of view: red cards, yellow cards, scrapping, harsh tackles, controversial goals – oh and my personal favourite, a substitute getting booked on the sideline!

From a supporter’s point of view, that game would have been entertaining but nerve racking. I imagine that some serious nail biting would have taken place!

Kyle Perry & Louis Briscoe got the Stags’ goals before 9-man Alty caught Stags napping and pulled one back. Then they had the nerve /confidence to try and grab the equalizer, with Stags failing to make the numerical advantage count on more than one occasion! A few relieved faces in the Stags support, including the picture I got of myself!

I was suffering from a case of split personality, every time I glanced over to the Stags support I could see myself, where I was standing and what I was doing. Not looking through my usual ‘yellow eyes’ was a very difficult task for me.

I apologise for the lack of detail in this week’s blog – usually I bring you a little story of what’s happened on the coach or in the pub- there’s always a story to tell amongst my friends and I have to say I really did miss them on Saturday. I am really grateful to Tony and Mansfield 103.2 for a superb piece of work experience, and I would love for it to become a more permanent fixture. If this was to happen, I would have to consider letting someone else take a shot at this blog, because although I enjoy writing it, today something just doesn’t seem right.

But nothing has happened yet, so as Stags head to Eastbourne next weekend, I’ll be heading there too, back on the SSA bus with my friends and without the suit! Look out for the FA Cup 4th qualifying round draw on Monday, with the fixture being played 24th of this month – I’m personally hoping for a home tie!

Thanks as always for reading, and thanks once more for all your support- I couldn’t have done anything without knowing you all wished me well. Extended thanks to Craig Armstrong and Mark Stevenson, who gave me lots of help and advice on Friday afternoon when Tony sent me to get some experience doing some interviews. I am extremely grateful for everyone’s help and support.

See you at Eastbourne, either from the stands or the commentary box, my fate is unknown at the moment – keep your eyes on the Facebook page where I’ll keep you updated with what’s happening!

Craig

“Mansfield Town FC; to the sea-side!”

Icy lakes of Mansfield

October 5, 2009

I’ve said this many times before: one week is a long time in football! Stags have perhaps had one of the longest weeks for quite a while – a trip to Barrow on Tuesday night not only provided a lengthy trip to the ground, but an even longer trip home, as we returned with no points and yet another midweek away hiding! The curse is still upon us, and we won’t get a chance to put it right until 1st December, when we make the trip to BSP new boys Gateshead.

The Stags headed to Barrow on the back of two home wins, seeing off the league leaders Oxford 2-1 and brushing aside BSP New boys Hayes & Yeading 3-1, thanks to Rob Duffy’s hat-trick. After a run of poor luck five games without a win, Stags now looked to be back on track following the above mentioned home wins. Us Stags fans just hoped we could continue the luck away from home and complete our first ‘double’ of the season over Barrow, who we saw off 4-1 at home during August. I didn’t expect many to travel to Barrow, it being a long way and on a Tuesday night is a huge stumbling block for the faithful. But 63 Stags fan did make the trip, heading to the game full of hope, and heading home cold, wet and annoyed following a 3-1 defeat.

The Travelling Stags Fans Welcome The Teams Onto The Pitch At Barrow

The travelling Stags fans welcome the teams onto the pitch at Barrow

However, this game will always stick in my memory, not just for the defeat, but for what I can only describe as one of the best experiences of my Stags fan life so far. I met up with a few friends in town before heading up to Field Mill for our 2pm departure. We had a few games of pool; I even got a second shot at beating Birdy, following my success at Woking last season. He was keen for revenge and quickly set about getting an advantage. I clawed my way back to a black ball game, although he claimed victory this time!

Plenty of room on the coach gave us all room to stretch out for what was perhaps our longest away trip of the season, and I quickly drifted off to sleep – my phone pumped with new music to  help me to get an afternoon nap! We arrived at the services for a quick break, and were just about to pile back onto the coach when local radio presenter Tony Delahunty appeared from nowhere to try and grab a few comments about the trip. Most people slipped back onto the bus before Tony could grab hold of them and get some comments. I wasn’t one of them and my comments apparently appeared on the 5.30 news.

I got back on the bus to a few ‘friendly’ comments from Frank and Nigel before eventually arriving at our destination. Of course the next port of call was the pub. Frank had just about settled down to watch the cricket in the main bar before Stace spotted the pool table in the other bar, which also had a TV, so Frank remained happy. A few games of pool later, me victorious over Stace 2-1 (sorry!), we all dug out the coats, hoodies, scarves and gloves making the short walk to Barrow’s ground. Inside the weather looked bleak and I really didn’t relish the prospect of scribbling notes onto wet paper (For the Stagsnet match report), while trying to avoid footballs that were wide of goal!

Inside the ground I got talking to Mark Stevenson (head of media and communications at the club), when out of the blue Tony Delahunty asked me if I wanted to help him with the commentary of the game. I was going to say no at first but after a reassuring wink from Mark, I said yes. I’m glad I did as well – I really enjoyed it and apparently sounded like a pro – according to those who were listening at home. Oh and thanks to Frank, Weaver and Nigel for all the ‘friendly’ text messages during my commentary! They were just jealous because I had a roof over me!

As for the performance, the wet conditions did not play to our advantage, causing us to be careless in certain areas, giving the ball away and generally looking like a side at the bottom of the table, not one lurking in the play-offs! The only positive I suppose you can take is Kyle Nix’s brilliant free kick which gave Stags an equaliser, before we crumbled and headed home deflated and well and truly defeated.

Rob Duffy Added 1 More Penalty To His Collection Saturday (Photo By Dan Westwell)

Rob Duffy added one more penalty to his collection on Saturday (photo by Dan Westwell)

Saturday dawned and visiting Field Mill were six game unbeaten Forest Green Rovers. Stags managed to grind out a 1-0 victory thanks to a Duffy penalty early in the first half. Again the conditions didn’t help and the performance wasn’t one of the best, but this is a results based business!

Football-wise, Stags are walking on ice at the moment, Making a few slip ups along the way but managing to pick themselves up at home to grind out three points. Let’s just hope when we head to Altrincham next Saturday, someone’s either built a bridge or put some grit down so we don’t fall once more.

My brief stint as a radio co-commenter made for some interesting conversations on Saturday. I spoke to Martin Shaw from stagsnet, Kev Goodman and Malcolm Storer – who are both huge non-league football fans and write their own blogs about their experiences. But this season Malc & Kev have both got season tickets, following the summer offer. It was nice to have a chat with them all – I look forward to more of the same, but only if Malc brings us some of the cake his friend made him! A final shout out to Pete, who was interested in our car trouble at the end of the game.

Thanks for reading and all the feedback from last week’s blog and of course my radio exploits during the week!

Craig.

“Mansfield Town FC; Dancing on Ice!”

Home Comforts

September 29, 2009

Only a week ago, we Stags fans were beginning to lose faith, having only gained two points from a possible 12.

Nothing seemed to be going right for us, whether it was a dodgy referee or just plain and simple football. Stags fans were fearing the worst ahead of the visit of league leaders and unbeaten Oxford United. With a bumper crowd expected at Field Mill, the optimistic script writers (like me!) were in overdrive!

Those of you who use the Stagsnet message board will be aware of the prediction league. Just before I headed down for Tuesday’s game I posted my prediction. Most people were going for an Oxford win, others played for a safe draw, Some people, like myself, predicted Stags would bounce back out of misery street with a victory. I went for a 2-1 win, although I have to admit it took me a while to finally settle with that score!

Scott Garner, Outstanding in the past two games as Captain (Photo By Dan Westwell)

Scott Garner, outstanding in the past two games as captain (Photo by Dan Westwell)

The Oxford game is one I will remember for a long time. The way we set ourselves up for the game was a testament to the character of David Holdsworth and his squad. From the moment the referee blew the whistle, Stags were at Oxford – Gary Silk setting the stall out for the back four with a very well-timed but hard tackle. Stags attacked with style, Kyle Nix being the real ‘organ grinder’ and  bringing the ball down and moving it down each wing with perfectly structured passes. By half time we was 2-0 up, and the question remained: “Could we keep our heads level and defend our lead, even grab another goal?” I knew Oxford would make it difficult for us – which to their credit they did – but our defence was outstanding, winning every header, marking tightly and just generally being courageous – showing that fighting spirit which has lacked somewhat over the past few games. Even when Oxford grabbed a goal during the second half, predictably through Constable who’s their current live-wire and one of the leading goal scorers in the league, we kept our composure and got on with the job in hand.

The last minutes were nail biting, but again a real testament to our squad’s belief and ability. The relief could be felt a mile off when the referee ended the game. Finally Mansfield had pulled themselves out of the gutter, and what a way to do so – beating the league leaders on our own patch. Being the first team to beat Oxford this season will be a huge boost to our squad. I could talk for ages about that game, but this is not a match report! I must move on to different matters!

On the back of a huge win, the next visitors to Field Mill were BSP new boys Hayes & Yeading, promoted last year. Some people may ask ‘who!?’ at this point. I’d certainly never heard of them before yesterday’s game. One thing was certain to me though – over-confidence would be our greatest downfall. Field Mill would be a difficult place for Hayes to come, but they would relish the chance to try and beat a former league side, hence why I was once again indecisive about the result when it came to posting my predication on Saturday morning.

Some expected an easy run-out, going for 5-0 or maybe even 6. I eventually settled on a 3-1 victory, hopeful of more goals but cautious of their set-up. Again I got my prediction spot on – this time thanks to a Rob Duffy hat-trick. Two goals from the penalty spot showing that even though he’s playing through the pain barrier he can still put the ball in the back of the net. Let’s hope this continues for a long time.

Rob Duffy Celebrates one of his two penaltys on saturday (Photo By Dan Westwell)

Rob Duffy celebrates one of his two penalties on Saturday (Photo by Dan Westwell)

The performance didn’t match the standard of the Oxford game, but that doesn’t matter –  football is a results-based business. Perhaps Stags were a little thrown by normal pitch markings, the lines from the band contest I mentioned in last week’s blog had now disappeared. The pitch markings did help a little to explain zonal marking; I would have loved to sit in the west upper for the Oxford game, just to play out the explanation in my mind!

The home comforts have suited us well. Six points from six is a fantastic return, but next for us is a long midweek trip to Barrow – one which after some consideration I will be taking. It’s a long way but my desire never to miss a game came racing to the surface when the SSA began to take bookings for the trip last Saturday. I just hope my the following superstitions are put to bed on Tuesday.

Since David Holdsworth has taken over as manager we have never won a midweek away tie (please feel free to correct me if I’m wrong). The last midweek away victory I can remember is Lincoln away during relegation season (2007/08) . Also to add to my thinking, which is getting madder by the minute, we have not won in our away kit this season. Is it cursed? I hope not! It’s a long trip home, and coming back empty handed would make it even longer!

After Barrow we face Forest Green Rovers back at Field Mill. This time next week we could have 12 points from 12. Time will tell! With injuries and suspensions taking their toll with our midfield, it’s hard to figure out who the gaffer will start with on Tuesday. Hopefully Stevie Istead will finally get a start! While I’m on the subject of injury, all the best to Luke Jones, who twisted an ankle in training before the Oxford game. I hope he recovers quickly and gets back in the team. Luke Graham has proved to be a decent replacement so far, forming a solid partnership with young Scott Garner – who has taken over the captaincy roll in the absence of Gary Mills and Luke Jones.

Thanks for reading as always, I hope to see you at Barrow (Well those who can face the trip and get time away from work etc!) and of course at the Forest Green game Saturday.

Craig

 “Mansfield Town FC; Home comforts go along way!?”