Meeting the manager

Last night the SSA (Stags Supporters’ Association) held a ‘Meet the Manager’ night – the first chance to put our questions to David Holdsworth, the man who has turned our season around since his appointment on Christmas Eve. Results have been great with only one loss in seven games – at the hands of Oxford United last Saturday. Ever since David’s appointment I have been eager to learn more, and I finally got my chance. I thought I’d share the events of the evening with you, my loyal readers who have given me so much support I can not thank you enough, so please read with an open mind and enjoy.

In no way do I claim to be a journalist, I just have a keen interest in media and Mansfield Town Football Club, you can immediately tell who the journalists are – the ones who are constantly asking questions and sometimes turning your answers into what they want to hear and sometimes not what you want to read! With this in mind I decided to sit amongst friends – my dad, my brother and my best friend. We all share the same interests and their views will also be used during the course of the piece.

The panel consisted of manager David Holdsworth, two board members Andrew Saunders and Steve Middleton (Andy Perry was absent with a back injury), Dean Foulkes of the SSA, and the remaining two seats were occupied by a gentleman and lady who are new to the commercial development of the club, unfortunately I did not manage to catch their names.

The room had a relaxed atmosphere with the bar at the back of the room, audience in the middle and table for the panel at the front. We sat on the front row so I did manage to hear 99% of everything that was said. Despite Saturday’s defeat to Oxford everyone in the packed X-Bar was relaxed and seemed to be looking forward to the evening, so without further ado the proceedings got under way and after a short speech by the Chair (the gentleman whose name I didn’t catch) about how the evening would run, manager David Holdsworth took to the microphone.

David met with a good reception and started off with tales of his playing career. Growing up in a rough area in east London his first loved club was West Ham United, and he was spotted by the Hammers whilst playing for London Youth. Other clubs included Leeds United and Watford, and the latter was who he signed for under the guidance of Graham Taylor.

Holdsworth describes Taylor as a manager full of guidance and discipline, two qualities which he admitted he did not appreciate until later on in his career. David was very open about his education in football, taking on board the influence of characters such as John Barnes, Luther Blissett, Billy Bonds and even Watford chairman Sir Elton John. David admitted that his ultimate goal was to become Watford’s captain – an honour he achieved.


At the tender age of 21 his career took a setback at a time when Leeds United, Everton and Southampton were eager to snap him up. Just 10 minutes into a game against Barnsley, David knew he would not end up at any of the aforementioned clubs, but would end up in hospital with a serious knee injury. After 13 months out of the beautiful game he returned against Plymouth, which ended in a 0-0 draw.

Before I end up sounding like a biographer I must say the atmosphere in the room was tense, with no interruptions as David continued to tell us more about his career. The audience was sympathetic and seemed perhaps to understand why David’s management style has been so effective. He believes in team spirit: a football club is like a family, someone must take charge and be a leader. David told the audience about the club at which he started to understand Graham Taylor’s style – Sheffield United – who paid half a million pounds for the centre half’s services.

David spoke highly of his respect for Howard Kendal, the Sheffield United manager, and of the importance of good man management skills and a good team spirit – something which he says disappeared when Kendal left Sheffield.

Following on from a spell at Birmingham, Bolton was where he discovered the final elements of his game – affection, emotion, friendship and family. David’s twin (and more famous, if you read the Sun!) brother Dean was already at the club. The twins got a flat together and spent a good four months together after 15 years apart. David also spoke highly of Sam Allardyce, the Bolton manager at the time.

So that was the playing career over with, and we were left wondering ‘what next?’ According to David the next step could have been a career in the media, with opportunities coming from Sky TV, amongst others. But deciding this wasn’t for him, David instead kicked off his coaching career in Scotland with Gretna. David described his time there as happy, and says he has the utmost respect for the ex-chairman who, along with David, took the club from Division 3 to the very top.

Unfortunately the Scottish club’s fortunes have taken a downturn since the departure of the chairman. It goes to show that football is a community and you only need to remove one little foundation for everything to come crashing down.

After Gretna came offers from MK Dons and the BBC, but again David’s belief in ‘seizing the right opportunities’ cut in and he declined the offers.

Next came a short spell as Ilkeston Town manager – saving the club from relegation by a point and rebuilding the squad in the summer with a mix of youth and experience – even stealing left back Paul Hurst from the Stags! Things were going great, and then Santa delivered an early Christmas present – Mansfield Town came in and to David’s own admittance, destiny had struck and he couldn’t wait! Two months later, here in the supporters’ bar with an audience full of questions, David seemed composed and calm, answering questions with a firm gaze.

When asked what he thought football should be about he answered simply: honesty, discipline, desire, ambition and loyalty. David sees the club as a family, a tight community where everyone pulls together. This answer went down very well.

David admits to enjoying the psychology and science of the game, saying players should not be easily fatigued and should be ready for everything football throws at them. He also understands the importance of youth development – helped by his time spent running soccer schools – and thinks he has unearthed a diamond in youngster Connor Higginson, who will get his chance should the opportunity arrive.

In summary the manager was very open about his family and how he runs a football club. He wants to be involved in everything, from sorting out the diets to handling players. He says the players understand that reputations mean nothing, you must seize the moment and stand up and be counted. David says he will be a manager who installs discipline but who also teaches players that this football club is a community setting.

The evening finished with a few more questions and speeches from the SSA and Steve Middleton – it was on the whole a enjoyable evening. I can honesty say as a Stags fan that I believe we are destined for great things under David Holdsworth. He believes, the board believes and I believe that Mansfield Town Football Club is building a successful family for the future.

Thank you very much for reading, please leave lots of comments and please keep reading my blog. I hope to see you all at Rushden & Diamonds next Saturday, and if you are traveling on the SSA Bus I will be recording comments for Stags Talk so please come and find me if you would like your comments to be recorded.

Craig Priest (Rainworthstag14)
“Mansfield Town FC; A Real Community & A Real Football Team”

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One Response to “Meeting the manager”

  1. Nicola Says:

    Thanks for a brilliant and detailed write up of the night, which I had to miss due to work commitments. Really pleased to hear Ollerton Stags’ sponsored player Conor Higginson was singled out as one for the future, a great lad (from a great, local family) with a very bright future ahead of him. Cheers, Nicola

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