To Chase A Dream

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!’

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