I don’t really keep up with English football otherwise I’d have popped up the road to watch the Mansfield Town v Middlesbrough cup tie first-hand this afternoon.
Although Forest, and to an extent Notts have always been bigger fish than The Stags around here and are also half the distance away, Field Mill is only around ten minutes drive from the Kingdom of Redhill and therein Chez Frew.
Just tuning in live on the BBC and I have to say that I’m fairly impressed with plucky little Mansfield. After a shaky start when they resembled a pub team/Hearts they came on to a bit of a game and were a bit unlucky to be one down at the interval. During the second half they continue to give the Premiership side a tough time, with Mansfield forward, Balding’s pace showing up well and causing problems for the Teesiders.
It was reported that Mansfield Town’s most successful time was an FA Cup run in 1969 in which they reached the semi-final and a game against West Ham United with their awesome World Cup-winning trio of Bobby Moore, Martin Peters and Geoff Hurst. That’s not a lot to show for a piece of ground that has seen local football since 1861.
Interesting to note the commentators comments about one of the Field Mill stands being condemned and therefor empty. I had thought this applied to most of Mansfield. Pleasing also to see a few of the locals stuck up trees overlooking the ground for a free view of the game. What better way of spending a cold Saturday afternoon in January than being stuck up a tree in Mansfield?
Before the game the BBC did a little piece about the town as they are want to do on FA Cup days. I like these traditional little travelogues and period pieces and today they explained about the town’s industrially-ravaged recent past. Mansfield and its surrounding areas were always huge coal mining parts and of course we all know what happened to them courtesy of Cruella De Ville in the eighties. For that reason, although I can take part in the Nottingham sport of baiting Mansfield, I have to say I felt incredibly sorry for what happened to that and other nearby communities. Mansfield has never claimed to be a whorl of sophistication but what it did do well was dig the coal that provided the little matter of creating the electricity that lit and powered the country. Additionally on a personal note I’ve a couple of friends from the town who are absolutely famous folk, taking the town’s habit of being straightforward, straight talking and honest.
Although it’s such a short drive away, I rarely have reason to visit the town these days. In these parts all roads lead to Nottingham one might understand. In times past though it wasn’t unknown for me to trail around a few pubs in the town. Unusually these days, especially in Nottinghamshire, one would strike up conversations readily with the locals. I’ve even walked into pubs, got chatting with the worthies in there and been invited to parties at the end of the night. Very open folk in many ways then but it’s here I need to get back to Mansfield Town and it’s followers.
I can quite categorically say that I have never been as frightened going to a football match anywhere as in Mansfield. I’m not sure what it’s like these days but it used to be completely mental. One couldn’t even suggest a single local pub where it was ‘safe’ for opposition supporters to visit for a pre-game beverage. Not one. The aforementioned incident I refer to happened many years ago alighting Field Mill after an Anglo-Scottish game against of all people, our favourite ‘Sons of William’, Glasgow Rangers. Perhaps this has happened to all of us at some point in our football watching career but I got trapped between the two sets of supporters just as an almighty and fearsome ruck broke out. Now you might think that the Ger’s rabid faithful would be more than a match for little Mansfield but not so. I ran for cover into a nearby bus shelter…bad move. The shelter was soon engulfed in flailing fists and boots. I literally crawled out of there and tore off to get a Nottingham bus home to civilisation, relatively unhurt and yes, The Rangers fans ran like hell in the face of some onslaught indeed from the Mansfield lads’ formidable pit-hewn presence. Mansfield 1 Glasgow 0.
Mansfield match-day travel
Well as I write a second goal has entered The Stags’ onion bag. An unfortunate own goal by the Mansfield captain and so it seems Mansfield have had their most recent fifteen minutes of fame as the referee blows his whistle.
Mansfield Town 0 Middlesbrough 2
Well tried and a wee bit unlucky, Mansfield.
I wonder now if Gabby Logan will be studying the windows of the local estate agents after enjoying a little of the delights of the old mining town. It wouldn’t surprise me at all…