EVENING POST REPORTS
MANSFIELD RISES TO THE OCCASION
Evening Post, 22 April 2002
It was a moment many Stags followers, myself included, thought we wouldn't see after Mansfield had lost 3-1 at York on April 13.
But, as the final whistle went on Saturday, Stuart Watkiss was hoisted on to the shoulders of jubilant fans and the Mansfield promotion party began.
The predicted rollercoaster ride on the final Saturday didn't really materialise as the job was done at half-time but, with the equation also involving Plymouth and Cheltenham, events in Devon were more of a concern as Stags cruised past Carlisle.
Watkiss's side were never really tested by the Cumbrians, the team whose dogged defiance against Cheltenham on Tuesday gave Stags the chance to go up in the first place.
That is not to say they were content with playing a bit part. They were not allowed to settle at all as the Stags put in the sort of performance that made them promotion candidates in the first place.
But this was not a day to quibble about missed tackles, over-hit passes and wayward shooting.
All that mattered was that Stags and Plymouth won. That was what happened and everyone of an amber-and-blue persuasion, who has had to suffer in the last few weeks as their team contrived to do their best to stay in Division Three, was finally able to celebrate.
In essence, Stags rose to the occasion. In Wayne Corden, they had a player who Watkiss was adamant could be a match-winner on Saturday, and so it proved.
Both he and Lee Williamson played better than they had for weeks and, once they were two goals ahead, there was no need to worry about Stags surrendering their stranglehold.
It's not a nice experience sitting in the stand worrying about results elsewhere.
With Plymouth 2-0 up, it was easy to think that Cheltenham could pull a couple back late on and ruin the whole day.
But maybe that is just the pessimist coming out because, as Watkiss said earlier in the week: "You are where you deserve to be after 46 games."
And there can be little doubt that Mansfield deserve to be going up after looking at the whole season - a campaign that has seen the club play a standard of football, I am told, has not been seen at Field Mill for years.
The one question mark that still hangs over everything is Chris Greenacre's future and it was interesting to see a "Good luck Chrissie" banner on display in the West Stand.
If the Bosman ruling is going to leave another club smarting then it was perhaps fitting Greenacre was taken off before the end to a tremendous standing ovation.
Despite every regular at Field Mill's determination to emphasise that their team does not just comprise of one man, they would not have got there had it not been for the number ten's contribution of 28 goals.
But it was not a day that belonged to any individual. It was a reason for a whole town to celebrate as the club put itself on the footballing map and will hopefully no longer be tarnished with the indignity of having its name prefixed with the word "only".
Having said that, Watkiss deserves a special mention for managing to pull out all the stops, attracting players like David Kelly, Scott Sellars and Adam Murray, who have come through at just the right time, and showing faith in his players when it seemed many observers had given up hope.
And so does the chairman. Many may have thought Keith Haslam took the cheap option in appointing Watkiss, but that continuity allowed the club to move forward comfortably following the departure of Billy Dearden.
And he has produced the sort of facilities which will ensure the club does not look out of place in Division Two.
The team effort all season has been fantastic and for young lads, and the less young, who have never let their emergence as a Division Three force go to their heads, they deserve nothing less. In the pub across the road afterwards, they mingled with supporters and were only too happy to sign autographs and chat about the day's events.
They are an amiable and likeable bunch and they merit every success coming to them.
Mansfield Town are in Division Two. It sounds good.
HERO CHRIS: 'LET'S TALK'
Evening Post, 22 April 2002
Stags striker Chris Greenacre today said he is ready to talk to Mansfield Town about a new deal.
Greenacre's future has been in doubt all season with the 28-goal frontman expected to leave Field Mill under the Bosman ruling this summer.
But after helping to secure Mansfield's promotion to Division Two on Saturday, the striker will not rule out staying.
"We are now playing in a higher division and we have now got to start talking," he said.
"But I'm going to enjoy the moment and then we will sort something out."
Reports linked the striker with Leicester at the weekend, as well as with a £6,000-per-week deal with Bradford.
But Greenacre said he hoped to talk to Stags chairman Keith Haslam and manager Stuart Watkiss this week as he waits to see what the club could offer before deciding on his future.
Greenacre turned down chances to move to Wigan and Sheffield Wednesday in January, opting to stay at Field Mill at least until the campaign was over.
Haslam said: "Hopefully, we can sit down and talk. I know his ambition is to play at a higher level. Whether the second division is high enough, I don't know.
"We have got to be realistic. He has got a career to look after and we have got a club to look after and we will do our utmost to get the right results."
Goals from Wayne Corden and Andy White were enough to see off Carlisle on Saturday.
And as Cheltenham lost to champions Plymouth, Stags grabbed the third automatic promotion place.
Greenacre described Saturday as the best day of his life.
"This club has spent too long in the Third Division. We have now got out of it and I'm delighted to be a part of that," he said.
"The whole team has been fantastic and I'm very proud of them. I am going to cherish this moment.
"The fans were absolutely fantastic and it is a day I will savour for the rest of my life. I owe these fans a lot. I have nothing but praise for them.
"In the last few games, even when we had a few bad results, they have kept coming through the turnstiles. I'm glad we have given them something to celebrate."
Greenacre added that he was also delighted for manager Stuart Watkiss, who took over from Billy Dearden in January.
"We had a couple of dodgy results but he stuck by us and gave us a lot of confidence to go and play," said the striker.
HASLAM: WE WILL AIM FOR DIVISION ONE
Evening Post, 22 April 2002
MANSFIELD chairman Keith Haslam believes the club has the potential to break into Division One after seeing the club gain promotion for the first time since 1992.
Goals from Wayne Corden and Andy White meant Stags join Plymouth and Luton Town in going up to Division Two.
But Haslam believes his club's charge should not stop there.
He said: "It's been absolutely magnificent. I think it's proved that Mansfield can be a good Second Division side and that we can be aiming for the First Division.
"We have got a catchment area here of 400,000 and we really want to move along now.
"People can see we are doing the right things and we are moving in the right direction, so we should enjoy this and then start building for next season.
"There is the situation at ITV Digital and everyone in the first, second and third divisions are waiting on what is going to happen there.
"But we are a stable club and we haven't got the debts other clubs have, so hopefully we will be able to take stock next week and move on."
Manager Stuart Watkiss, who this time last year was still in charge of the youth team at Field Mill, said he had already started planning for a play-off campaign.
But, with their chief rivals losing at Plymouth, the stage was set for Stags to grab third place and gain automatic promotion.
Thousands of fans invaded the pitch at the final whistle and Watkiss was carried shoulder-high to the dressing rooms.
He said: "After last Saturday, we had started planning for the play-offs. Some days it just goes for you and that's what happened.
"We'll have a couple of days to enjoy it and then start plotting for next season."
He said much of the credit went to his predecessors who helped assemble the team of young players.
He was particularly pleased that Billy Dearden, who he replaced in January, was able to keep Notts County in Division Two.
He said: "It's nice to be at the helm on a day like this but there are some people who have played a big part who have since left the club.
"Obviously Billy springs to mind, and I am delighted things have gone Notts' way, but Mark Kearney, Steve Parkin and Tony Ford all deserve a lot of credit.
"Behind the scenes, Bob Shaw was responsible for getting a lot of these youngsters to the football club and Dave Bentley has trained a lot of them.
"It's a great reward for the centre of excellence to see these lads come through and it would be wrong to forget those people who have since left the club."
"It's a good day for the chairman because he has taken a lot of stick over the years and things are taking shape here.
"He deserves a pat on the back but seeing the fans at the end, you realise how much it means to them.
"They have gone a long time without success and to see their faces made all the low points of the season worthwhile.
Watkiss is sure about the players he needs to launch a Division Two campaign next season but he will be looking to enjoy promotion for a while before diving into the transfer market.
He said: "I have given it a lot of thought. I do know what I need and I do know which players I want to bring into the club.
"But now is the time to enjoy what we have achieved.
"I was supposed to be going away on a football course for two weeks but I have binned that.
"I've had my fill of football for the time being but will still be knocking about for the next couple of weeks.
"We have got a pre-season to organise and friendlies to arrange as well as retained lists and contracts to sort out. But after that I will be looking for a couple of weeks in the sun."
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