STAGS FANS GET IN PROMOTION PARTY MOOD
STAGS FANS GET IN PROMOTION PARTY MOOD
by IAN WILKERSON, Evening Post, 30 April 2002
MANSFIELD Town fans turned out in their thousands to worship their heroes at a special celebration to mark the club's promotion to Division Two yesterday.
The players, who captured third place in Division Three on the last day of the season, were presented with their promotion medals by former World Cup referee Jack Taylor.
It is the first time the club has been promoted in ten years.
They took an open-top bus trip from Field Mill to a packed Market Place before attending a civic reception to mark their achievement.
Manager Stuart Watkiss said: "We are all very grateful for the way the fans stuck by us this season and the players deserve the credit."
Chairman Keith Haslam, who took over the club in 1993, said: "It's been a long time coming. We have moved a long way forward and the supporters have been our 12th man this season.
"We have got a good young side and we have got the potential to go on."
STAGS HAVE GOT A TICKET TO PRIDE
Evening Post, 30 April 2002
Apparently, this has not been a typical April as, for a change, it has been pretty dry in this part of the world.
The anticipated showers have been conspicuous in their absence and Nottinghamshire had been basking in sunshine until a couple of weeks ago.
Of all days, it had to happen then. Half-an-hour before we were to weave our way to Market Place in the town centre the heavens opened to produce a downpour usually reserved for the opening of Wimbledon fortnight or an Old Trafford Test match.
But despite the cold and brief rain, there was a healthy turnout at Field Mill to wave us off as we managed to climb aboard and set sail towards the town centre.
The excitement was obvious and rather than feeling out of place, I soon came to the realisation that the others on board had not gone through anything like this either.
No one knew what to expect, but the reaction from the hooting cars and the cheering pedestrians illustrated there were plenty of people around who wanted to celebrate.
Everyone managed to thank those who watched the precession with a wave and a clap, including the youngsters who saw it as their role in the proceedings to chase us all the way to our destination.
The innocence of youth had obviously made them believe that, since Stags had got promoted, anything was possible, including outsprinting motor vehicles.
But then, I suppose that this time last season, many of them would have laughed at such a celebration taking place.
Just as that thought had entered my head, a rain drop fell on top of it.
For probably the first time since they got promoted with the win over Carlisle ten days ago, there were groans from the team who go down in history as the side that took the club into Division Two for the first time in ten years.
The wind picked up and the frustration at the weather was diverted for a moment when everyone fell into fits of laughter at Stuart Reddington ducking as the bus went under a bridge.
But it didn't last long and by the time we turned into the heart of the town, everyone was given a lift by the number of fans who had assembled to cheer their heroes.
I was privileged to experience that rush of energy that must hit a footballer every time he takes to the field of play.
Everybody had congregated just to see the bus and the players (I was just an added extra they could not have anticipated) and the sun came out, fittingly filling the atmosphere in shades of amber and blue.
Youngsters shouted their heroes' names in the hope of a wave and some of the local boys, like Les Robinson, Danny Bacon and Michael Sisson spotted faces in the crowd they knew.
Bacon even said hello to his mum during his interview when we finally arrived. Bless.
After being present at the final game of the season and watching hundreds of fans pour onto the pitch, that was an experience that was difficult to top.
But here they were, at it again, resisting all temptation to consign the season to the history books until every last ounce of celebration had been extracted.
Who cares about England's chances in the World Cup when you have witnessed a great season full of ups and downs and finished up with a big, broad smile?
Being in a position to take in the panoramic view, it made you realise how much faith these people put in the players and management of their football team.
It governs their emotions, leaves them to celebrate or drown their sorrows and this was a moment that many, who probably work and go to school with supporters of more glamorous and successful teams, could hold their heads high and say "I'm proud to support Mansfield Town."
They can now stand tall and remember the day they saw their team on a bus in the middle of their town.
The pride was all-encompassing.
It was difficult to estimate how many had attended but it would be in the region of a few thousand.
The more Stags can keep their affinity with the town and get the punters through the turnstiles, the better they will be able to progress.
There were plenty of people willing players to make sure they enjoyed the moment.
Hopefully the pictures will become a permanent reminder of what has been a great season and will be used as a building block rather than as a reflection on better times.
But, yesterday, the supporters and the club were as one and, hopefully, they can remain that way as we all move forward, whatever the weather.
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