THE TIMES AND DAILY TELEGRAPH ARTICLES
January 24, 2008
Billy Dearden looks for meal ticket while having to walk tightrope
Billy Dearden will take his Mansfield Town players for a hike across the Derbyshire Dales this morning in preparation for their biggest FA Cup match in 20 years, but this venture to the fourth round is no walk in the park. Middlesbrough visit Field Mill on Saturday lunchtime in a game that will allow the Nottinghamshire club, who are one place off the bottom of the Football League and in the middle of a takeover, respite from their daily struggles.
The Mansfield manager is less concerned about his job security — at nearly 64 he is adamant that this will be his last season in charge — than maintaining the club's League status. After identifying Tuesday's match away to Lincoln City as the priority, he will prepare for Saturday's televised tie against the Barclays Premier League team by treating the players to a pub lunch at the Fox and Goose on the edge of the Peak District, a hostelry owned by Len Badger, his former Sheffield United team-mate.
“Come rain, hail or snow, that's what we do in Cup weeks,” Dearden said. “We'll do a six or eight-mile walk, come back to the pub with a roaring fire and have a couple of halves of Guinness and a bar meal. I pay — then I claim it back. It is a big occasion, Saturday, and I don't want the lads to freeze. So I'm hoping they'll be nice and relaxed. Realistically, we've no chance, but if they [Middlesbrough] have an off day and come down here thinking it's easy, they might have a shock. But win, lose or draw, I'd like us to put on a performance.”
Dearden is in his second spell in charge at Field Mill, having returned after time out scouting in the wake of his two-year reign with Notts County. “They [Mansfield] persuaded me back last December and we managed to stay in the League,” he said. “Sometimes I wonder if I've done the right thing but I love this football club.”
Dearden — who was the Mansfield coach when Wimbledon, who were on their way to winning the FA Cup, won 2-1 at Field Mill in January 1988 — has been in football for 46 years since making his debut as a part-time player with Oldham Athletic, earning £7 a week during the season and doing gardening work in the summer. He trained as a plumber but has been unable to help to plug the leaks at Mansfield.
Keith Haslam, the owner, has been trying to sell the club since March last year. Stephen Booth has been brought in as chief executive to try to stabilise the club before selling it by the end of the season. At least this Cup run, with two appearances on live television, will yield more than £500,000.
“I've loved every minute of it, even though we've been down there [near the foot of the table] ever since I returned,” Dearden said. “The club's in turmoil. First it's being taken over, then it isn't — you don't know who's in charge — but hopefully this Cup run has helped stabilise things and will attract some new investors.”
Supporters clubbed together to pay £5,000 for a training base in Warsop, where the players pay for their own cook to feed them. Half of Dearden's small squad are young players on nominal wages of about £200 a week, but the ownership issues are put into context when placed next to those that Steven Gerrard complains about at Liverpool. “I say to the lads, 'All you have got to do is play football,' ” Dearden said. “But it does affect you when you don't know where your wages are coming from.”
Billy Dearden's FA cup workout
By Martin Smith
Last Updated: 1:19am GMT 24/01/2008
After more than 45 years in the game, when the FA Cup was plonked down in front of Billy Dearden yesterday morning by two burly men in suits from Soho Square, it was the closest he had been to the trophy. "I must just touch it," the Mansfield manager said. "It would be nice if it stopped here."
When the photographers asked for pictures of him alongside the famous old tin pot, Dearden insisted on holding up his mid-morning cup of tea with 'Grandad' emblazoned on the side. At 64 next month, and Middlesbrough in town on Saturday, the grandfather of three has life in perspective. "They are No 1," he says of his family, "and football is No?2." He said: "I'll find it difficult to walk away. What will I do? I will still do some scouting and go walking over the Derbyshire Dales."
The yomps over the Dales are a pre-cup ritual at Mansfield, and the players will assemble this morning for the latest eight-mile excursion. "Come rain, come snow, that's what we do in cup weeks," Dearden said.
"Realistically, we've no chance, but if Middlesbrough have an off-day, and come here thinking it's easy, they might have a shock."
The future of Mansfield, next to bottom in the Football League, is in the balance, but as Dearden says, "Hopefully this cup run will attract some new investors."
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