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EVENING POST LATEST
3/December/2002 12:55:54

IT'S CURLE
BY IAN WILKERSON, Evening Post, 03 December 2002
Former England defender Keith Curle is set to be named as the new Mansfield Town manager today amid confusion over the future of former boss Stuart Watkiss.
Yesterday, chairman Keith Haslam denied that Curle was being lined up to replace Watkiss who had been sacked.
Haslam said that he was bringing Curle into the squad as a defender to help plug gaps at the back as Stags have conceded 53 goals in 20 games this season.
But, it is understood that Curle, who was at Field Mill yesterday, will be unveiled as the new manager this afternoon.
Haslam said he expected to see Watkiss this morning, although he said that his assistant Neil Richardson was "a separate issue" and he had left the club.
This comes after the Field Mill press office confirmed to the Evening Post that both Richardson and Watkiss had departed.
Haslam said: "I have things to discuss with Stuart.
"I am looking to bring Keith in as a player so that he can help organise our defence."
The Stags face a desperate bid to avoid relegation from Division Two as they sit six points adrift of safety at the bottom of the table.
Ironically, Watkiss tried to sign Curle, who was 39 last month, on a week-to-week contract earlier in the season but the former Wolves and Manchester City defender opted to spend a spell at Barnsley instead, where he made 11 appearances.
He has experience of both lower and top-level football and played three times for England when Graham Taylor was in charge of the national side, travelling to the 1992 European Championships in Sweden.
He has played for Bristol Rovers, Torquay United, Bristol City, Reading, Wimbledon, Manchester City, Wolves and Sheffield United, where he also enjoyed a spell as player coach.
He was captured by our photographer inspecting the training facilities with youth team manager Paul Holland.
Watkiss took the job after Billy Dearden left Stags to take the position at Notts County in January.
Despite managing to secure promotion on the last day of the season, Stags have struggled to make the step up.
Watkiss said: "Neil and myself would like to thank all the coaching staff, medical staff, and all other ground staff for their continued support and advice during our spell in charge.
Tonight's fans forum, organised by Team Mansfield and the Stags Supporters Association will still be going ahead in the West Stand Hospitality Suite.
The Team Mansfield AGM will be held at 6.30pm.

WE'VE TEARS FOR SOUVENIRS
BY IAN WILKERSON, Evening Post, 03 December 2002
Stags fans went through every possible emotion during Stuart Watkiss's time in charge at Field Mill but there was more to the man than ranting and raving on the touchline, says Ian Wilkerson
Some people turn their noses up at the thought of travelling the length and breadth of the country to watch Mansfield Town.
But following the team, particularly in the 11 months that Stuart Watkiss was in charge, was anything but boring.
Tears of happiness. Tears of despair. Both have been present in equal measure for a team that appeared to be promotion certainties when he took over, wobbled a bit towards the end of last season and have then found themselves rooted to the bottom in the higher division.
Thinking back to Billy Dearden's departure to Notts County, immediately after the Stags had almost taken then Premiership Leicester to an FA Cup replay, Watkiss seemed the natural choice.
Really, he was the only choice and it was the last step in what was a meteoric rise because, 18 months before, he was still running the youth team.
Suddenly, he had to cope with budgets, players who, in some cases, were older than him and actually being in the environment when the results of his team would dictate whether he was in a job or not.
Although the role with the youth team should never be treated lightly, it's a different kettle of fish having to deal with professional footballers, even if you have brought many of them through the ranks yourself.
But, when people had seen a mid-table side from the previous year marching on towards promotion, it was an easy association to make that it had been Watkiss's promotion to the role of Dearden's assistant that had made all the difference.
Many were drawn to the conclusion that it was all down to him they were in the position and, when Dearden left, he was cheered for being given the chance to complete the task.
And, in the current environment where people are focussed on 53 goals against in 20 games, it is easy to forget that he managed to complete the job.
While discussions go on about whether Dearden or Watkiss were responsible for promotion, it has to be said they both were.
People may bemoan the fact they almost threw it away in the end. But Watkiss brought Adam Murray in on loan from Derby and he was probably the most important player in the run-in.
Had he not been at Field Mill, they might still be in Division Three.
What was common in Watkiss's spell in charge was that he was always philosophical, whatever the result and, above all, honest.
If he didn't think his players were pulling their weight, he said so and, when it was his fault, he was always the one to put his hands up.
There was no bull with Stuart Watkiss.
He wore his heart on his sleeve and, whatever people thought about his managerial ability, that has to be something to take your hat off to.
There could be an argument that, in terms of Watkiss's career, success came a little bit early.
After the position Dearden left the club in, it would have been a great disappointment had the Stags not achieved Division Two football.
But, Watkiss found himself in charge of a Second Division team six months after taking over and it is a harsh world to learn your trade in when you are getting thumped 5-0 at home by Crewe and 6-1 at Oldham.
And, in the end, his hopes of establishing Stags as an outfit that should be playing above the bottom league have not been realised, although it is easy to forget that Mansfield have not been relegated yet.
Meanwhile, Watkiss has youth on his side and he is in a position to get back into the game, which I have no doubt he will attempt to do.
It would be harsh if his whole post-playing career was categorised by what has happened in the last 11 months.
Having said that, though, he still has a promotion on his CV.
For the neutral, it has been an entertaining time and there will be plenty to remember about Watkiss's time at the helm.
The scenes when the final whistle blew on April 20, and everyone knew the Stags had been promoted, will live with many for a long time.
But it seems an age ago and when the new man takes over, he could do a lot worse than show the feeling Watkiss and his assistant Neil Richardson demonstrated towards the club. They did everything in their power to make it a success and it is success, after all, that matters most.
Personnel come and go but the task of securing success for Mansfield Town Football Club remains the same, whoever is in charge.
But it seems that avoiding the drop this season will be more of an achievement than promotion last year.
The crossroads have been reached and Stags need to make the right turn.


THANKS FOR A GREAT SEASON
BY STEVE HARTSHORN, Evening Post, 03 December 2002

I suppose it just had to happen. Bottom of the league and shipping goals at an almost un-countable rate. Something had to give. Something had to change.

It seems as if Stuart Watkiss and Neil Richardson had been living on the edge for quite a few weeks. It did look a short time ago that the long-awaited corner had been turned, that was until the final few minutes of the home game against Bristol City. I can't help but think that if the Stags defence had held out for those few minutes, both Watkiss and Richardson would still be at Field Mill today.

As it was, the defence once again fell apart as it did on Saturday away at Port Vale. The whole truth of it all is that the Stags have indeed become the laughing stock of the football league, and something had to change.

As a supporter of Mansfield Town, I am torn between whether this is a good move or not. I seriously think that even if we had had the greatest manager of all time in our hot seat over the past few months, even he would have struggled with the lack of finances available. But it has been the same for a lot of clubs this season and they are not in the position we find ourselves in at the moment.

Stuart Watkiss and Neil Richardson were Mansfield Town through and through, but when the team is letting in too many goals and are fast being left behind at the foot of the table, it is just not enough.

Whoever the new manager is, I hope and pray that he is given support from the chairman. If he is not then I doubt there will be a massive change. I hope I am proved wrong and that the Stags do climb the Second Division table, for a quick return to the basement division would be too much for a lot of long- suffering Stags supporters to take.

I will, of course, support the new manager. After all, the football club is far bigger than individuals but there is, and will always be, a tinge of sadness whenever I think of Watkiss and Richardson, for they gave me and fellow Stags supporters one of the most memorable seasons ever.

However, as we now see the Stags fighting what seems a losing battle against a quick return to the Third Division, sentiments count for nothing. Seeing the Stags lose week after week is making last season seem a far and distant memory. So sad that I am that they have left the club, the need for a change somewhere had to be made.

There are, of course, questions as to whether Watkiss had the experience to manage a side in the Second Division, or that he didn't get the support from the chairman that he deserved. I also question the attitude of some of the players. They are not blameless in all of this. They know they have let us down and Watkiss. They have a point to prove to the new manager and to the supporters.

The next few weeks are going to be a real testing time. Just how long will the new manager get? Just how long can we afford to give him?

From May to December has been a rough time for all at Field Mill and there are no guarantees that the next few months will be any better but something had to give, something had to change. Whether or not the right people have left the club, only time will tell.


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