Liam Lawrence  

In 2004,  I was asked to nominate the top six cult heroes in Mansfield Townís history, for a feature on the BBCís Football Focus. One of those 6 players I nominated was Liam Lawrence. 

Below is a profile and interview we did with Liam in April 2004.

He left the club to join Sunderland in June 2004.

Martin Shaw

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Lawrence scores against Wycombe in 2003, when he scored the only hat-trick of his Stags career. Photo by Dan Westwell

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April 2004:

Details of his career so far

by Martin Shaw and Jeff Barnes, with thanks to Paul Taylor.

Birthplace Worksop, 14th Dec 1981. Aged 22. Height 5,10. Weight 11,3.

Summary:

Total: 144 appearances (including 17 as sub), 36 goals (including 12 pens).

1999/2000: 3 apps (including 3 as sub), 0 goals.

2000/01: 18 apps (including 11 as sub), 4 goals.

2001/02: 37 apps (including 0 as sub), 2 goals. (includes Bristol Rovers away).

2002/03: 46 apps (including 3 as sub), 12 goals (including 2 pens; also missed 1 pen at TeamBath).

This season: 40 apps (including 0 as sub), 18 goals (including 11 pens).

 

Currently equal 33rd in the list of Stags all-time league scorers, with 31 league goals.

Lawrenceís 11 penalties this season leave him on the verge of setting a new record. The most penalties scored in one season is 13, by Francis Lee in the 1971/72 season.

All statistics up to and including 11 April 2004.  

 

Lawrence made his debut, as substitute, aged 18, in the Auto Windscreen Shield defeat against Blackpool at Field Mill on 11th January 2000. He made two more substitute appearances in the league during the 1999/2000 season. At the end of the season, he signed a professional contract. During the same season, he was part of the youth team that reached the fourth round of FA Youth Cup and forced a replay against Sunderland, before losing out. He also played in the Midland Floodlit Youth cup, where the Stags reached the final, after a win on penalties over Wolves at Field Mill in the semi-final, in a game that this writer remembers well.

In the following season, 2000/2001, Lawrence played 18 times (including 11 as substitute) in the first team, and scored 4 goals. His first league goal was in a 1-3 home defeat to York City, which was his first full game. After the goal against York Lawrence told the media: ĒI have been waiting for my chance this season and I knew I would take it with both hands when it arrived. Iím just pleased the manager (Billy Dearden) has given me the opportunity and hopefully heíll keep me in. It was brilliant to score my first goal and when it went in, I didnít know where to run. I played a one-two with Bobby Hassell and I just struck it and I couldnít believe it when it went in.Ē He also scored at home to Leyton Orient (in a crucial victory) and Darlington, and at Southend in the re-arranged game after the end of the season. Earlier in the season, he was a regular in the reserve team which finished a creditable third in the Avon Insurance League Division 2. Meanwhile he also played in youth team cup games, as the team reached the quarter finals of the Youth Alliance cup before losing 3-0 at Leyton Orient in a disappointing game that this writer attended.

The season 2001/2002 started very well as the Stags were bound for promotion from Division III. Lawrence was an ever-present for the first 37 league and cup games of the season. His form was excellent, providing balance to the team down the right hand side and forming a great partnership with Bobby Hassell, even though he only scored two goals, a header in a 1-0 win at Exeter, and a free-kick in a 1-0 at Bristol Rovers. Then in mid February, Lawrence was injured in a car crash and missed the rest of the season.

There was confusion over the goal at Bristol Rovers, as in some places it was credited as an own goal by the goalkeeper. No official ruling was ever given (note that there are no panels of judges in the Nationwide League - they only exist for the Premier League). In the History of MTFC CD to be released in the summer, by Paul Taylor, Rob Wheldon & Martin Shaw, the goal will be credited to Lawrence.

The 2002/03 season ended in relegation from Division II. Lawrence played in every match apart from 3 league games and one cup game, and swept the board of Player of the Season awards. He scored 12 goals, including 2 penalties. He missed 1 other penalty in a FA Cup game at Team Bath, when he scored two goals from open play. 

This season, up to and including the game at Darlington, he has made 40 appearances and scored 18 goals, including 11 penalties. He has not missed any penalties.

   

Martin & Jeffís list of best goals:

Darlington home, 3-2, 2000/01, volley from the edge of the box.

Southend away, 1-3, 2000/01, volley from the edge of the box.

Cheltenham away, 1-3, 2002/03, free-kick.

Wycombe home, 3-2, 2003/04, chip from edge of box.

York away, 2-1, 2003/04, left footed curler from long range.

 

Martin & Jeffís list of most memorable goals (not necessarily the best):

Notts County away, 2-2, 2002/03, a goal at local rivals.

Chesterfield away, 2-1, 2002/03, last minute header.

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Interview with Liam Lawrence for FTYBR

The interview took place in the playersí lounge at Field Mill after the home game against  Bristol Rovers on April 12th 2004.

 

The interview was arranged directly with Liam by Jeff Barnes, and he and Martin Shaw (who also provided the statistical and historical information), did the interview together.

Us: Are you married, do you have a girlfriend, Ö?

Liam: Iíve got a girlfriend.

Us: Where do you live? Where were you born? Does your family watch you?

Liam: I live in Retford with my parents still. Iíll be looking for a house in the summer probably, when I know what my future is as Iíve not been offered a deal or anything yet. My family come and watch me, home and away. They sit just above the sponsors in the West Stand right at the back. It takes me about half an hour to get to the ground, though with traffic it can be 40 minutes. I was actually born in Worksop but Iíve lived in Retford all my life. I went to Elizabethan High School in Retford.

Us: Did you play for a junior football team and, if so, which one?

Liam: I played for Retford United from nine till about 13 or 14. Also I was at Forest as well when I was 9 until about 15 and I just swapped and changed when I was playing from club to club. I got released from Forest when I was 15 and then one of the scouts gave me a ring at home and asked me if Iíd been released and I said yes. And he said would I come down and have a trial? And funnily enough the game was against Forest. I played right back and seemed to impress the youth team manager so they offered me a YT. Tony Ford was the youth team manager at the time with Ivan Hollett. That was seven years ago.

Us: When you were a youngster, who was your footballing hero?

Liam: When I was nine or ten it was probably Gascoigne Ė he was world class. Then when I was a bit older it was Beckham. Now itís Beckham, Ronaldo, Zidane, people like that. Unbelievable talents.  

Us: Do you have any heroes outside of football?  

Liam: Not really. You have respect for people like Tiger Woods. They are heroes in their own sports.  

Us: Other than the Stags, which is your favourite football team?  

Liam: Man United Ė supported them ever since I was about eight. I still watch them on Match of the Day all the time.  

Us: If you could play for any team other than the Stags, who would it be?  

Liam: Man United probably.  

Us: Other than football, what sports do you enjoy?  

Liam: I like tennis, swimming. In the summer when the football season stops, I play a lot of tennis. Keeps you fit and itís a good sport. I never got the pleasure of playing against Michael Boulding Ė heíd have probably thrashed me.  

Us: What made you improve as a player?  

Liam: When youíre young, you read a lot of things. I used to read about people like Beckham and Scholes who used to do extra training. They used to go to the gym after training and stay around to practise things. I tried to do that as much as possible when I was a YT and I still try to do it now when I can, and practise penalties. I try and improve all of the time.  

Us: Fundamentally, how do you think Stags has changed from when you were first there?  

Liam: Itís changed unbelievably. The ground for one Ė when I came it was terrace and wood. Everything, right through the groundsman to the managers, has changed.  

Us: How would you describe the different approaches to the game of the managers youíve played under?  

Liam: Everyoneís got their own style. Parkin was a hard and fair man. Billy Dearden was more relaxed. Stuart Watkiss was a good manager I thought. Maybe with the current squad he wouldíve done a good job. He wasnít given funds or whatever to do that. Maybe Iíll get in trouble for saying that! Keith Curleís got another different approach. Heís good with the players and heís changed everything around the ground, with his own hands at times. When he first came, he got everything back into shape. I got into trouble once or twice for being a bad lad. He got me into shape and it showed at the start of the season. Heís quite a bit of a disciplinarian.  

Us: Would you know how many games youíve played for the Stags?  

Liam: I looked on the Internet three days ago. I was looking at mine and Leroyís and Bobbyís and Disleyís. Bobbyís on about 170, Iím on about 140-odd, Dis is on 150 maybe. Leroy is round about the same as me I think.  

Us: Do you know how many goals youíve scored?  

Liam: 35  

Us: Itís actually 36. Thereís an interesting story there because there was a dispute about a goal at Bristol Rovers about two years ago.  

Liam: How can that be a dispute?  

Us: Some people said it was an own goal.  

Liam: No chance! (much laughing)  

Us: Weíre releasing a history of the club on CD at the end of the season and I finally got Paul Taylor to agree with me that it would be your goal!  

Liam: Tell him thanks!  

Us: So that will be two goals you scored during the promotion season rather than one.  

Liam: Thatís shocking though isnít it, only two goals!  

Us: Tell us about your most memorable goals and games.  

Liam: Chesterfield away. Wycombe at home when I got my first hat-trick. I liked the Scunthorpe game earlier on in the season. It was a brilliant game. York this season I think was my best career goal. For importance, Iíd say the one at Chesterfield as that meant a lot to the people of Mansfield.  

Us: I meant to ask you about that celebration at York this season. You made a gesture with your hands. What did it mean?  

Liam: It meant the top corner, the angle of bar and post.  

Us: We thought it was some sort of Masonic sign. We were a bit worried about you.  

Liam: I was just pointing out to the gaffer where the ball went!  

Us: We also had down on our list of goals: Cheltenham away last season, and two of your goals from 3 years ago: at home to Darlington and then, a few weeks later, at Southend. Also, the goal at home to York on your full debut. Do you remember all your goals?  

Liam: Yes, I remember all of them. If you just tell me a team, I can remember the goal. The Cheltenham one was a free kick and the Darlington and Southend ones were volleys, Southend from a corner. The one at home to York was on my full debut. I played a one-two with Bobby Hassell. The ground was really wet I remember and when the ball came over, it didnít bounce. It just stayed on the ground for me to strike and it went in the bottom corner. It was one of the highlights of my career, but we bloody lost.  

Us: So your best and worst experiences in a Stagsí shirt?  

Liam: Best Ö well, I wasnít wearing a Stags shirt at the time, but when we got promoted. I was still involved with all the lads in the dressing room. Had my arm in a sling but it was brilliant. Though it was awfully frustrating to miss the run-in. I was sat at home with my arm in a sling listening to the radio, like when we played away when Tanks (Allen Tankard) pulled up, what was it, Shrewsbury away? Worst Ö well, that was a bad experience (pointing to a photo we had brought him from the Lincoln away game this season). The fans were chucking their scarves on the pitch at me and shouting abuse at me. That was quite nasty, but maybe it was deserved. It was shocking the way we crumbled.

Us: So tell us what happened with the injury when you missed the end of the promotion season.  

Liam: Iíd been at a friendís birthday party and I was driving back about 2.00 in the morning with a friend in the car, and Iíd gone round a corner too fast and it slid sideways, went down a path and hit a wall, and spun me back around into the road. The door crushed my arm, snapped it. It was horrible. I rang Bobby straight away from the ambulance crying my eyes out saying Iíd bloody ruined everything. We still got promoted, thank God.   

Us: You were replaced more or less by Adam Murray and Scott Sellars.  

Liam: Adam Murray did a brilliant job, good player, scored some vital goals.  

Us: Have you been in touch with Adam Murray since he left, because he sort of went off the rails didnít he?  

Liam: Yes, Iíve seen him a few times. But itís really Leroy who speaks to him all the time.  

Us: How do you avoid falling into all those things like gambling and drinking? What do you do if anything to protect yourself from those situations?  

Liam: Iíve got a strong family behind me. My Mum and Dad Ö if I go out every 2 or 3 weeks, theyíre still moaning at me: I shouldnít be going out, this, that and the other. Where am I going, what time am I going to be back, where am I staying? So, having a family like that behind you, itís hard to go off the rails. Itís good to have.    

Us: Earlier in the season you were dropped for one game for being spotted in a club, or having a drink or something, and for the next game at Southend you revealed a t-shirt saying ďSorryĒ to the fans. What did you learn from that episode?  

Liam: Never to go out 48 hours before a professional football match.  

Us: Or more importantly, never to get caught?  

Liam: No, no, it was wrong, I shouldnít have done it. I wasnít drinking, but itís not an excuse, you shouldnít be seen out. It was a friendís birthday and I went out in Mansfield of all places.  

Us: It was reported at the time, and it was probably just a rumour, that the Keith Curle said youíd never play for the club again. Was that true?  

Liam: He called me in Friday morning and said ďWere you out last night?Ē and I told him straightaway, I didnít lie, I said to him I was out for a couple of hours, I was home for 12.00 or half 12. He said ďWell, youíre not playing tomorrowĒ. He said ďitís wrong, youíve got to be punishedĒ, but he never said youíre never going to wear a Stags shirt again. That was just rumours.  

Us: There were also rumours when he dropped you for the game at Leyton Orient. He said after the game that you werenít mentally fit to play. There were some rumours then that youíd never play for the club again. What really happened around that time?  

Liam: It was round about the Rotherham time. The gaffer saw fit that I wasnít mentally right for the game, to travel, so he didnít take me.  

Us: It seems that your form dropped off dramatically at the time and itís difficult to know how those things happen but there was a thought going round that this agent Gibson suddenly turned up out of the blue had something to do with it because plainly those guys only make money when they move you.  

Liam: When I was fifteen Colin Gibson looked after me through the PFA and he was a good bloke.  

Us: So you have known him for some time then?  

Liam: Yeah, it wasnít as though an agent had just turned up.  

Us: So it wasnít as it was painted?  

Liam: Yeah, obviously things arenít always what they seem. I wasnít happy with my agent at the time because he was useless I think and he wasnít doing anything for me. I couldnít get any football boots or anything from him Ė he wasnít ringing me, he wasnít letting me know things; so I just decided to change and I went back to what I knew which was Colin Gibson. He didnít promise me the world or anything like that he just said he was going to be fair to me.  

Us: Was that at the same time as this Rotherham thing was going on?  

Liam: Yes, it was just after I changed agents, because I wasnít happy about how the original one handled the Rotherham thing as well.  

Us: Why did that fall through at the end Ė just money?  

Liam: Well the Chairman said money, so it must be money.  

Us: Chairman and money Ė surprise, surprise!  

Liam: Not really (laughter)  

Us: Youíve scored eleven penalties so far this season, which has helped to make you top scorer for the club. What is the secret of penalty taking? Do you decide what you are going to do before you run up or do you wait for the keeper to commit himself?  

Liam: I donít know. Ever since I was young I have always taken penalties for all my club sides. When Chris Greenacre was here he took them, which was fair enough because he was a good goal scorer. I just practice a lot, when I can, I practice down on the pitch here in training now and again. I decide even before I put the ball down where I am going to put it. If you start changing it puts doubt in your mind.  

Us: You might be interested to know that, having scored eleven penalties so far this season, you are on the verge of a little known record. The most penalties ever scored in a season was thirteen by Francis Lee back in 1971/2.  

Liam: Was it, was it? (sounding very interested!)  

Us: You only have four games to dive three times! Maybe seven games with the play-offs.  

Liam: Iíll have to get Junior rolling about!  

Us: What does it feel like when you score?  

Liam: Itís brilliant, you canít describe the feeling Ė itís the best feeling ever, Ö to me it is anyway. Big adrenaline rush.  

Us: Do you and Wayne argue about the free kicks outside the box. How is the decision made about who is going to take it?  

Liam: If itís around about the eighteen yard box, Cords mostly takes them, if itís anything deeper then Macca will smash it like he tried today, or Iíll have a go at it.  

Us: Is that because Cords gets more bend on it?  

Liam: Yes, heís a tricky player Ė he can do things like that, curl them over the wall or whatever, heís done it numerous times so he gets that honour.  

Us: On penalties, didnít you and Cords have an agreement about how you and he would decide who took them?  

Liam: I canít remember exactly what it was that we said. I think it was that if he misses two, then Iíll take them and if I miss two then heíll take them.  

Us: I think you have only missed one?  

Liam: Yes Iíve missed one, against Team Bath, it was the worst penalty ever.  

Us: And live on TV, but you did score two other goals.  

Liam: Yeah, I could have had a hat trick!  

Us: Whose the best Stags player you have ever played with?  

Liam: (pause) Scott Sellars was in a different class. If he had had a younger pair of legs on himÖ.. the things he did at training and even out there sometimes. He could see things other players canít see. Chris Greenacre was a pure goal scorer Ė again he was a different class.  

Us: Were you disappointed he didnít come back when there was talk of a loan?  

Liam: There was talk of a loan but I donít think he would have come back. I wasnít expecting him to come back, so I wasnít getting my hopes up.  

Us: Most fans think you are a better player with Bobby (Hassell) behind you Ė would you agree with that?  

Liam: Yes, I would agree with that, he gives me an extra option. If Iíve got two players on me and he comes round the back of me it helps me going forward.  

Us: It was interesting that you described that goal against York in your full debut Ė that was a one-two with Bobby Hassell although that was on the left hand side strangely.  

Liam: I think Bobby was playing central midfield that game and then he went back to sweeper.  

Us: I hope itís a long time away but any thoughts on what you would like to be doing after you have finished playing?  

Liam: Iíd like to stay in football, maybe a coach or a manager one day.

(Liamís phone rings, he ignores it without looking at it).  

Us: Do you or other players get to understand the feelings of the fans through the fanzine or the Stagsnet website?  

Liam: A few of us go on it Ė thereís me, Bobby, Ö Macca has a look now and then. We are not registered - we just go on and have a look. Sometimes itís mind-blowing, some of it is unbelievable Ė it does hurt as well. It takes the wind out of you sometimes.  

Us: Wayne Corden told us that he doesnít go on there because he thought it might knock his confidence.  

Liam: Thatís how we feel sometimes.  

Us: For example some of the criticism of Andy White over a long period.  

Liam: They make me laugh because they go on there and slate him, but yet they are all chanting his name and everything out here today Ė I donít understand people.  

Us: Probably different people though and itís a free world and they get to say what they want for their £15.  

Liam: I guess so.  

Us: You seem to get booked too often for dissent. How are you trying to curb that?  

Liam: Yes. How many bookings have I had, have you got that down?  

Us: (embarrassed) No we havenít actually!  

Liam: I think Iíve probably had nearly twenty bookings and fifteen have probably been for dissent. Itís hard Ė if you took that aggressiveness away from me I wouldnít be the same player.  

Us: Do some referees let you get away with it because they know itís frustration.  

Liam: Yes, but some take it personally which it isnít, but at that moment you have just got to let it out. But it is wrong and you shouldnít do it, and Iíve got to learn to control it.  

Us: What are your ambitions to play in a higher grade of football, and how far do you think you can go in the game?  

Liam: I donít know Ö I suppose every footballer wants to play at the highest level, and Iím no exception. Iíd like to play first division football. Simon Tracey, our goalkeeping coach, heís been there a while and he thinks I could manage it. Adapting to it might be different. You never know do you.  

Us: So I guess that leads into how far do you think the Stags can go? The Chairman believes that we have the potential to be a first division club. So could it be a first division club with Liam Lawrence playing in it?  

Liam: Well, Iíve not even been offered another contract yet, and itís now nearly May.  

Us: When does your contract end?  

Liam: June. There are fifteen or sixteen of us, and not one has been offered a deal. The excuse we are getting is because they donít know what league we are going to be in, so they donít know what wages to offer.  

Us: But that could go right to the play-off final which is nearly in June so you could be almost out of contract by then.  

Liam: A few of them could go for a ďfreeĒ as well, so we could have situation like when Parkin was left, when there was only nine professionals in the club.  

Us: So is that a topic of discussion amongst the players?  

Liam: Yes, it is. I was listening to the radio this morning about Sheffield Wednesday where they will have a fifteen players out of contract, and their manager said it was an issue with their players in their dressing room, and we are no different.  

Us: Is this a Keith Curle or Keith Haslam problem?  

Liam: We spoke to Keith Curle about it and he said that because he doesnít know what league we will be the Chairman canít give him any figures.  

Us: Is this having an effect on the playersí mental approach and nervousness in the game?  

Liam: Yes, maybe. I think nervousness has been creeping in since January or February. We havenít played right since December I donít think. It could be a factor Ė you donít know do you. It could just be the players getting nervous because of the promotion run-in. I canít put my finger on it Ė I wish I could.  

Us: If he sells his car the Chairman could offer you a contract.    

Liam: If he sells his car Iíll sign! (Much laughter!)  

(Wayne Corden shouts a comment from the other end of the lounge. Liam shouts out ďMe and you CordsĒ. We respond ďHeís been through thisĒ.)  

Us: Tell us something about a team-mate that would surprise the fans. Remember this can be anonymous! Cords told us one of them has a big tattoo on his back.  

Liam: Thatís Luke (Dimech) Ė he has tattoos all over his back. Leroy doesnít drink, he hasnít drunk for nearly a year now. Iíll tell you something, Beardoís got a problem with his Rís.  

Us: His arse?  

Liam: He canít pronounce his Rís. (much laughter)  

Us: Do you think the current Stags team is better than the one that got promotion?  

Liam: I think it is a different blend. I think it is as good and I think it can get promoted, we just need to perform every week.  

Us: If you had a message for the fans what would it be?  

Liam: Get behind us, we desperately need it. I know itís hard at times when you see what we produce sometimes that maybe isnít good enough but we need all the help we can get and definitely need the fans behind us and we are trying, believe me.  

Us: How do you see the promotion run in now with just the four games left.  

Liam: Itís going to be tough, itís going to take us winning all four for automatic promotion.  

Us: Donít you think thatís gone.  

Liam: Realistically Ö maybe. I felt if we had beaten Cambridge here at home and gone on a good run, Ö but it didnít happen. Weíve got to win all our games Ė itís as simple as that.  

Us: At least itís still in our hands.  

Liam: Yes it is. Thatís the good thing Ė we are not relying on other people.  

Us: Finally what do you do for a quiet night in?  

Liam: Chinese and a video  

Us: And a wild night out?  

Liam: Speak to Macca!  

Us: What do you spend your money on?  

Liam: Bloody car, travelling into here every day. Iíve got a Honda Civic type R. The insurance is quite high because of my accident.  

We finished off by giving Liam some DVDs and photos of him in action, and a copy of the update of the history of the club, which he gratefully received saying:-

(photos) Good stuff. My mumís got a scrapbook. (DVDs) Brilliant, thanks, I appreciate that.