In December 1999 it was reported that Mark Sale was suffering from Hodgkin`s disease.

This is a profile of Mark Sale`s career at the Stags

By Martin Shaw

Mark Sale joined Mansfield from Preston North End in July 1995 for 50,000. His arrival followed the departure of Steve Wilkinson, Paul Holland and Darren Ward as the backbone of the team that reached the play-offs had been broken up.

Manager Andy King, who signed Sale, announced the arrival of his new striker saying, "Mark may be tall but he can play and he has a great touch. He gives us a great option."

Sale was only 23, but had already seen service with 5 league clubs – Stoke, Cambridge, Birmingham, Torquay and Preston.

The tall striker immediately joined his new team-mates in a pre-season tour of Cyprus.

Sale made his debut in Stags 4-2 defeat at Fulham on the opening day of the season and he had a good game despite the nature of the defeat with a couple of headers nearly bringing goals. He was again unlucky not to score on his home league debut in a 0-0 draw against Leyton Orient but did get off the mark 3 days later in the Coca-Cola Cup against Burnley with a glancing header after Mark Peters had headed back a Simon Ireland cross but it was to no avail as Stags lost.

In the next game, he scored twice in a 3-3 draw at Northampton after Stags had been 3-1 up. First he flicked home a Simon Ireland cross at the near post after 15 minutes and then another 15 minutes later he buried Steve Slawson`s free kick with a flicked near post header. After the game, Sale said he didn`t know whether to laugh or cry saying he should have had a hat-trick but that, having scored 3 in 2 games, he would have to settle for that.

Two games later, he scored again against his former club Torquay heading home a Slawson cross from 8 yards. Despite Sale`s rich vein of scoring, Mansfield had failed to win in their first 7 league and cup games but they did win their first match in the following game - a 2-0 win over Scarborough at Field Mill. Three days later, Sale was on the score-sheet again squeezing the ball past the defender on the line from 5 yards following a Slawson pull-back from the bye-line. This rescued a point in a 2-2 draw against Darlington.

It was reported that Sale had been the subject of an offer from another club due to his rich vein of form, but Stags had still only managed one victory. Three further games followed without victory and Sale was surprisingly dropped with manager Andy King saying that the side had been relying too heavily on Sale`s height. It worked wonders as Stags won 6-2 at Wigan.

Sale remained out of the side as poor results followed and it was reported in the press that he had had a frightening brush with a mystery illness. Sale explained "I was on my way to training and I suddenly felt ill as I came to a roundabout. I had a hot flush, I just couldn`t get my breath and I started panicking. I very nearly crashed. A woman called an ambulance and I was taken to hospital in Derby where I was all right after a couple of hours." But he continued to suffer hyperventilation. "It kept coming back without warning which was very frightening. I couldn`t sleep at night. I`d be waking up gasping for air." The problem calmed with medication and breathing in and out of a paper bag to regulate his carbon dioxide intake.

Sale`s doctor put the attacks down to anxiety and Sale told the press that he liked to escape from the pressures of the football by pursuing his two great passions – a trip to the races and a game of darts. He said "I like to go racing" (he lived near Uttoxeter race course) "and I also play darts for my dad`s pub team."

A half-fit Sale came on as substitute at home to Lincoln and he scored with a header from Simon Ireland`s left wing cross but two first half sendings-off for the Stags of Ian Bowling and Scott Eustace eventually led to a 2-1 defeat. After the game, Sale said the goal cheered him up a bit following his respiratory problems. It was his sixth goal in 12 starts.

One more appearance as substitute and one full appearance followed but then he suffered a broken toe in training. Whilst he was out injured, it was reported that Colchester had made an attempt to sign Sale but chairman Keith Haslam stressed that Stags had no desire to sell him and said "the situation is more complicated than many people believe. The top and bottom of it is whether Andy King feels he needs a different type of player." In a confusing saga, Colchester United`s manager was reported as saying he believed he had signed Sale but this was not the case.

Several weeks later, just as Sale was ready to make his return to the first team, he broke his nose in his first reserve team game.

He finally made his return to the first team at the end of January in a 1-0 home win over Fulham, which was only the second home win of the season. Three days later, Sale had a Man of the Match performance as first he hit the woodwork and then he scored with a diving header from Steve Slawson`s cross in a 2-1 home win over Cambridge as back-to-back home wins had Stags soaring up towards mid-table in Division 3.

A barren spell of 8 games followed for Sale before he scored again in a 2-0 win at Cambridge, which, incidently was young goalkeeper Nicky Weaver`s only first team game for the Stags. Sale scored with a glancing header from Warren Hackett`s left wing cross.

Another period of injury followed and even when he made his comeback in a 2-0 home win over Torquay, he had to go off injured in the first half as his troublesome knee gave way again. In that game, 17 year old Ryan Williams scored twice and rarely can there have been such a contrast in the height of the Stags` two forwards, Sale at 6 foot 5 inches, and Ryan Williams at 5 foot 3.

Sale missed the last two games of the season which were notable for the full debut of the current Stags` midfielder Darrell Clarke and the first time on the substitute bench for Michael Sisson.

Sale ended the season with 8 goals in 28 appearances (plus 3 substitute). This left him as joint top scorer along with Stuart Hadley, though Hadley had played more games.

Sale was Mansfield`s Player of the Season according to Shoot magazine with an average match rating of 7.11.

Mansfield ended the season in 19th place, with 20 draws out of their 46 games.

Despite the winning goal in a friendly at Redditch in the pre-season of 1996-97, manager Andy King told the press that "Sale can do better than he has in pre-season but he has to dig deeper and prove himself". In the second league game of the season, at Northampton, where Sale had done so well the previous season, the tall striker was sent off for elbowing a defender after already having been booked. Afterwards Sale said "I probably did catch him with my elbow but it was accidental."

But, just 3 days later, Sale bounced back in sensational style at Hartlepool, when he shrugged off two challenges and rounded off a 30 yard run with a left foot shot into the top left hand corner. He also made Stags other goal for Stuart Hadley. But Hartlepool equalised in the 89th minute to make it 2-2. Even after that, Sale nearly won the game with a header off the cross-bar in injury time. After the game, Sale said "After watching the goal on TV, I`m convinced it`s the best one I have ever scored. I feel much fitter now than I did this time last year."

Following the game at Hartlepool, Andy King was sacked and Steve Parkin was made caretaker manager. Sale was suspended for three games but returned to play an important part in a surprise 2-1 win at leaders Fulham for Stags` first win of the season, after 8 games.

Sale was suspended again after being sent off in a reserve team game but returned to action and fired a goal in a stunning 4-2 victory at Darlington. He showed the same burst of pace as he had produced at Hartlepool to run clear of the defence from a Hadley flick-on and planted a clinical shot into the roof of the net. He followed it with a jockey-style goal celebration.

A period in and out of the side followed and it was revealed in the press that Northampton had made an enquiry for Sale.

After several appearances as substitute, Sale took his chance with a last minute equaliser in a 1-1 draw at home to Colchester after only having been on the field for 8 minutes. He stooped low to head home Harper`s cross to deny victory to the team that had tried to sign him the previous season.

In the following game, Sale scored twice in a 2-1 win at Cardiff. First he rifled the ball into the roof of the net on the turn following a Warren Hackett cross after 50 minutes and just 8 minutes later, he controlled a Harper centre, beat two defenders and fired a shot that squirmed under the keeper. It was a good day for Sale all round after hearing that 4 horses he had backed had all won.

But it all turned sour in early January, when, at Leyton Orient with the game standing at 1-1, Sale was sent off for catapulting an Orient player into the advertising hoardings behind the goal. The Stags went on to lose 2-1 and manager Steve Parkin blamed Sale for the defeat saying that the sending off was totally unacceptable. Sale was adamant that his rash challenge was not malicious saying that he did push the Orient player, but did not intend to put him into the boards and it was very icy and neither player could stop.

Parkin fined the player and announced he would be leaving him out until after his suspension. This meant a long period on the sidelines and, in the meantime, Parkin brought in Gary Martindale and Iyseden Christie.

Two months later in March and not having played since the Orient game, Sale was sold to Colchester for 23,500 with manager Parkin claiming his striker had missed too many games through suspension.

Just 4 days later, Sale made his debut for Colchester against Mansfield and had a fine game as the Stags were beaten 2-1.

During the season for Mansfield, Sale made 15 appearances (+ 6 as substitute) and scored 5 goals.

He ended up as the Stags fourth best player in Shoot magazine`s rankings, with an average rating of 6.88 in his games for the Stags during 1996-97.

There was immediately an upturn in fortunes for Sale at Colchester and that same season he went on to make a Wembley appearance for his new club in the Auto Windscreens Shield.

With 13 goals in 43 starts for the Stags, Sale had done a reasonably good job for the Stags, and it was with disappointment from many fans that he left the club.

Sale joined Rushden and Diamonds from Colchester in July 1999 for 30,000, and played against the Stags in a pre-season friendly prior to the 1999-2000 season.

It was reported in December 1999, that Sale was suffering from Hodgkin`s disease.

 

In August 2000, it was reported in The Sun newspaper that Sale has been given the all-clear by doctors in his fight to beat the disease. You can read the full article from The Sun (a double-page spread) here (click here) or if the link to The Sun website is broken, then click here.

Stags fans wish Mark a continued speedy recovery.

Mark Sale - in August 1999, at Rushden