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Archived News from December 2007

30th December 2007 21:47

Sunday Times, 30 Dec 2007

by Greg Struthers with help from Paul Taylor and Martin Shaw

If you like that, you'll like this.

Look out for FourFourTwo magazine in late January, article More Than a Game, focussing on Mansfield and Chesterfield, by Nick Harper with help from Paul Taylor and Martin Shaw

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The Sunday Times
December 30, 2007

Caught in time
Mansfield win the Fourth Division, 1975

Greg Struthers
When Mansfield Town finally got their hands on a trophy after 78 years without any silverware, they were not going to let the occasion go without a celebration. It turned into a Stag party.

The team was presented with the Fourth Division trophy on the night of their friendly against Coventry City and their veteran Sandy Pate took the team on a lap of honour. A week later, the newly crowned First Division champions Derby County turned up at Field Mill for a testimonial in honour of long-serving secretary Joe Eaton and both clubs put their respective silverware on display. The Stags had not won a significant award since their formation in 1897.

Although the games were friendlies, Mansfield showed the pedigree of their football by beating Coventry 2-0 and Derby 1-0. It had all started when manager Dave Smith signed a little-known striker from Swindon three days before the season kicked off.

Ray Clarke, who had played one league game for Tottenham and 14 matches for Swindon, took a gamble and moved down a division to join Mansfield in the bottom league, although his weekly salary increased from £40 to £45. “Sometimes you have to take a step backwards to move two steps forward,” says Clarke. “It was the best thing I did. From day one it clicked and because I was playing in the first team regularly, I had a lot of confidence.”

Clarke scored in his second match and the wins mounted as the goals flowed. He scored in six consecutive games and notched 18 goals in 20 matches, which attracted interest from other clubs. “Mansfield nearly sold me twice in my first season. They turned down an offer of £35,000 from Grimsby and £60,000 from Wolves. We were a good side and very attacking. We didn't have a defensive bone in us.”

An excellent run in the FA Cup supplemented their league form. Their cup interest ended in a 1-0 defeat against Carlisle in the fifth round, and then there was a slight blip in the league. However, they secured promotion with five games remaining and sealed the title with a 7-0 hammering of bottom-placed Scunthorpe in their penultimate match. Unbeaten at home, Mansfield scored 90 goals in their 46 league games, with Clarke getting 28 goals. “I scored 99.9% of my goals from inside 12 yards,” he says. “I had an instinct for scoring.”

The next season began badly and they were soon bottom of the table. “We made a disastrous start. Dave Smith had made a few changes when I thought he should have stayed with the team that won the title. They unsettled the balance of the side and he probably should have blooded the new players more slowly.”

However, things clicked into place and Mansfield stayed unbeaten in the last 19 games, climbing to 11th in the table by the end of the season. Twelve months later, they won the Third Division.

A pictorial history of the club was published recently. Images of Sport: Mansfield Town FC, by Paul Taylor and Martin Shaw, (ISBN 978 07524 4414 7) was published by Tempus.

Player profiles (main picture, left to right)

1 Sandy Pate A Scottish-born right-back who started his career with Watford, Pate joined Mansfield in October 1967. During the next 11 seasons he played in 413 league games. He then ran a pub before taking on a management role with non-league Rainworth Miners Welfare. He has now retired.

2 Paul Matthews After spending six seasons trying to win a regular place at Leicester City, Matthews joined Mansfield in December 1972 and made 124 league appearances. The midfielder also played for Rotherham and Northampton and then scouted for Leicester. He coaches youngsters in Leicester.

3 Terry Eccles A prolific forward, he scored 47 goals in 118 league outings during his 3½ years at the club. He also played for Blackburn Rovers, Huddersfield and York and had a stint with Ethnikos in Greece. He scouted for Southampton and is now living in Spain.

4 John Lathan Signed from Sunderland in the season before Mansfield's promotion campaign, Lathan played in 74 league matches in two years before moving to Carlisle. The midfielder rejoined Mansfield in August 1979 for one season and then settled in Australia. He coached in South Africa and now lives in New York where he coaches at the Manhattan Soccer Club.

5 Rod Arnold A loan spell in goal in 1971 led to a permanent move from Wolves. Arnold was a fixture between the posts for 11 years, playing in 440 league games. He spent nine seasons as a goalkeeping coach at Hull City.

6 Barry Foster A left-back, Foster was an England youth international. He was a one-club player, having joined Mansfield's juniors, and played 287 league matches in 11 years. He has a market stall in Doncaster.

7 Colin Foster A central defender who rose through the junior ranks at Field Mill, Foster played in 206 league games and scored 17 goals. After nine years, he joined Peterborough for two seasons and then played non-league football, managing several clubs. He is a painter and decorator in Peterborough.

8 Lawrie Madden A 20-year-old central defender signed from Manchester University in March of the promotion campaign, Madden played 10 league matches in two seasons before embarking on a multi-club career high-lighted by more than 200 appearances for Sheffield Wednesday. He works in the media.

9 Ray Clarke He scored 52 goals in 91 league outings in two seasons for Mansfield before moving to Sparta Rotterdam. He also played for Ajax, winning the Dutch league and cup double, and for Bruges in Belgium. He played First Division football for Brighton and had a season at Newcastle United. He ran a hotel on the Isle of Man and was chief scout for Southampton and Coventry. He lives in the Suffolk town of Stowmarket and is director of scouting for Celtic.

10 John Haselden The team coach, Haselden's playing career included a long stint at Doncaster and a loan spell at Mansfield. He managed Huddersfield and was caretaker manager at Reading. Now a physio at Notts County.

11 Doug O'Connor A forward signed from Barnsley in the summer of 1974, O'Connor spent a season at Mansfield. He scored two goals in 17 league matches. He lives in Barnsley and was a youth coach at Oakwell.

There were three players not in the picture.

Jim McCaffrey A fleet-footed winger, he spent five seasons at Field Mill. He ran a newsagency in the Lake District before he moved back to Leicester and now runs an agency at the Glenfield hospital.

Gordon Hodgson Signed from Newcastle in the summer before they won promotion, Hodgson proved an important midfield acquisition. He also played for Oxford and Peterborough. He joined the police force, but died in April 1999 at the age of 46.

Kevin Bird A central defender, Bird was an 11-season stalwart at the club and played in 277 league games, scoring 56 goals. He then had one league outing for Huddersfield. He lives in Mansfield Woodhouse and works for a national supermarket chain.


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