The Champions Chase is something I’ll never be able to erase from my memory, I know for a fact I’ll take the image of Murray lifting the conference championship trophy aloft to my death bed, accompanied by the story that picture paints.
Prior to Christmas last season, Paul Cox’s men didn’t look like champions, if we’re honest they looked like a mediocre mid-table side that would achieve nothing. However something clicked and post January, the champions chase began. Consecutive wins, club records and league records were passed and before we knew it, Mansfield Town had transformed from mid-table nobody’s to a side on the cusp of glory.
As I referenced numerous times during the enthralling chase, both in blogs and in commentaries, Mansfield were a different type of champion. They weren’t the type of champion to stroll into every game with an argent swag, they never looked down their noses at opposition and had the points written on the league table before the first whistle, they dug in deep and fought for their destiny.
A champion doesn’t have to be someone who finishes first, a champion can also be a trier, someone who sets their sights on a target and does what is required, mentally and physically to achieve that target. This attitude has been installed in every Paul Cox side I have seen during the second half of the season and has notably achieved. During his first season in charge, from nowhere we romped to a third placed finish and a play-off spot, during his second season in charge, from nowhere we romped to the title. During this season, his third in charge, I’m confident we can steer away from the drop and achieve the one thing deep down we all wished for when our football league status was re-confirmed: stability.
Clubs promoted as Champions from the conference have set a present to achieve back to back promotions and then establish themselves as league one clubs, and as such the bar of expectancy was always going to be high this season, especially winning the league in the manner we did. For whatever reason, things haven’t quite worked out that way – a fine start further raised the bar as did the emotionally sweet derby day victory of Che…. No I can’t physically type it! Things were always going to get tough and clubs were always willing to remind us of our absence from league football and in that time, things have changed. It’s like pack mentality, a school bully is off ill (or in most cases suspended!) for a week or two and someone else takes over, when they return, the new bully won’t just stand aside.
There are a number of factors we could use to pinpoint our ‘failings’ – the departure of Matt Green and the lack of a replacement, the current off-field politics, the system, the Murray-Cox fall out, the change in standard in the opposition etc. None of these should be used as excuses or reasons for our plight, what matters is this – we are in a relegation battle and as much as the players needed that push for promotion, they now need a strong branch to cling too so they can begin their climb away from the groping hands of relegation to the conference.
It’s frustrating watching poor football when we’re so used to watching successful football, this season I understand that in more ways than you can imagine, I’m writing now (for the first time in months I’ve had the confidence too) with a different view, my media journey is one I’m desperate to continue but one downside too it was forgetting the feeling of disappointment of being a paying supporter week in week out. We work all week to be able to afford to go to matches and naturally we expect victory, when it doesn’t happen that unavoidable frustration takes over and our disappointment is vented in the wrong way. Tomorrow I’ll attend the match and take my seat with my family and friends is Q block, however rather than allow the frustration bellow of BOO, I’m going to cheer and back the boys in the feint hope that digging my heals in and believing we can survive, the players will too.
Grit, determination, togetherness, hard work and belief will see us through, just as it did in the play-off season, just as it did last year – the only difference? We have to change our perceptions on what classes as success, rather than a high finish and a chance to climb, this time it has to be finishing above the drop zone and remaining a football league club. The prize is the stability that comes with another season in the football league and the safe knowledge that we haven’t taken another step backwards.
I know right now your screaming at me that we need goals and we need to play football, I agree and have many conversations on a match day about the subject, I probably completely agree with your view in fairness. One thing I know for certain is, I have full faith in that squad and its management, a change won’t help us move forward, it’ll set us back for the cycle to begin again.
Right then where’s my replica shirt and scarf, I’m ready for match-day and watching round two of the champions chase, this time, with a whole different meaning! COYS
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