Craig Priest Writes...
It seems like there’s an hour between the ‘Tick Tock’ of a second at the moment, but that’s always the way when your side is on the cusp of something beautiful, something special, something magical and something magical – PROMOTION.
I’d only just started watching the Stags on and off when they beat Carlisle back on Saturday 20th April 2002 to clinch promotion to Division Two (League One as it’s now known), since that day I’ve grown closer to the Stags and if you cut me open, my blood will pour out Amber & Blue.
The club helped me overcome bullying, make friends and be part of a group rather than weirdo on his own! Watching the Stags has led me to a career I never imagined possible and, over the past year has brought me together with the girl of my dreams. Without being weepy, ALL of us have a reason for following Mansfield Town Football Club and tomorrow could be the day when our faithful support is thanked and reward, should Paul Cox’s men beat Wrexham – they ARE back in the football league regardless of what Kidderminster do at home to Stockport, the side that partly relegated us five years ago.
There are a few permutations tomorrow, mainly because we made an error at Braintree! These can be seen on the picture (left), in reality Stags have a five to two chance of a return to the football league – whatever the scenario we ALL hope and pray, that come tomorrow night at 7pm, Adam Murray and Paul Cox will stand side by side and hold the BSBP trophy aloft in front of over 7,000 supporters: the dream we’ve been picturing for ages, coming true in front of our eyes!
I’ve been a regular at Stags games for at least ten years now, in which time I’ve missed four games due to lack of finance. I have stood on terraces, singing and dancing in the pouring rain. I have sat on numerous coaches watching the white lines of the road come flashing by, chatting and singing despite the score. I have witnessed Stags murder teams and in turn, been present as Stags have been battered black and blue in the back and beyond of the UK which, prior to relegation, we never knew existed. I’ve braved a mine-field of splinters on wooden benches, moved out of the way as weeds grew through terrace cracks and attempted to grow around my feet and dodged flying football after flying football! I’ve cried into my microphone at Wembley Stadium, commentated in the blazing heat as the likes of Ebbsfleet, Hayes & Yeading and others have stuffed us – I’ve cried under a table at the One Call after play-off defeat. Like YOU, I’ve experienced the lowest of the lows with very little high – tomorrow could be the highest of the highs at long last.
Back in 2008 when we we’re relegated to the conference, I began to write a diary about our time in the conference. After being picked to write blogs for the Chad, I stopped writing but have kept the document back in the hope of finishing it one day, this morning I had a quick read of those early days. As a club we have come so far, the football Billy McEwan (Stags first manager outside the football league) put on show wasn’t great but reading back, we owe him a lot. The week before the season began we had EIGHT players registered, the NIGHT before our first ever game in the conference at Ebbsfleet United, McEwan had managed to take our quota up to 19 and save us from hefty fines (Well almost – bloody fax machine!) and at one stage, the possibility of relegation further down ala Boston! If he hadn’t stepped in, just think we’re we might be now eh!
I care little about talking about the style of football etc, what mattered was we had a chance to fight back, yes it’s taken us longer than expected but we have been privileged in my opinion anyway, to learn some valuable lessons along the way.
Most notably in that first game at Ebbsfleet, Standing on the cracked and uneven terracing where weeds grew alarming around our feet! At half time we we’re two nil down, the rain dropping on us as we we’re open to the elements – our arrogance was gone.
We learned that in this division you should NEVER under estimate an opponent, nor should you look to far ahead – always expect, the unexpected.
This is a valuable point of note for tomorrow as Wrexham, the side we we’re relegated along side of, come to the One Call Stadium. We have played some excellent stuff post Christmas and our run has been nothing short of spectacular, however at times we have been poor – it all boils down now to one game. Wrexham, despite their injury trouble, will come to town hoping to spoil the party and get some momentum for the play-offs – we have to wary of that. It is still a possibility that things COULD GO WRONG tomorrow and we might need the play-offs again, prepare yourselves for that and no matter what happens, sing from start to finish.
What sets us aside from other clubs in this division is our supporters, we are the most passionate. When we back the boys, the atmosphere is electric and the lads have what can only be likened to a nitro boost! A lot can be written about the critical points in our Journey, I’m sure I’ll be sat here with the Mrs. in coming weeks writing them, ONE thing counts now and it’s the same support you’ve given since day one. Look at Lincoln and Fleetwood last term, Grimsby, Liverpool, Lincoln etc THIS term – NOISE, NOISE, NOISE.
I didn’t choose Mansfield Town; they chose me with that unique heartbeat – the supporters, the warmth and love bursting at the seams.
I wrote on Wednesday about the magical moment in the last minute on Tuesday night, tomorrow is another chance to cherish and create memories like that one which last forever.
Outcomes, results, team selection, the price of a Bovril and a Pie and all irrelevant now, as are the previous 45 games. Tomorrow is just another day so go and enjoy it, make friends, sing songs, be proud and BELIEVE – The happy ending, is just around the corner.
Our Blue Square Journey began on the terraces of Ebbsfleet, tomorrow it could come to an end at our beloved home – stood on Quarry Lane is a ground which has changed little in bricks, mortar and metal, but has changed in terms of support and atmosphere, we are a family, we are together supporting one cause and one dream, we are the heartbeat of MTFC and we are the reason we get up a stupid O’clock to head off to Barrow etc. For me the journey has been one hell of a ride, tomorrow’s the tip of the iceberg – BRING IT ON.
LAST TIME WE MET
A mere 15 days have passed since we last locked horns with Wrexham in the twice re-arranged fixture at the Racecourse Ground. Stags headed into the match with 12 wins on the spin and were favourites for a 13th and to top the table yet squandered the chance with some poor defending. Matt Green put the Stags ahead after Luke Jones had a goal wrongly chalked off moments before, yet despite Green’s goal Stags failed to build and conceded a tame leveller as Marriott fumbled Dean Keates’ free kick over the line. Danny Wright netted the winner later on as Stags failed to fight back.
The two clubs go back along way and were of course relegated alongside each other back in 2008. The sides have now met 86 times down the years a relationship which begin back in 1932. Wrexham have recorded 32 wins to Mansfield’s 33 and have netted 123 goals to our 128 in total.
Meanwhile at the One Call, Stags have recorded 20 wins to Wrexham’s eight with as many draws.
Everyone will want to be fit for this one! Even I’m thinking of taking my boots to back a 90th minute winner! Joking aside Stags will be without Ross Dyer & Ryan Tafazolli whilst player of the season favourite Lee Beevers will also probably be missing after suffering another dislocation to his shoulder on Tuesday night at Hereford. That said, Beevers is like super-man so maybe we’ll see him in the starting line up anyway!
Wrexham are struggling with knocks as they’re usual end of season plummet is happening. Striker Danny Wright is out with a dislocated elbow, suffered in the mid-week draw with Braintree, whilst a number of others are also sidelined.
If you haven’t got a ticket for this SOLD OUT encounter, then removed the house held pets, valuables along with anything sharp and breakable! Then log onto our MM-LIVE Page and Takeover Radio 106.9FM from 4pm as we’ll bring you all the twists and turns on Mansfield’s potential title-winning, promotion clinching day.
Chad journalist Stephen Thrikill will be joining me for the match, sharing his views and opinions as you can, via twitter (@mtfcmatters) and text (07804 15 66 37).
During the build up, we’ll be revealing the winners of our ‘People’s Choice’ awards – voting closes at 10pm TONIGHT, you can cast your vote on our three categories by clicking here. We’ll also be reviewing the season, our time in the conference and taking a look back at what happened on Tuesday night as Matt Green enhanced his reputation as club legend.
We’ve been there since that first pre-season friendly at Leamington and we’ll be there until the very end, this is Mansfield Matters: A show for the fans by the fans!
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