Craig Priest reveals some of his memorable moments on the road with the Mansfield Matters team...
I often get asked what’s my favourite thing about football, the obvious answer is the search for glory, however having followed the Stags home and away for some 10 seasons now my answer to the aforementioned question becomes ‘people and places’.
Yes, I know I sound like a boring TV host from the 90’s, but honestly it’s not as boring as it sounds – going away with the Stags I’ve met some of the most brilliant people I could ever wish to meet and have had adventures in some of the most strange places. I’ve written before about the adventures and people I’ve met and come to be friends with as a supporter, memories I’ll cherish forever – an example would be going to Northwhich Victoria a few seasons back and hogging a children’s zip wire! I have to admit at the start of the season when I knew I’d be nowhere near the supporters coach or terraces because of my media work, I shed a little tear because I thought those silly little story’s would be no more – 11 months on and wow, how wrong I was!
There are so many story’s from the past campaign it’s difficult to know where to start or what to include as, as you can imagine, there are some more un-publishable stories, mainly involving Scott Rogers’ habit to change song lyrics and James Williamson’s admissions – enough said!
The latter, James, is one of the people I have met solely through my radio work, first encountering the photographer at Chasetown in pre-season. Even though the first conversation was kind of awkward as James seemed to know me but I had no clue to who he was, we became good friends as the season went on, sharing lifts, stealing Jaffa cakes and photographs! You may have seen on my twitter and on Scott’s twitter a regular tweet reading ‘Shock, James is lost again’ – it’s not an exaggeration, James really could get lost walking around his own house – he is once rumoured to have driven past Darlington’s 25,000 seater stadium twice on the way to our league encounter back in September, it was on the afternoon that we discovered his lack of directional sense.
As you’ll more than likely know we tend to arrive at grounds early to set up and prepare for our show, this particular afternoon we had around an hour to kill before going live and as such decided to take full advantage of the free tea and coffee machine the Quakers had purchased with their FA Trophy winnings. Myself and Scott had already figured the tea machine out, poured seven cups a piece and taken them back to our seats in the press box via a mass amount of corridors and stairs, we presumed James had followed until both our phones beeped simultaneously with a text from James reading ‘I got lost, gone back to that media room, come and find me please’ after picking ourselves up from the floor laughing, we eventually went and guided the lost photographer back to the press box, if ever anyone needed one of those baby control lead things, it’s James.
I’d say ‘if ever anyone needed a SatNav’ however James does indeed own a SatNav, it’s just a shame he never follows it. I recall a boiling day back in October when I travelled with James to Forest Green Rovers, an afternoon neither me nor a innocent couple of pheasants won’t forget in a hurry. Making good time, somewhere along the road was a wrong turn taken by captain James who insisted he knew where he was going... the New Lawn ground is reachable via a stretch of tight, bending country lanes which I discovered the previous season on the mini-bus with the fans, James also knew this and found a stretch of road which looked ‘vaguely familiar’ and as such, turned off the SatNav and followed the road. It soon became apparent that after passing the same tree at least 50 times, we we’re lost. Eventually after several ‘I’m sure it’s down here’ comments James turned back and found a main road, where we’d ask for directions – James saw an exit and headed for it, having to swerve for a pheasant who was just there passing the time doing whatever pheasants do when James made the desperate dash for civilisation – the measure of how lost we we’re was the fact the ‘road’ we took wasn’t actual a road, merely a hunters type wood – if I travel to Forest Green with James next season, I’m taking armour just encase! Fortunately we were practically mistake free on the way home and poor Peter the pheasant lives to fight another day!
Near death experiences have been somewhat of a common occurrence around me this season, if an eight mile night time drive with no headlights wasn’t bad enough (a story for another time), being of the company of Chad journalist Stephen Thrikill when his beloved Huddersfield are playing certainly is! I recall a trip to nearby Tamworth where Stephen was covering for John Lomas back in March when the journalist, author and Stags Talk host nearly killed an old lady. Always looking out for the Huddersfield scores to protect his investment from the 2004 play-off final where he bribed the linesman who ruled out Colin Larkin’s goal, Stephens team were looking good for another victory until relegation threatened Rochdale levelled the match eight minutes from time to steal a point. Always the worker, he didn’t get to check the scores until full time when we we’re off air and his match report had been sent – upon seeing that Huddersfield had dropped points, he punched the desk in a fit of rage, fair enough you may think... tell that to the old lady who was walking past at the time who jumped out of her skin and nearly had a heart attack there and then! The looks her family shot in Mr Thirkill’s direction where like James Williamson’s driving in the house of pheasants – near deadly! I have to say that I enjoyed seeing Thirkill get the death stare as before the game, he had frankly destroyed me with banter about my coat, lucky cap and apparent stalkerish nature towards my ex-girlfriend – complete rubbish of course!
There are plenty more story’s to come over the course of the summer, and reflecting on today’s revelations I think we’ve all learnt a few things – James Williamson needs a constant guide, has taken hunting to a whole new level and needs new glasses whilst Stephen Thirkill should be restrained from seeing the football scores in the presence of old ladies, needs to take a look at his own fashion before digging into mine and makes very false claims!
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