_ Mansfield Matters Co-Commentator Scott Rogers reveals what he gets up to, once the headset is off...
Sunday 21st of August 2011 is a day is a day that will always stay with me, the reason is simple, it was the day I achieved a childhood dream. I was still on trial as we headed to Newark to take on their under 19s side, in the Tom Mann memorial trophy, a game in which we ran out 6-0 winners and as goalkeeper, saw me keep a clean sheet which was an added bonus. After the game I was told I would be signed for the year which made me the happiest person on the planet, not just because I had just been told for the next year atleast I would be playing football every day, but because I had signed for my local team, the club I had supported since I was eight years old.
I originally came on trial as a centre midfielder but after Mark (youth team manager) had seen me play in goal for school at Field Mill the previous year, I played all but three of the pre-season friendlies between the sticks due to an injury to our first choice goalkeeper. During my trial I played in goal on nine occasions and conceded just eight goals which I really enjoyed but I couldn’t wait to get a chance out on the pitch. The first game after I signed was a friendly at home to Blidworth and our usual shot stopper at the time, Olly Medley, was back from injury. I came on at half time and scored the 7th in a 10-1 win which was the best feeling in the world, scoring at the real theatre of dreams, nothing comes close to it, no matter how many times certain people tell me it took a deflection!
Just before the first game of the season Olly left the team, which again meant that we had no goalkeeper so I was back between the sticks for our first two league games which included a 5-1 win against MMU Newcastle and a 2-2 draw with Ilkeston at Field Mill, a game which saw one of my worst moments on a football pitch, when I went out to catch a cross a collided with our right back Jordan Jones and caught him on the head with my knee. An ambulance was called for and the game was ended a few minutes early but after getting my bag together and heading straight for the hospital, the main thing was that ‘ JJ ‘ was fine and he was allowed home that evening.
Next came an under 18s cup game that due to my age I wasn’t allowed to play in which lead to one of the biggest moments of our season. Ryan Hopkins, our current goalkeeper, was bought in to play in the game and despite a 4-0 defeat, he was superb which not only helped me to get back out into midfield, but also saw him sign for the season. Ryan has played a massive part in our climb to the top of the league and our journey to the third round of the league cup, when we face Birmingham City Whites.
Since then I have played centre midfield in all of the 13 games and have taken up a role that I really enjoy. Playing just in front of the back four, it is my job to break up opposition attacks and just keep our play ticking over, allowing our more attack minded players to get forward. This role led to me being named on stagsnet as the youth team’s Anthony Howell which after his form in the early part of the season, I see as a massive compliment. Im not the sort of player that will dribble around a whole team before smashing one in the top corner, I’d rather leave that to others in the team and just keep being consistent in my performances and help the team in the way that I do by keeping things simple and putting my foot in when its needed. This role has reduced my time spent in the opposition third but since the goal against Blidworth I have scored two more, one in the 7-0 thrashing of Newcastle Town and the other a late winner in the 3-2 win at home to Boston in the first round of the cup, both at Field Mill with the latter being my favourite moment so far this season.
Hopefully there are lots more to come and if we can keep going how we are going at the minute then the league title should be ours after our final game at home to Boston on the 21st of March. If we can stay unbeaten in the final five league games and go the whole season unbeaten, that would be something else for the whole club to be proud of. As well as the league, we would love to have a real good run in the cup and if we win our next round match against Birmingham City Whites then we would book a place in the quarter final and after that, anything is possible.
Everyone around the squad has been brilliant, from the lads who apart from all being great players are also great people off the pitch, to our coaches who have guided us every step of the way. It’s also great to see the directors in particular Steve Hymas and Mark Hawkins coming to all of our games and when the first team coaches, captain and the club chairman come and watch you, then it really does inspire us and we really do appreciate their support as well as the support from the supporters that come and watch us.
I have also played in four reserve team friendlies all of which I have really enjoyed and just being around the first teamers you pick up so many little things that have helped me with my game, both on and off the pitch.
My Mansfield career started with a trophy in the Tom Mann memorial game and if we can add to that come the end of the season then it would mean so much to us all and if the first team can add to that my being promoted then as a supporter I would be on top of the World.
In a few months’ time I will find out if I am offered a professional contract for next season. If that happens then I will have achieved a dream that I have had from as long as I can remember and to sign for a club that means so much to me would be so special, if not then I will always remember the last year with great memories but I really don’t want this to ever end.
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_ As Mother Nature and Jack Frost again conspire to ruin another football Saturday, I sit at my desk looking around my room thinking back over the years to who and what led me to Mansfield Town FC. I often hear people speak about their idols and chat fluently about their favourite players growing up, their first game, why they love the Stags etc. Over the past couple of years focussing again on my media work I have started travelling in the car to away games and as such, have missed out on coach conversations which at some point will always revert to the hero’s, villains and idols conversation. Today is a perfect opportunity for me to share with you some memories, explanations and hopefully funny stories with you – hopefully by doing so I personally will be reminded of the real reason Mansfield Town FC is tattooed on my heart rather than the self-inflated ego story some may see me as know days. In turn it may also get you guys thinking about your idols, the players you hate with a passion and of course, the players you will always be happy to by a pint for – the hero.
I know that some of you will have already read my initial reasoning for watching Stags – I like many others at school was bullied, with bright ginger (often out of control) hair, goofy glasses and an extremely short fuse when it came to teachers – it’s easy to see why! It’s remarkable to think that now football’s my life, ten years ago I hated it with a passion. When I was about 8, my bedroom was painted in Manchester United colours, but if truth be told I was more interested in reading an Enid Blyton novel than watching football, I never went to old Trafford nor did I ask to, in fact I remember spending a lot of time under my bed reading my torch light rather than under the glare of united stars plastered on my wall. Before I started at Jo Whit secondary, my parents had split and divorced and I moved house, the blank walls of neutral colours we’re fine by me – see you later glory hunting, my brief affair with football was over. At school I hated most lessons especially PE – imagine my horror one day when the rain lashed down and a teacher was absent, meaning our class of PE no hopers mixed in with the school football team AKA bullies united, who insisted of a warm-up match ahead of their next game against the local rivals. To cut a long, over told story short – as the weedy kid I was placed in goal (rules of the playground) and as the game was drawing to its conclusion – a penalty against us was awarded. Up stepped the bullying head-honcho who then saw his kick saved by, and I quote, ‘The ginger one’. The feeling of beating a bully was enough to re-light the football fire, and after a few weeks of good behaviour (not throwing chairs at teachers) I was allowed to go to Field Mill.
Don’t ask me who they we’re playing, what the date was or what the score was, I had no idea – I’d been before to the odd game but paid little or no attention. This time I was keen to learn and, with my mindset on being a keeper, watching Kevin Pilkington like a hawk. I studied his movement, his commands etc and soon we’re recreating the moves on the local field playing with a few mates. I got to very few games that season (2002-03) due to my temper getting me into trouble, but I worked hard when I could to go again, each time watching Pilkington closely before emulating him on the local field. Soon there came a time where the school set up a lunchtime 5-a-side league, our team ‘Norfolk and Chance’ entered with me as the captain and the keeper, I recall our opening league game with a fondness. At first our team lived up to their re-name ‘No Chance’ (bloody teachers, what did they have against comedic names) as our opponents kept the ball and penned us in, a shot was blazed towards the top corner as the other teamed looked to grab their first goal, I sprung across and tipped the ball away before holding onto the powerful rebound. A quick throw then found our striker unmarked, he converted before setting another two in between a barrage of Priest saves. A penalty was the only thing to beat me, although it went in via my foot – we we’re awarded a penalty of our own soon after, with everyone bar me on the score sheet for ‘No Chance’ the lads gave me the penalty, which I smashed straight down the middle, giving my opposite number no chance, sealing our against the odds victory.
_Needless to say the feeling of scoring my first ever goal arriving before my first clean sheet moved my hawk-eyed focus away from Pilkington and onto someone else. Don’t ask why, but the player to take centre stage, was Neil MacKenzie. Soon I adopted his shirt number as my own and as the new season arrived, was presented with my first ever stags shirt with his name and number printed on the back, sadly I no longer have it, I do have the following season’s away top with his name on though! I remember going to watch Keith Curle’s side during the play-off season on a more regular basis, including away from Field Mill – I remember MacKenzie’s name being chanted where ever we went and along with that powerful penalty in the semi-final shootout, recall listening to the Hull City away game on the radio (I’d been a naughty boy so couldn’t go). Macca scored the only goal of the game, a thunderous volley 6 minutes from time after coming off the bench – the chants of Neil MacKenzie weren’t just sung by the 1,545 travelling fans – they we’re sung by me too.
As the years have passed many more players have become my heroes, I’ll take you through my current heroes later but as I mentioned at the top of this piece, with heroes come villains. Following the suspension and then departure of Keith Curle, Carlton Palmer arrived and immediately loaned Macca to the other MTFC, Macclesfield. In doing so I took an instant dislike to the former England international and wanted his head impaled on a spike! Palmer eventually took full charge and slowly dismantled our side and at the end of the 2004-05 season, was influential in the departure of my goalkeeping hero Kevin Pilkington, who then himself became a villain signing for Notts County and breaking Chris Beardsley’s leg in a 50/50 challenge on his Field Mill return. Many might see me writing that as a dig, it’s not – these things happen in football it is after all a contact sport. Pilkington has twice redeemed himself, returning to Stags last season filling in for Marriott before palming the ball into Louis Briscoe’s path in the FA Trophy semi-final last season! Good times, no joking aside Kevin Pilkington will always be an idol of mine, captain of arguably our most successful and strongest side over the past decade, a fine shot stopper and a gentleman to boot.
Neil MacKenzie made a return to Field Mill too, but delivered little bar kicking a bin after a reserve team game during his brief return. I imagine he had his reasons for that though. Neil has a lot to answer for, he’s stint on channel four’s countdown saw me happily tune in and play along – I scored little more than three on each letters round and always failed at the numbers, after each of his victory’s I longed for the chant’s of ‘Neil MacKenzie’ to be bellowed from the countdown audience, alas there knitting clearly could not be disturbed!
During my ten years as a Stags fan I have, as mentioned, adopted a number of players as heroes, and I’ve seen my fair share of villains, I shall save those stories for another day though. Now days my current hero in the ranks is skipper Adam Murray, along with the playing ability I’d look for when I was younger and hungry to play the beautiful game, it’s his story which seals his place on my hero’s list. Murray openly talks about his past in his brilliant ‘Captain’s Blog’ – the message I get from it is that, no matter what’s happened in the past, with belief, hard work, dedication and desire – you can achieve what you want and more importantly, find yourself and your light in the darkness. I look at ten years ago when I was at school, I had very few friends, I had a temper which saw many a teacher clobbered with a chair (I’m VERY ashamed of this), I had more detentions and exclusions than you’ve had hot dinners. I hated everything about my life and seemingly went from one bad place to another, facing a lot of difficulties it would be unfair to write about. Now I love football, I know what I want for a career and am finally on the right path, I have confidence and have friends – I have found myself because of Mansfield Town FC. That’s why I love them, nothing will ever change that.
Heroes change from one season to the next as do idols as players and managers come and go. I have a constant idol though, always there week in week out – the fans. I’m not mentioning names, the individuals know who they are and why. What I will say is, that in following my career path I often seem to leave you all behind, the coach travel, the pre and post game pub, the long chats and silly O’clock! I miss you all, every game the first thing I look for has always been and will always be you – you all taught me the value of friendship and love, it’s something I’ll never forget.
My team, my friends, and my dream – nothing can beat that combination, every Friday night at 5-a-side I put aside the headphones and go back to trying to be a footballer, passing like Murray, belting the goals in like MacKenzie, keeping them out like Pilkington... falling over like Craig Priest!
That’s the heart of my story, hero’s, villains and idols – what’s yours?
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_ As the February freeze continues, Mansfield Matters’ Scott Rogers recalls one of his favourite moments as a Mansfield Town Fan...
Saturday 7th May 2011, The day every football fan dreams of, it’s like our version of Christmas, you wait weeks for it to come.
All that excitement all those nerves, all for one day and all for one thing; watching your team in a cup final at Wembley Stadium.
No other day in my life has ever come close to that day, for the past few years supporting Mansfield had been nothing but hard work with nothing but disappointment. Watching something you love so much being so close to the end hurts like nothing else I have ever felt, but still nothing could keep me away.
Looking back on the best day of my life, for one day Mansfield Town were equals, not non-league nobody’s, not the club with a landlord trying to ruin things – for one day we were cup finalists, Wembley Stadium cup finalists!
Waking up on the morning of the final I was so nervous, I had told myself I was going to enjoy the game and enjoy the day, there was no promotion at stake unlike Cardiff in 04, but there was something that no trophy can give you, being able to say you’ve seen your team win at Wembley!
After the defeat at the millennium stadium a few years before, we knew what the pain of losing in one of these games felt like, that made me more hungry for success.
The journey down was unbelievable, seeing thousands of Mansfield fans on the motorway and at service stations made me so proud why? Because for once Mansfield Town were finally the talk of the town. Granted it may have only for one day but atleast the town was together and everyone wanted their football team to be a success, people were finally proud of their club.
The buzz around the pubs before the game was amazing, Mansfield songs bellowing loudly around the streets of London, this was usually Man United or Chelsea but for one day, for my special day, it was my Mansfield Town.
I was thinking about what my best memory from the day was, there are so many but it has to be the walk down Wembley way. How can a few hundred feet of tarmac with a wall up each side hold so many memories? Simple, it was what was inside it. All I could see was a sea of amber and blue, thousands upon thousands of Mansfield fans strolled around, all proud to wear its town’s colours and as I stood outside the greatest theatre in the World I knew the moment had arrived.
All the weeks of waiting were over, I was about to begin my walk down Wembley way walking shoulder to shoulder with people with the same dream, to see their team win and to see their team become heroes.
Inside, the stadium was amazing and the pitch looked perfect, as it slowly started to fill with Mansfield fans it looked even better, my dream had arrived and 15,000 Mansfield fans were about to enjoy it with me.
The National anthem was another thing I had dreamed about, standing inside the best stadium in the World, the home of football, singing my countries national anthem; I have never been so proud.
The game itself passed far too quickly, all I remember from the game is two things. The first is something that I never want to forget, just as the end of extra time approached the Mansfield fans stood together as one and sang “Stand up for the Mansfield”
Yeah the game wasn’t a great one but the town were still together and proud of what they had seen and this was them thanking their heroes for what they had done for the club and the town. The second thing is something we all really want to forget; Chris Senior heading home from a couple of yards out, 15,000 hearts broken, all I could do was cry. Travelling all this way from Worksop, our opponents in round one, to the last minute of extra time at a Wembley cup final. We had been through every emotion on the way and for it to end the way it did was horrible.
The day itself I will always remember, firstly for it being the day I completed a dream, secondly for it being a day that Mansfield Town were back even, if it was only for a couple of hours.
We may have lost the game but the true Mansfield fans gained a memory, never to be forgotten or ruined, never to be taken away by anyone – no matter how hard they tried. The result, looking back, didn’t really matter. Mansfield Town had done us proud.
The day helped again to reiterate my belief that no matter what stands in our way, we will stand proud and never back down, we are Mansfield Town, and nothing will ever make me more proud than being able to say that.
We will be back.
The views expressed in this piece are that of the writer and not of Mansfield Matters or it’s related organisations. If you would like to share one of your favourite moments with us, feel free to email email@example.com
_Stags fan Stephen gives Mansfield Matters a general low down of some of his favorite Stags memories... If you'd like to share similar memories to Stephen, copy & paste the above text and re-answer - and then email firstname.lastname@example.org - Let's get the terraces talking
_ First game and result: Carlisle at Field Mill in the 1994/1995 season lost 2-1 after Kevin Lampkin gave us the lead, I sat in the Bishop Street stand
Favourite all time player: Ian Bowling, fantastic keeper after replacing Darren Ward, I have his autograph about 5 times, brilliant shot stopper, a true gentleman and legend.
Most talented player: Liam Lawrence, made it to the premiership and international stage, quality player and still is
Best memory: The moment we were promoted in 2002, a win was needed and Cheltenham had to lose, when news broke that Cheltenham were losing little parts of the ground started cheering, it was very surreal.
Favorite stand to sit in: North Stand! Have to make do with the Quarry Lane End
Furthest traveled to watch the stags: Carlisle, I got lost coming home though! Ended up driving around the Manchester ring road 3 times and had to follow somebody from the petrol station who said she was heading in the same direction!
Realistic potential of the club: I think we can get into league 1 within 4 years and compete, the championship isn't out of reach, Scunthorpe made it so why not Mansfield Town?
Is this our year? Heart says yes, head says no, Paul Cox is assembling a fantastic squad but I think it will peak in a years time, I think we can make the play offs, next season if we don't go up I think we will!
Any superstitions? I used to have loads, from a lucky necklace to putting my feet on the chair in front, I don't have any now
Favorite manager: Billy Dearden, legend nothing else is needed to be said about the bloke