In the second of our two-part interview with former Mansfield Town forward Ivan Hollett, he recalls the team’s long overdue first promotion - and returning to the club much later as part of the coaching staff.
With the spring thaw seeing Mansfield’s Town’s 1962-63 season return to something like normality, Raich Carter was replaced as manager by Tommy Cummings and a hectic finale to the season ensued as the Stags played catch up.
They contested no less than 10 games contested during April, but an indifferent run put their title hopes in jeopardy as they could only manage five wins, one draw and four defeats.
There were six games in May as well and while one of them - a 4-3 victory at Hartlepools United - raised few eyebrows at the time, it later became the source of huge controversy.
Subsequent criminal trials found Jimmy Gaunt the ‘mastermind’ of a match fixing ring that also saw fellow Stags players Brian Phillips and Sammy Chapman serve times behind the bars.
And it was in this particular match that The People newspaper alleged some of Mansfield’s players offered bribes to their Hartlepools opponents to lose the game.
Those allegations were never proven and Hollett remembers being shocked by the whole episode.
He said: “I woke up on the Sunday morning after the story had broke the Saturday night and I saw our team picture across the front of the People.
“They were doing the investigative stories around that time and my dad said I’d better take a look. I didn’t have any idea that anything untoward had been going off. It was a big surprise to me.
“I remember they brought in the CID and they set up in the old Co-op in Mansfield. We went down there in cars and the physio had to come with us and put a rain mac over us when we went in because of the press.
“I had mixed feelings on it to be honest. We didn’t know really know how true it was when it first happened, or if they had been set up.
“As it happened it came out that they had done something.”
But all that was only to come out later, after a gripping climax to the 1962-63 Division Three season.
Sitting fifth in the table with the top four to go up ahead of the final game of the season, the Stags looked as if they had seen them blow their chances.
It did not look any better, either, when the team could only manage a 1-1 draw at Stockport, thereby exerting little pressure on those immediately above them.
Yet Torquay, also on 56 points going into the weekend, and Gillingham on 57, both lost. As a result, Mansfield won promotion on goal average and the celebrations began.
“It killed us to play all those games because of the backlog,” said Hollett. “I think if it hadn’t happened that way we would have won the league with the way we had started the season off.
“But the amount of games we were playing definitely affected us and some of the pitches didn’t help too.
“We only got a draw at Stockport and there was a lot of nerves. We had quite a young side and I don’t think any of us had been in that position.
“But the other teams did us a favour and we stopped off in Buxton at a place run by a friend of the manager’s. We had about three or four hours’ drinking to celebrate because no-one had travelled in cars and they put us up in hotels.
“It was big news around the town and the camaraderie between the players was terrific.”
It was to be the zenith of Pinxton-born Hollett’s career in amber and blue, that saw him bag 47 in 107 goals in all.
He went on to serve local rivals Chesterfield with distinction, scoring 65 goals in more than 150 appearances, after moving down the A617 in 1964.
There was talk of him moving on to a club higher up the pyramid, too, but those hopes were dashed by injury.
He said: “Tony McShane at Chesterfield put it out in a newspaper that he needed help with players after some of his team had been in and accident and one killed.
“Quite a few clubs said they could ring up and see who was available and Tony said I was the first one he rung up. He said he wanted me.
“But the manager didn’t want me to go and told me I couldn’t. I was a bit naughty and I phoned the chairman up and he said he wanted me to stay at the club for the rest of my career.
“I explained to Mr Taylor that I loved Mansfield for giving me a chance but I needed to play and wasn’t - and he then asked the manager to let me go.
“There was speculation about Everton and Stoke being interested in signing me when I was at Chesterfield. I remember my team-mates saying to me they thought I would look good playing in red and white!
“But I pulled my hamstring in a kickabout and the Stoke manager, who had come to sign me, was sympathetic.
“He said he would give me three weeks to get fit but in the first game back it was sludgy and the first run I made it went again - and that was that.”
After playing at Crewe, Hereford and Cambridge, Hollett went to South Africa to act as a player-coach for Durban United and later successfully coached Alfreton, Belper and Arnold.
But it was not long before Hollett was back at Field Mill for a ‘temporary’ stint that was to last 23 years.
“I got a phone call from Ian Greaves and he introduced me to the chairman Jack Pratt, who had good local knowledge of what I had done at other clubs.
“He said he wanted me to coach the kids, but I wasn’t interested in doing the under-11s or under-12s. It was then that he explained he meant the 18-year-olds who were looking to step up to pro level and I was a fully qualified FA coach by now.
“I said I would give it a month - and even when I left I still said I was on a month’s trial!”
During that time, Hollett helped produced some top class youngsters for the Mansfield first-team and experienced more promotions as part of the backroom coaching staff.
But it is still the 1962-63 campaign that shines most brightly for him - and no wonder. Few Stags teams can have provided more entertainment,