What is it with 7th May – heartbreak on the big stage last year and then exactly a year later, bang another Mansfield Town FC dream abruptly ends just when it seemed to be going oh so well, writes Craig Priest.
I’ll be honest I barely slept last night and I’m still to open the curtains in my room, I’ve got 12 missed calls on my phone, about 20 texts to answer and a few emails – I don’t want to talk to anyone, I just want to lay under my quilt with the music blasting in my ears and pretend yesterday never happened.
My lack of sleep comes from replaying the game over and over in my head; I’ve come to the conclusion that whilst a defeat on penalties would have been hard to take, I’d much rather have lost in a 50:50 shootout than in extra time AGAIN!
I’ve no shame in admitting that I cried when the full time whistle blew, I tried desperately to block out the noise from the travelling faithful and the celebrations from players and supporters alike – all I’d pictured all week long was a pitch flooded with Amber & Blue, Paul Cox and the players being carried off like heroes, like they deserved to be.
It’s difficult to put into words how I feel now, there’s just a numbness inside, a cold chill and just a stabbing every time my heartbeats – I’ve just looked at one of my texts it reads ‘Keep your head up Craig, it’s just a game x’ That message has come close to setting my off again, not because of who it’s from or what else it says, but because to me, it’s not just a game, the Stags aren’t just a club – It’s my life and MTFC are a part of me.
It may seem extreme, but I have my reasons, as I’m sure do all of you, I live for match days and I’ve loved every single mille-second of this season, right from that trialist friendly at Rainworth MW to the final whistle yesterday, throwing in the youth team games and various other friendly’s in between, every game creating another mini story in my Stags diary – stories I’ll cherish forever.
This season has given us all so much and we’ve seen a broken name moulded together into this burning core, footballers who care about taking the club forward rather than picking up their pay check, a management team who want to make a difference and bring us something to smile about at long last, a Chairman and board who have fought tirelessly behind the scenes to put the club back into a stable off field position, staff who work their socks off and go beyond the call of duty to make MTFC a club for everyone, supporters who sing their hearts out from start to finish, travel mile after mile to watch and cheer on their team – I think you’d be hard pressed to find a club anywhere in the world with such a unique mix such as us, I for one am proud of that.
Yesterday should have been our day, it should have been the final reward for our tremendous season, as it happens it wasn’t and again we have to pick ourselves up and start again, no matter how hard it is. Last year I remember writing about how difficult it would be to pick ourselves up and start again, this year it will be tough but in a twisted way, it may prove to be the best thing that ever happened when we reflect in a year’s time – this bunch of players and management will be inspired by defeat because they too feel what we do now, they genuinely love Mansfield Town Football Club and every time they step onto a pitch next season, they will get a slight lump in their throats as they remember this pain, the adrenaline will flood and our football will flow – I’d hate to be an opposing player when that happens, our fire will burn so hot, even those used to the flames of hell will fear it.
I was disappointed to see some negative comments aimed at some players on twitter last night, I understand the frustrations anyone that would have seen me at full time will know that, but the result was nobody’s fault – it’s the way things go sometimes, no matter how painful. The player in question here is Ritchie Sutton, sent off after the goal – ‘Sutts’ has been outstanding all season long and is one of the nicest people I’ve worked with, his work rate and commitment is of the highest calibre, he came to the club as a right back who hadn’t played much constant football, moved to centre half and got on with it, doing the same when asked to play left back, he, along with any of the players, deserve a cuddle, a pat on the back and a massive ‘Thank You’ rather than a torrent of abuse. It’s only a small minority who’ve dished out the abuse and I know that the rest of you will join me in thanking all of the players for their effort and commitment to the cause.
Again I want to thank the players for all they’ve done and hope we keep the core together for next season, despite the tears that run down my face, MTFC I am proud.
No trip to Wembley, just trips to Hyde, Braintree and Macclesfield to look forward too as we enter our fifth season in the conference – The famous five always had an adventure, I look forward to watching the story unfold.
When your efforts come to nothing, don’t believe it’s all in vain – view every little setback as a chance to try again. Forget all thought of failure, that’s a word you’ll never need – take comfort from the knowledge, you’re certain to succeed: DON’T GIVE UP.