Right now I’m sitting on the rooftop of my flat, searching for inspiration, I can here birdsong I can see clear blue sky – I’m reflecting on byegone years, when at this point of the season I’ve wanted it to come to an abrupt end, writes Craig Priest.
This season however is totally different, at the moment I’ll be gutted when it finally does end.
Of course I, like you, have visions of how it well end and will come to them when the times right, I’ve always been a realist and I don’t want to tempt fate when so much can happen in a season of thrilling twists and turns,
As I mentioned I’m sat here, music in one ear, bird song in the other, thinking about those seasons that have faded away. Never at this time of the season have I been so excited about what could happen.
I’m excited by the prospect of future blogs taking about how we bathe in glory in the summer sun rather than about crying in the dark evening rain, like Tuesday 29th April 2008.
I remember all too well the night we we’re relegated. I was sat in my bedroom in my old house listening to the commentary of the Chester v Stockport game on the internet – I had a pile of homework to do, but just couldn’t concentrate – I kept pacing up and down, standing still every time the action crept near the goal. In those final minutes, the game remained level, our fate about to be sealed.
Suddenly Stockport get a free-kick, this could be it, this could be the moment to save us, to give us one last shot. CRASH it hits the bar, BANG Chester scramble clear WOLLOP, the full time whistle blows, Mansfield Town are relegated.
For a moment I didn’t know what to do, it was like waking up but your body still being asleep. Eventually I felt closed in and headed downstairs and outside, mum knew enough not to question why I was going outside at 10pm in PJ’s and slippers! The rain hammered down and I stood, looking around at the wider world, every area being submerged into darkness – I could feel the tears streaming down my face, a feat repeated at the weekend as I headed back to the supporters coach having lost to Dagenham and Redbridge.
I swear down the sun never shone that summer, even on opening day of the season when we travelled to Stonebridge Road to take on Ebbsfleet, the sun didn’t shine, the rain drizzled down – really that should have been a sign of things to come!
The fax machine, the arrival of Holdsworth, the arrival of players with good reputations, the departure of those players with broken reputations! The Radford takeover, the sacking of Holdsworth, the appointment of Duncan Russell. The ground lock out, the big freeze – the glorious yet again heartbreaking FA Trophy run.
All these events and more crammed into just under four seasons have passed with a blur, though at the time they seemed to drag on forever. I remember walking out of Wembley crying, I was so confident that it would finally be our day! However for the first time in a long while, heartbreak wasn’t in the rain, it was in the sun – a day just like this one – so perfect, so quiet so calm and soothing. Maybe it was an omen that sometimes victory can be found in defeat. I felt that on Saturday when we we’re beaten at Fleetwood. Sometimes you have to take a step back before you take a step forward – to keep grounded, to appreciate the finer things in football.
This season has been memorable and as we approach the final six games we are in a really strong position with the huge possibility that we can achieve our dream at last. Again like I said at the top of the piece, I’m a realist and I don’t want to paint a picture of the future just yet, as anything can happen.
We’ve done one thing which I believe will make the difference this season – finally we’ve accepted who and more importantly what we are. We are a conference side, we’ve brought in a conference manager – yes you could argue that Mr Holdsworth was also a non-league manager, however this time we’ve put together a bunch of players with mainly non-league experience – it’s been those players along with he one or two more experienced heads that have dug deep and done the work so far – there have been slip ups, moments we’ve been left angry inside, but that’s part of the game.
We’ve shrugged off the arrogance of ‘we should walk this league’ we’ve accepted trips to the places in the middle of nowhere and got on with the job with minimal fuss. We’ve rid ourselves of an evil stigma attached for far too long and have come together as one at the right time.
I see this now as I look up to the bright blue sky, it’s beautiful. The weather from here on in should be glorious, get to Field Mill, to Nene Park, to the Kingfield and indeed to Aggbrough for our final six and embrace moments like this. Embrace the football, the atmosphere the adrenaline rush of victory. Embrace Mansfield Town FC.
Enjoy it and appreciate it for what it is – then perhaps you too will see Mansfield Town FC rise with the morning sun, bathe in the days glory but this time – never fade when the sunsets.
Right I’m off out of the sun before I fall asleep! See you at the mill on Saturday – Make lots of noise – lets acheieve a dream and banish the rain forever!