Ex-Mansfield Town defender Martin Riley’s regret over missing out on Conference promotion glory

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Former Mansfield Town defender Martin Riley says he carries a tinge of regret at not being a part of the Stags squad who were promoted back into the Football League in the 2012/13 campaign.

Riley had enjoyed a successful season at the heart of the Stags’ defence as Paul Cox’s men finished in the play-offs the previous season, but spent the following season as a Wrexham player, after failing to agree terms on a new deal.

The popular centre back returned to the One Call Stadium after a fine season at Wrexham in which he won the FA Trophy and suffered another near-miss on promotion, watching on from a distance as Mansfield were crowned champions.

Speaking to the Mansfield Matters Podcast ‘Stags Stories’, the 32-year-old believes hindsight is a wonderful thing, when reflecting on how he and manager Paul Cox handled contract negotiations prior to his move to Wrexham.

MARTIN RILEY RECALLS THE NOTORIOUS ‘BATTLE OF ILKESTON’

“I wanted to stay at Mansfield, I really did – but looking back now there was definitely a lot of things which I did wrong with the way that I left things standing with Coxy (Paul Cox).

“But I also think you can say the same for him, I don’t think either of us handled things very well.

“It was strange really (returning after just one season) as it was Micky (Moore, then assistant manager) that brought me in the first time.

“It always felt that I was Micky’s type of player and not Paul’s and for whatever reason I had more of a relationship with him than Paul.”

Riley, like the rest of the footballing world, was enjoying the Mansfield fairytale.

But his decision to reconnect with his former manager came from the defender congratulating Cox on his well-publicised wedding, as the Stags prepared to face Liverpool in the FA Cup third round.

“I just texted him (Cox) out of the blue to say congratulations on the wedding etc and to his credit he messaged me back saying how are you and from that moment we kept in touch.”

However, the defender insists that the option to re-join, boiled down to wanting to play in the Football League, rather than any long-term communication with his former manager.

“If we (Wrexham) had achieved promotion it would have been extremely difficult to leave but the fact that I was going back into the League for myself was massive for me, and joining Mansfield again, having made so many friends in the town and a good relationship with the fans etc, it was too good to turn down.”

In ‘Stags Stories’, Riley also lifts the lid on some of the dressing room antics from his time at the club, including how he taught the Stags’ youth team a footballing lesson, how away-day quizzes led to Ollie Palmer hitting an brain iceberg and how a second exit, was made tougher following a change in managerial direction.

Stags Stories: Martin Riley PART TWO – will be released at 5pm on Thursday 13th June 2019 on all good podcast apps, with the video version also on Facebook, Twitter and online at www.mtfcmatters.co.uk – Part one is out now.