Former Mansfield Town goalkeeper and captain Ian Bowling has revealed the Stags playing squad had to take drastic action against former chairman Keith Haslam in order to get paid.
Bowling recalled the antics of the controversial former chairman in a frank, open and honest interview – the first in a brand new series.
Mansfield Chad has teamed up with popular supporters podcast Mansfield Matters for the series, which will run through the close-season, taking a trip down memory lane.
They hope to raise money for the Alzheimer’s Society by sharing stories of yesteryear with former players and managers of the club.
The first episode brought former shot-stopper Bowling to the Capo Lounge, Mansfield, to share stories with podcasters Craig Priest, Simon Mercer, Nathan Edge and Cam Felton.
In a no holds barred interview, Bowling said Stags players played through the pain barrier with no financial reward under Haslam during the late 1990s.
“It’s probably one of the hardest times I’ve had in football,” admitted Bowling with a grimace on his face as he recalled Mansfield Town FC under the ownership of Haslam.
“We weren’t getting paid — the PFA had to step in and pay us for three months because there was a (transfer) embargo on the club and he [Haslam] wasn’t paying our wages.
“Every time we tried to meet him he wouldn’t see us.
“We’d be out training and he’d shoot off at dinner time [before we finished]. We ended up blocking his car in the car park, just to find out what was going off because the gaffer would come in and say ‘I’ve spoken to him, he says he’s got no money.’”
“So we blocked him in, got him into the dressing room and asked what was going off.
“We’d got mortgages to pay, kids to feed. I’ll never forget it. John Schofield went ‘you, you ******** if you we were working down the pits, and they [the workers] came up after a shift and you said that, they’d rip your ******** head off!’
“He [Haslam] just stood there and said he’d try to see what he could do.
“It got resolved in the end because I’d been playing for three months with a double hernia. I couldn’t get out of bed in a morning and [because of the embargo] the club couldn’t fetch another keeper in. It got that bad that he [Haslam] paid the PFA the money back so we could fetch another keeper, Stuart Naylor, in on loan.”
Bowling joined the club in the summer of 1995 after being let go by Bradford City and remained with the Stags until 2000, when then boss Billy Dearden told him he was surplus to requirements — a point in his career that Bowling looks back on with clear anger, disappointment and pain.
“I’d broken my arm in April 1999 and they [the doctors] said I’d never play again, but I did,” he said.
“I got myself back fit and playing, and then had a knee injury that required surgery.
“That day four of us had surgery on our knees, me, Tony Lormor, Gary Tallon and Dean Mitchell – the other three had to retire,
“I made it back. My knee wasn’t right, however, so I had to go in again.
“It still wasn’t right and the third time I went in to have it looked at I had to have work done on my arm too.
“Anyway I got back and I don’t know if it’s because I’d been out for a long time, but I didn’t feel as sharp — it got to the end of the season and Billy told me to come back in pre-season and we’d have a chat.
“He brought Bobby Mimms in, and that was up to him, the day after he’d told me to come back in pre-season. I received a letter from the club in the post saying I’d been released.
“I’d been player of the year three out of my five years, I don’t think I deserved to be treated like that.
“I phoned him [Dearden] up and he was in one of the local pubs with his staff and he says it [the letter] was a mistake and to come back in pre-season – but when I went back in, I knew it was just hanging on and hanging on. In the end I went to see him and he told me that I could go.
“I looked at him and thought, I just want to rip your ******* head off. I just went ‘thanks a lot.’
“I walked out and bumped into Kevin Pilkington walking through the car park to sign.”
Despite the two tales of sorrow, Bowling does look back fondly on his time at Field Mill, insisting he’d walk back through the door tomorrow if he could.
You can hear more stories from Ian, including how the squad once swamped a town with clones of Brian “Killer” Kilkline, how a surgeon pulled a prank on the popular gloves man, and how post Mansfield, Ian had a too-close-for-comfort encounter with a goal post.
The Mansfield Matters podcast will be available on iTunes in audio format (search for Mansfield Matters A Trip Down Memory Lane), on the Mansfield Matters Facebook page (www.facebook.com/mtfcmatters) and online at www.mtfcmatters.co.uk
it will go live on Wednesday, 16th May around lunchtime.
Mansfield Matters is raising money for the Alzheimer’s Society and donations can be made in two ways:
Direct to the Alzheimer’s Society https://www.justgiving.com/alzheimerssoc
To Mansfield Matters (80% goes to charity, 20% towards project running costs) https://www.gofundme.com/memory-lane-podcast-for-alzheimers