Ex-Mansfield Town managerial legend Ian Greaves dies

FORMER Mansfield Town manager Ian Greaves - the man who took the Stags to a Wembley triumph - has died.

Greaves (76) passed away on Friday at his home near Bolton - the club where he made his name nationally as a manager - it was revealed late on Friday.

He was the Stags' longest serving manager - both in terms of matches, 274, and his six years at the helm.

The former Manchester United 'Busby Babe' was a surprise appointment as Mansfield boss in February 1983 - but led the club to the 1987 Freight Rover Trophy final triumph at Wembley, possibly its finest hour.

However, Greaves - who had been fighting illness for the past couple of years - always described the Division IV promotion success the previous season as 'the greater achievement'.

He told me back in 1987: "There is more sense of achievement as you have a lot more responsibility.

"So those days when I won championships with Huddersfield and Bolton, and promotion here at Mansfield, will always remain very special."

Mansfield Town confirmed on Monday that they will pay tribute to their old manager next Saturday with a minute's applause before the BSP match with Altrincham. On Friday night chairman Andy Perry told mansfieldtown.net: "This is sad news. Ian will go down in history at Field Mill for what he achieved for us. On behalf of everyone at the club, I would like to extend my deepest condolensces to Ian's friends and family."

Stags Supporters Association joint chairman Dean Foulkes told Chad: "It is a very, very sad day - both for Ian's family, the football club and me personally.

"Ian was the manager when my granddad first took me to see the Stags, so I have great memories.

"He was an absolute legend. Winning a promotion and at Wembley makes him, for me, possibly our most successful manager ever. He was the absolute best. The SSA will be sending flowers to his funeral."

Greaves stayed at Field Mill for six years and built a talented squad through judicious transfers.

A likeable, no-nonsense 'old school' manager, Greaves is sure to be remembered by Mansfield Town fans as a true Stags legend - and was so cherished by supporters that they protested long and loud to help persuade him to reject the attentions of West Bromwich Albion.

As a player, he 'escaped' being involved in the 1958 Munich air disaster when he was dropped at the last minute as left back ahead of a European trip - his replacement Geoff Bent then died in the tragedy that engulfed Manchester United when a place crashed on take-off at Munich Airport.

Greaves went on to play in the FA Cup final at Wembley later that season, one of 67 appearances for the Red Devils . . . and it was that 2-0 defeat which played a part in the Stags' triumph at the famous 'Twin Towers'.

For he told me ahead of that Freight Rover final penalty shoot-out glory in 1987: "Looking back it is a day that you never forget, but the big warning is not to just enjoy the day and forget everything else.

"I now think that I was so pleased to play at Wembley that the result didn't really matter . . .our players must not fall into that trap. It is one think to get there, but another to win.

"Most of the town is saying great, fabulous, a day out for everyone. Yes, it might be a day out for them, but it definitely will not be for my players. They've got 90 minutes to win a match."

It was as an inspirational and tactically astute manager that Greaves made his name.

Before coming to Field Mill he had famously turned around the fortunes of Huddersfield and Bolton Wanderers, taking them both into the top tier of English football. At Bolton be brought on the likes of Sam Allardyce, Peter Reid and Neil Whatmore, the latter later joining him at Field Mill.

Greaves also worked under the infamous Robert Maxwell at Oxford and later at Wolves before being persuaded to come to the Stags - struggling in the Fourth Division.

When asked why, he said: "It was simple. I needed a job . . . and because they wanted me to run them the way I would want to run it."

It perhaps took Greaves - and his assistant John Jarman - a couple of seasons to adjust to life in the basement of the Football League. In 1984 they finished 19th and then 14th following season.

Greaves also brought Billy Dearden - later twice to become manager - to the Stags, working on the youth side.

And the management team's insistence on a thriving youth policy - and good judgment in the transfer market - paid dividends with promotion in the 1985-86 season.

The following year came the Wembley triumph and 10th place in Division III before a 19th placed finish the following season, 1987-88.

However, that belied a thrilling finish to the season, with two goals in the last five minutes of the penultimate match of the season clinching a 2-1 win over Brentford to avoid relegation . . . ' the great escape'!

The following February Greaves quit, after earlier saying six years was as long as he would be at any club.

He presided over 91 victories, 90 draws and 94 defeats in 274 matches in charge.

Leaving the Stags was the end of his managerial career, but he continued to scout for many clubs in the north west.

Greaves brought the likes of George Foster, Keith Cassells, Neville Chamberlain, Mark Kearney and Kevin Kent to the club - while his youth policy saw the development of players such as Colin Calderwood, Mike Galloway, Les Robinson, Simon Coleman and Craig McKernon.

Kent scored the goal in the 1-1 Wembley draw, and also netted in the 5-4 penalty shoot-out triumph, and paid tribute to the manager telling Chad: "We didn't realise how good Ian Greaves was until he left.

"In many ways we over-achieved, but he brought in good players - some experienced and others with a point to prove.

"It is very sad news. He was a larger than life character, but down-to-earth. He always spoke his mind, but was honest and up front and you knew where you stood with him.

"He demanded that you gave everything for the fans.

"I always remember that he took us down a pit and to Fountaindale School and Portland Training College. He made us realise how lucky we were to be playing professional and to see what working life was like for many of our fans.

"He was a great man-manager . . . I remember walks up the moors before FA Cup games, a tradition I know Billy Dearden later continued at Mansfield.

"He was so well respected in the game, managers were always going to him for advice and he was on the first committee of the managers' association.

"You will see how well respected he was by the number of managers and players at his funeral and I will be going.

"We always used to joke that he got us for nothing and would pay us nothing! It is the little things like that, the jokes and the quirky moments, that you remember at a time like this."

Greaves' first signing Mark Kearney, also a member of the 1987 Wembley winning team, told 103.2 radio: "He was a fantastic motivator and had an aura about him. He was a massive man and when he walked into a room he filled it. His man-management was second to none.

Click here to listen to audio tributes at Mansfield 103.2

"I broke my leg at Mansfield and I was at reall low and the way he hndled that was fantatsic. He gave me another contract which allowed me time to recover.

"He instilled a very strong work ethic, the highest standards, but also wanted to play the game properly, get the ball down and try to pass it and play the game in the right manner.

"He made us very professional because of his attitude and how he treated us. He made us work hard and play hard. He was a proper manager, didn't get too close to you but treated you with respect, knew when to have a word and when to leave you alone.

"When he left Mansfield he went to do some scouting for Alex Ferguson, that shows you how he was thought about in the game."

Billy Dearden, a coach under Greaves and a close friend, added his tributes in an interview on 103.2. He said: "I have known Greavsie from our time together at Oldham. He will be sadly missed, it is a big, big loss.

"He was one of the best I have worked with. He could manage anybody.

"He was a tremendous character. His man management was top drawer.

"As a person he was absolutely brilliant, he was different class. If you compare him with one of the modern day managers at top level you are talking about Harry Redknapp and people like that, people who can manage people. Talking to players and handling players, he was brilliant."

And as the words in the club's Wembley song, 'Mansfield Magic', said - "Our manager, Ian Greaves, has really brought the team on'.

Pay your tributes to Ian Greaves below and we will print a selection in next week's printed edition of Chad