Few Mansfield Town supporters are still around who were among the crowd at the club’s first ever Football League game on Saturday, August 29 1931.
But Charlie Stone can still remember bits of the day like it was yesterday.
The 93-year-old, from Mansfield, was among the 12.232 crowd for his first ever Stags game – a day that sowed the seed for a support of the club that lasts until today and saw him attending matches for over 70 years.
In the days when strikers could barge goalkeepers over the line and the goal stood, Charlie’s most vivid memory from that historic day is joining in with other youngsters in encouraging legendary striker Harry Johnson to flatten Swindon keeper Harry Cope.
“There won’t be many of us still around from that first game,” he said. “I was born in 1922, so I would have been nine or 10. It was exciting - I was only a kid and I was out.
“Around Field Mill there was a dog track and there was a brick building at the Quarry Lane end from which the hare used to run from.
“Us kids could sit on top of it. We were shouting ‘Knock him the net Harry’ as in those days you could attack the goalkeeper. It was when a keeper got killed that they stopped it.
“I can see Harry Johnson now kicking down towards that Quarry Lane end and those kids shouting. And he obliged.
“He came from Sheffield United, went back there and was connected with Sheffield for many years.”
Johnson failed to net that day, but Joe Readman scored one and Harry Broome a brace as Stags beat Swindon 3-2.
However, Johnson went on to net an astonishing 104 goals in five seasons, having joined Stags at the age of 34 after banging in 205 for Sheffield United.
“I read that Matt Green reckoned he was going to break that record,” said Charlie. “But not in this lifetime. He won’t beat that.”
That first game was with Charlie’s Uncle Joe.
“I had an uncle live on Cromwell Street called Joe James,” he said. “They’d got no children so he used to take me. In the summer he’d take me to the baths and football in the winter.
“We used to walk through the park. That’s when the changing rooms were on Quarry Lane. You could see the players going down into that stone building.
“It was my first football match, but I knew about them before they got in the League as they played Arsenal in a cup game and drew here and went to Arsenal and got beaten. They were referred to as the ‘Egg & Milk team’ as the manager said they’d trained on egg and milk.”
Watching Mansfield Town became a family habit down the years.
“I was a season ticket holder until I couldn’t walk,” said Charlie, who spent many years working as a plumber for Linney.
“Apart from the war years, I must have gone down there for over 70 years.
“I have two sons. My eldest lad is 61, the one in Mansfield is 58 and in the last 20 years when I had a car, we’d get in on a Saturday and go to Rochdale or Preston – them sort of away matches. I went to Wembley and a lot of away matches.
“I’ve got all my marbles still and if I was more mobile I’d still be going now.
“I’ve always been interested in football and I’ve always lived in Mansfield.
“When I used to sit in the West Stand, there were times when it was more interesting looking over at Berry Hill. But that’s football. I’ve always gone.”
He added: “I got married in 1951. My wife, Irene, before we were married, used to work in a cafe on Queen’s Street and all the players used to go in there for all their meals. It cost them about one and nine for their dinner.
“She did come to matches until we had a family. She died two and a half years ago.”
So many vivid memories come rushing back to Charlie as he looks back on his time at Field Mill.
“There have been so many ex-internationals who have played for Mansfield. We have had some good players here,” he said.
“I can remember Freddie Steele, who was also manager. He played here when Tommy Lawton came to Notts County.
“Freddie could head a ball equally as good as Tommy Lawton, and he did well. He had a house on Sheepbridge Lane.
“I went for years and we used to stand behind the goal on Quarry Lane. There used to be about a dozen of us as friends.
“I was involved when bought the stand from Hurst Park racecourse. I worked at that time or a company called Fletchers and we did the original West Stand as it was then. The first one was a wooden place with no seats at one end.
“When we played West Ham in the FA Cup it was put off a time or two. We sat in the stand – there were over 20,000 folk on the ground.
“We beat them and then played Leicester here, who beat us 1-0, and my son only said last night he could still see the Leicester player scoring the winning goal with his head.”
He added: “I have been entertained by Mansfield Town all my life and I’d go now but I don’t go anywhere up steps any more. It’s got to be on the level. It might be about 10 years since I’ve been now.
“My grandson, who is 18, said he will take me down to the new restaurant at the ground.
“I don’t go, but I am still interested. My son tells me now that Adam Murray hasn’t got a bad side and they are footballing a bit, though he reckons in that last home match nobody tried.
“My son said they want a centre forward. He says Green and the other forwards need Matt Rhead back, who was a bustler and he’s still getting goals for Lincoln. He says if he was at Mansfield now he would be making goals for Greeny.
“I do like the fact Murray is training them in the afternoons now, which makes sense as they play in the afternoon.
“My son has told me if they finish halfway this year, it’s a start - just as long as they aren’t like they were last year.
“He says don’t take a lot of notice of being sixth or seventh, dad, if they finish in the top half they are on the right road, though if Murray does well he might be gone.”