Forty-Six games, eighty-seven goals and eighty-nine points have led us to finish in third place, writes Craig Priest.
This season has seen us achieve feats we’ve not come close too for many a year and in all honesty I could sit here and real off the stats, but you know deep down as well as I do that none of this counts for nothing now.
As we prepare to take on York City over two legs it’s all about belief, desire, hard work, mental and physical strength and ultimately, destiny.
It’s fair to say that I’m the type of person that takes inspiration from anything that I can. Sitting on my sofa after Saturday’s win at Kidderminster I was reflecting on our current campaign, when I suddenly realised that my greatest love, Mansfield Town FC, have proved to be one inspiring tale.
I’m sure the majority of fellow supporters will hold their hands up and, like me, admit to a degree of arrogance when we we’re relegated into the conference, we’d never properly heard of Forest Green Rovers, Salisbury and Barrow.
In our minds we we’re league giants compared to these middle of nowhere minnows. Because of our league history we thought we had a divine right to walk the league and go up as champions before we’d even kicked a ball, it took just forty-five minutes for me to personally realise how tough a return to the league would be.
As the clock ticked and the months and indeed seasons passed, we realised that arrogance isn’t the way forward and, three permanent managers later, we arrive at the real start of our story – 19th May 2011, the day Paul Cox was appointed manager.
People say that destiny is a funny thing; we often say that our destiny is to return to the Football League, over the past four seasons, this one included, I’ve learnt that destiny won’t be found or reached just by sitting around laying in wait; doing so gets you nowhere.
To actually go somewhere, be a winner, an achiever and a success, you have to adopt a sense of realism, which is exactly what our beloved club have done.
Accepting we are now a non-league club, and rather than arrogantly throw money at it, we’ve brought in a successful non-league manager with a reputation for taking a club from the wilderness and putting them back on the map.
Knowing that you have to put in hard graft and be prepared, both mentally and physically, for a fight against the obstacles and doubters, the former Eastwood boss brought in the right blend of players throughout the season to fight that battle.
Cox himself will admit he made a few mistakes in the summer, but along with his vastly non-league experienced backroom team, the foundations for success have become stronger and stronger with each addition.
Not only to you have to fight, you have to learn to rise every time you fall because no matter what anyone says, they’re will be a stumble along the way – the November/December months spring to mind!
Learning from each other and breaking the barrier between payers and supporters has led us to become one big family, one strong core which gives us the confidence to keep going forward, and as such keeping our destiny forever in our own hands.
On Wednesday we head for York City’s Bootham Crescent as the form team from the last eight games, and the best team both home and away, from the last six – however as I said at the top of the piece none of this counts for anything. Our form naturally puts us favourites which in turn piles on the pressure. it’s this pressure which acts as our obstacle now, we must not let our venomous form bring back that arrogance we entered life in the conference with all those years ago.
Let us stay true to ourselves as we have been all season, our support is phenomenal, in fact as I think back as I write, I have to stop to wipe a proud tear from my eye, thinking about how far we’ve come – we we’re broken, down in the gutter but now we are alive, our hearts race at the speed of a bullet train – loving every second of the season that keeps on giving.
I know the tickets will sell fast and the away end will be packed, weather your there physically, at the One Call Stadium watching on the big screen or at home listening on the radio, you’ll be at York in spirit. It’s going to be emotional and I truly have no idea what to expect, I’ve been trying to write my script for Wednesday’s radio show, you should see the amount of paper scrunched up in the bin – I’m so desperate to get the preparation and indeed the commentary right, but do you know what? It doesn’t matter what I write on paper or what I say on air (so long as I don’t swear!) – It’s what I see that counts.
The away end will be to the left of where I sit, I hope to see 1100 happy smiling faces who don’t stop signing from start to finish, that drum can’t stop beating those amber and blue scarves and flags can’t stop waving, because that defines who we are – that support, that love, that uncontrollable roar and in explainable energy is Mansfield Town FC and it’s what our players thrive up on which has taken us to where we are.
Let us take it one step further, let us dare to dream: COME ON YOU STAGS!