New Stags chief to call the tune

MANSFIELD Town has a new 'leader of the band' as John Hemmingham takes over the day-to-day reins of the club as chief executive.

Self-confessed football nut Hemmingham (45) has a wealth of experience and knowledge after working with Sheffield Wednesday and Leeds United from both the supporters' and club sides of things.

Stags appoint operations director

And he will certainly be coming in 'on the right note' as he is a founder member of the world-famous England supporters' terrace band which is based at Hillsbrough.

Hemmingham, who lives in the Peak District, was initially joining Stags as operations director.

But he said: "Operations director was a part-time role. But when the new guys came in to take over they quickly realised they needed someone in there with a bit of experience to run it on a daily basis.

"They all have their own businesses and their own concerns as well. "Obviously they will still have input. But they wanted someone in there full time - and that was me.

"I have resigned from my other job and am currently seeing out my notice. But they have been very understanding with me at my old job and I am at Field Mill a lot already. I start full-time in about three weeks.

"I was working as area manager for MAN Trucks and now I am joining MANsfield Town!"

He added: "I had been there since I left Leeds United in January. At Leeds I was head of customer services and membership which meant basically anything to do with supporters.

"I started up 50 different Leeds United membership clubs all over the country and abroad.

"We would take players out and go and visit them and get the fans involved.

"I also worked on the commercial side, bringing in stand and match sponsors. So I have good contacts with big name firms.

"I have also good contacts on the football side and have already brought two players into the club for Billy.

"I know Andy Perry from my time at Sheffield Wednesday. There I was chief executive of the Owls Trust which is now the Wednesdayites.

"Myself and others set up the supporters trust in 2001."

Having seen football from both sides of the coin, Hemmingham feels he is ideal to bridge the gap that opened up between Mansfield Town under hated previous owner Keith Haslam and its supporters.

"I have a lot of experience and a lot of enthusiasm," he said.

"And, being involved with fans and being a fan, I understand fans. I hope to make things a lot more open here than they have been and to work with everyone who wants to work with us, whether fans or the business community.

"I want to bring a lot of pride back into the club – I am certainly proud of it. I was absolutely enthused by the amount of volunteers we had to help paint the ground. There is a lot of goodwill there.

"It's great also that we have sold more season tickets than last year.

"I want to see us getting crowds of over 3,000 every game. So if you've not been down yet this season or know someone who hasn't been in a while, get them to come down and see us – things have changed.

"We have just won three games on the trot and there is a great feeling about the town. With what Rebecca Adlington has done, pride in the town has never been higher. Come on and show that pride down here too.

"If we can get the support from everyone we can only go on from here."

Sadly his arrival and that of the new owners came too late to prevent Stags sliding out of the Football League for the first time in 77 years. But he said: "I am a glass half full man and always positive.

"I would rather be top of this league rather than bottom of League Two. At least we are heading in the right direction.

"This is where we find ourselves at the moment and we know it will be very difficult to get up. A lot of clubs have come down and not made it back, some like Halifax and Scarborough have dropped off the map altogether.

"But we are determined to get back up as soon as possible. Billy McEwan has worked wonders so far to say he only had four players a couple of weeks before kick off.

"Yet he has already managed to get us into joint second place. That is down to the wave of enthusiasm which we need to keep going and to keep riding.

"We know once the honeymoon period is over it will be harder. Everyone has to dig deep – players and fans.

"We need people to still come down here when it is minus five degrees and chucking it down with rain. We know we must give them a reason to come down."

Although coming in and out of Field Mill as and when he can at the moment, Hemmingham admitted he cannot wait to start full time.

"I am champing at the bit to start," he said. "There is so much to do, everywhere I look. Things are not the way I want them to be done. It takes time and I just want to crack on."

Away from Stags' business, Hemmingham will continue his band commitments and wouldn't rule out helping Stags' supporters start their own!

"I think you need atmosphere at a ground, I have spoken to players and managers and they love it with the crowd behind them," he said

"It started out as a laugh initially when I took a bugle with me to a Sheffield Wednesday away game at Everton.

"The fans all loved it and the manager at the time, Trevor Francis, contacted me and said he thought it was brilliant as he was used to that sort of thing from his time at Sampdoria. He asked if I had any mates with a drum and it grew from there.

"We started out with six of us in 1993 and by 1996 we were picked for England!

"Glenn Hoddle and David Davies saw us at Arsenal and asked if we would come and play at England games.

"I am football mad and been to a game every week since I was eight or nine. So it was brilliant to be asked to do it for my country.

"Since then we have not missed an England game home or away. I have done three World Cups! We may not be everyone's cup of tea, but most fans love us.

"We are now also the official Ricky Hatton band, Rugby Union, Rugby League and have just got back from Beijing where we were official band to the Great Britain hockey teams in the Olympics, which was a great experience."

Mansfield Town can now benefit from the ground-hopping and globe-trotting the band has brought for Hemmingham.

"All the travelling has given me a wealth of knowledge," he said. "I have been to so many grounds around the world and have seen how they do their ticketing, their stadium arrangements, pre-match events, travel etc."

Field Mill is unlikely to see the busy Wednesday band in action. But he wouldn't rule out the Stags having one of their own.

"I would never impose the band on anyone," he said. "We play where we are asked. But if enough people wanted to do something similar here then it is possible.

"We will do whatever we can to get behind the Stags players. Some players in this league will never have been to a ground as big as ours and I want them to be absolutely terrified when they go out there!

"Off the field we will look after them well. But once they go out onto the pitch I want our fans to let them know in no uncertain terms who they are supporting. Turn that volume level up.

"I reckon a few opponents will just crumble if we can achieve that."

Hemmingham is keen to see an end to the stewarding problems that have plagued Mansfield Town in recent seasons and seen ground capacity reduced.

"There will be no heavy-handedness here from either side," he said.

"I have seen everything as a fan. Italian police charging with batons for no reason, flares flashing six inches past my head.

"I doubt there are many people round here who have been to as many games or grounds as me so I want to use that experience for the good of Mansfield Town.

"There is no situation I haven't faced or experienced. I am always here for people to talk to me if they have concerns.

"Having seen it from the fans' side and from working at a football club too I know both sides and think I have a very balanced view."

Chairman Andy Perry said: "This is a fantastic opportunity for Mansfield Town to have someone with the experience of John as chief executive.

"He has a wealth of knowledge of football and sales in and out of football and is a very amenable person.

"We know the club is in very safe hands and he has the full backing of the board."