The other day I was walking into town and stumbled upon an area I never knew existed, writes Chad’s first ever Stags’ blogger Craig Priest.
The weather was so hot with the sun brighter than the smile on Sir John Radford’s face when Murray lifts the FA Trophy aloft; it was such a beautiful day with a nice cool breeze making the sunshine enjoyable. I turned a corner still looking for a place I may recognise, when suddenly the sunshine went away, the bright light became a creepy darkness, the cool breeze changed into a furious rage & the heavens above opened. Around me where scenes of people dashing for shelters, those people who were using brollies for shade, were now fighting hard to keep grip in the tornado like wind. Instead of finding myself some shelter, I stood bemused staring at an old building.
It must have been at least a hundred years old, maybe more, it had things falling off right left and centre, and judging by the skips & ‘keep out’ notices around, it was due to be demolished in the near future. The old crumbling outside features told nothing of this buildings story though, the core stood strong and brushed off Mother Nature’s threat like a morning yawn. Blow after blow of strong wind and thrashing rain attacked the tired looking building, but somehow it refused to be beaten. In fairness the building lost some of its extras, I stood watching as bits of guttering and roof tiles come crashing to the ground.
The storm stopped suddenly as the rain cleared, the tornado-like wind returned to a breeze & the darkness switched back to boiling sunshine. All around me, people where dusting themselves down & getting on with things, I stood staring at this building which had just withstood a complete battering, it was then that I closed my eyes briefly to take in the mad events that had just passed, opening them to find myself finding the answer to a question I’ve been asking myself for days.
I’ve been trying to figure out why the Wembley final is so important and what it means to us, both as a football club & as supporters.
I realised that like the house, standing strong in the storm, we as supporters have tremendous fight and spirit within. Since I started supporting the stags back in 2002 time, the metaphorical pendulum of good times vs. bad has certainly swung in the way of the latter. I alone have seen two relegations (one being the one which will hurt forever – dropping out of the football league), numerous defeats at the hands of our rivals, point’s deductions, ground lockouts, failed takeover bids, managerial gaffs, cup failings, awful grounds & perhaps too much false promise.
Yes there have been some good times too, but I dread to think what the older, longer serving fans have seen to add onto my list. The thing is, week in week out, we keep going back for more; we’ve not jumped ship to another team which are enjoying the successful side of the pendulum.
I think that is what makes us exactly like the old house riding the storm, & that is what highlights our fighting spirit & determination within – because deep down we share a belief that Mansfield Town Football Club can be a success. I bet that old house has seen some many different occupants, all with their different ideas on how they want things, just like Mansfield Town in the past three seasons I guess! Take away each occupants decor, fixtures & fittings and what do you get? Bricks & Mortar, the same Bricks & Mortar – day in day out, again similar to Mansfield Town not only in the past three season but throughout its history – take away the various Chairman, Managers & players – what do you have? Us, the supporters, the supporters who watch on as the wind, the rain & the darkness try and destroy us.
Like the house, we’ve been crying out for some care & attention, I think we’ve finally found that in John Radford. Mr Radford knows what we expect, because he himself is part of the Bricks & Mortar of the club, he’s called in the professional guys to give us the restoration that we sp desperately need – it all starts on Saturday 7th May 2011 at Wembley Stadium.
A return to the league is of course the main priority and again this season it’s failed for one reason or another, but from day one in this annoying league, I’ve believed the FA Trophy is a competition we should be winning, a competition a club of our stature should be winning & now we have the chance. Win at Wembley & no matter who’s in charge I think it will be our boost to win the league title and return to our rightful place in the football league.
Everywhere we go, from Alfreton to Braintree, from Gateshead to Bath City – we will have a brand new story to tell. No more tales of ground lockouts, no more painful memories of crying in the rain as we fell into the unknown, just memories of sheer joy & jubilation as Mansfield Town Football Club rise from the ashes.
It’s going to be a special day out at Wembley stadium, as a member of the press I was lucky enough to be invited along for press day a few weeks back, it’s beautiful empty, I can’t wait to see it filled with amber & blue, I can’t wait to see it filled with familiar faces, those of the people I love, I can’t begin to tell you how insanely jealous I will become at full time as they dance together in celebration, the FA’s press officer will have one hell of a job keeping me from joining them!
I’d say I’m a philosophical person; I have various sayings on my wall along with numerous photos, all of which tell their own story & relate to Mansfield Town FC. I owe that club my life, without them I would not have made so many great friends, found confidence or found a break into a media career which will see me sat in the press box in the second best stadium in the world (Field Mill will ALWAYS be number one!), all I ask now is for the current decorations in the Mansfield Town house, to go & give the bricks & mortar something to smile about – go and win at Wembley.
Embrace every second of the day, take in the story and in the end, all that pain, all those tears and all those empty years of devoted love & support will be rewarded. Forget all that’s past us by & take in the atmosphere – all we have is one chance, one shot at being winners once more, let’s take it.
It’s certainly a hard life being a Mansfield Town supporter, but anything, especially at this club, is possible, we’ll find what we’ve been searching for on May 7th and after it too, through it all, smile and be happy - that in itself is a great success too.
I’ll see you down Wembley way; scarf’s & flags flying in the summer breeze, smiles brighter than the afternoon, forever bursting with pride.
COME ON YOU STAGS!