Mansfield Town’s Oli Hawkins on red card heartbreak at Wembley – ‘it has been tough but you have to get over it’

Mansfield Town's Oli Hawkins has spoken for the first time about his red card in last season's play-off final at Wembley as Stags lost 3-0 to Port Vale.

Tuesday, 2nd August 2022, 3:35 pm

Hawkins was dismissed for a second bookable offence which saw him suspended at Salford on Saturday.

“After the final, the first few days were a bit tough for myself. Getting sent off, it was a difficult time for me,” he said.

“But I have tried to get over it as quickly as I can and focus on this season.

Oli Hawkins is upset as he leaves for an early bath at Wembley in May.

“You can't linger on it forever and have to realise the good times we have had and try to forget about it. It was a bad day but there are plenty more ups on the horizon.

“It was probably the worst moment of my career – I had never properly been sent off before. So it was really hard to take, especially as I was a local boy from that area and had been to Wembley and scored a winning penalty before.

“So from that to getting sent off in front of your family and tons of your friends was a really difficult time.

“It was an experience I'd never had before and I just had to get over it and realise there are worst things in life.

Wembley flashpoint as Oli Hawkins is sent off.

“If I am totally honest I forget I'd been yellow carded when I made that second tackle as the first one for me was so light.

“All I was doing (for the first booking) was what I would normally do when you are getting grappled. I tried to push him away and he went down and made a meal of it.

“That was how my season went. Every first tackle I made last season I got yellow carded and it just happened to happen again in the final – my first altercation was a yellow card, not a warning.”

He continued: “Players, staff, friends and family and the majority of fans I saw online were supportive. It happens and unfortunately it happened to me.

“It's not a good feeling and we didn't go on to win the game.

“Maybe if I had stayed on the pitch the result might have been different, though we were 2-0 down. You never know. It was a horrible feeling - but you have to get over it.”

Hawkins was signed as a striker but, with his height, has proved useful at the back too but says he knows he still needs to learn more about the art of defending.

“I need to work on not getting yellow carded as much,” he said.

“It's an experience for me playing at the back. I feel it's a position you need to have played over the years and really studied it and master it.

“Obviously I haven't mastered tackling, so this season I have to learn to make tackles that are less bookable.”

His suspension served, Hawkins is now desperate to get going this weekend.

“I am really excited to be back having, unfortunately, missed the first game at Salford with suspension,” he said.

“It's been a short period off and a relatively quick turnover but I am ready to go. I prefer it being shorter and getting straight back into it.

“It's going to be a very big season for us, especially at home with the big crowd numbers we have gathered.

“I am really excited to see them again and hopefully keep our home form from last year on into this one.

“Last season ended in disappointment, but if we can take that same momentum we had since the start of the year, keep trying to win games at home, and potentially be better away from home, our aim is automatic promotion.”

With Stags now going with a back three, Hawkins is again being tried in a new position in the centre of the three.

“It's a different position for me again in the middle but it's one I feel can work for us. It will need a few games but I think we have the players all round the squad capable of filling different positions,” he said.

“In the middle you get more time on the ball when you're trying to pass out and, if the opposition only have one up front, sometimes you are not marking anyone. So it's a bit more of a mental challenge having three at the back.”

He added: “It's difficult starting away from home, so the season starts on Saturday for us.

“We have an amazing crowd with us on our shoulders and we need to try to play football, keep the ball, keep attacking and try to score early goals like we did.

“I never know where I will start a game but I am happy to play wherever I am asked and will try my hardest.

“I will probably start mainly at the back but, who knows? Certain games I may need to be called on up front.

“I am focusing on playing at the back, though you do miss that feeling of scoring when you're up front. I am just happy to play games.

“I feel like we are going into the season a bit more experienced from last season's lows and we can cope with certain games and how to overcome situations.

“We have to keep our heads up and never give up. I can't see another 10-game losing streak happening.

“And if I am playing the majority of the season at the back I am working on not getting yellow cards as much.”