'Matt Rhead is a better player than people think' - Paul Cox gives his verdict on the importance of former Mansfield Town and Lincoln City forward
Every football team has an unsung hero and a player who goes under the radar of supporters as others take the limelight.
But to those in the dug-out and out on the pitch that player is worth their weight in gold.
And, with just five goals to his name during Mansfield’s 2012/13 Blue Square Premier League title-winning season, Matt Rhead could very well fit that bill.
His meagre goal tally pales into insignificance compared to top scorer Matt Green’s impressive 25 goal haul.
But for Mansfield’s manager that season, Paul Cox, the no-nonsense forward was an irreplaceable piece in the promotion-winning jigsaw.
“Matt Green was pivotal, not just as a goalscorer but also his character and influence in the dressing room,” Cox said.
“He could occupy a back four on his own. He had the pace and power to get in behind people.
“What he needed was someone to do the other work - like winning the first ball, holding the ball up and feeding Matt the ball.
“I think it’s pretty simplistic in the final third. You can have the best goalscorer on the planet, but if he is not getting the service then he is not going to be getting chances.
“Ross Dyer and Matt Rhead both deserve tremendous credit for the unseen work that they did.
“Matt Green got the plaudits and the POTY and top goalscorer trophies. If you asked Matt he would tell you Rheady was a dream to play alongside.
“He does all the horrible work and allows you to pick up all the medals and the plaudits.
“He is that much of a pro that that is his personality and he is happy with that.”
Rhead joined Stags from Corby Town in January 2012 following a career journeying around the non-league scene.
But, despite his key role in helping Stags regain EFL status and 120 games for the club, he is perhaps better known outside the town for what he achieved at Lincoln City.
Rhead, who quit his job at JCB in July 2012 to become a pro footballer, finished the 2016/17 season as the Imps top scoring during their National League title-winning season.
He went on to make more than 160 appearances for the Sincil Bank side and was part of the team who made it all the way to the FA Cup quarter-finals in the 2017/18 campaign.
And, while he is delighted for his former Eastwood Town player, Cox can't help but feel a sense of sadness that Rhead didn’t make more of a name for himself at the One Call Stadium.
“The sad thing about Rheady for me is that he went to LIncoln to become a legend,” said Cox.
“I have known him for a long long time and you could not meet a more pleasant or honest man to work with.
“They hero worshipped him at Lincoln and sometimes I feel a little sorry for him that when he was at Mansfield he did not get the plaudits that he should have got.
“I speak to a lot of Mansfield fans now and one thing that gets brought up is Rheady.
“Rheady was instrumental in the period of success that Lincoln enjoyed.
“If you remember, he also got the equaliser at Lincoln that got us the replay to set up the Liverpool game.
“He was more gifted than people gave him credit for. He had a great touch and he was good with his back to goal.
“He was better than people gave him credit for and he deserved more plaudits.
“Sometimes that happens, but he could have been a stalwart for the club and got them out of League Two.”
Cox was speaking to the Mansfield Matters Podcast - you can hear his interview in full on Saturday at 3pm by visiting www.mtfcmatters.co.uk
The interview forms part of the pledge of three Stags supporters' who are filling the void left by Football by creating new podcast content, including interviews with former players/staff, and much more.
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