Stags at Wembley: 1987 shoot-out hero Tony Kenworthy recalls winning penalty for Mansfield Town

Wembley penalty shoot-out matchwinner Tony Kenworthy, right, celebrates Mansfield Town's Freight Rover Trophy triumph with Keith Cassells on the open-top bus parade the following day.
Wembley penalty shoot-out matchwinner Tony Kenworthy, right, celebrates Mansfield Town's Freight Rover Trophy triumph with Keith Cassells on the open-top bus parade the following day.

It is one of the iconic moments from Mansfield Town’s 1987 Wembley triumph.

Experienced defender Tony Kenworthy confidently converts a left-footed penalty to win the Freight Rover Trophy final shoot-out 5-4 in sudden-death – and then sinks to knees, arms aloft, before being swamped by delirious Mansfield Town teammates.

But today Kenworthy, a no-nonsense Yorkshireman, admits his moment of glory against Bristol City might never have happened.

“I was always the main penalty taker at Sheffield United (where he played for many years before joining the Stags) but my legs had gone at the end of the 120 minutes,” he said.

“I told the manager, Ian Greaves, that I didn’t think I could take one of the penalties in the shoot-out.

“He was ok about that, but said if it got as far as sudden death I should take the first one.

“So I had been watching the shoot-out all unfold as a fan really with Neil Whatmore, who had started the game but was substituted.”

Whatmore, another experienced player drafted in by Greaves to blend with his younger players, pointed out that City keeper had dived to his left for all the Stags’ five previous penalties.

Kenworthy recalled: “I knew Waughy as I played with him at Sheffield United. I would have gone to his left because I was left-footed and liked to knock it across the keepers.

“I thought about double-bluffing him, but walking up to the spot I tried to catch his eye and he wouldn’t look at me. I had what Whatty had said in my head, but Whatty had also said to chip him... to dink it.

“I didn’t fancy that so I made my mind up to strike it to his right - and that is what I did. I was determined to hit it a little firmly to his right and get a true connection on it.

“As I struck it my head was coming up and I could see Waughy going to his left anyway. That was it. It was party time!”

Modestly, Kenworthy said his spot-kick did not have the most pressure.

“To be fair Kenty (Kevin Kent), who had already got across his marker to score, had the pressure penalty. If he had missed we would have been done for and I wouldn’t have had one to take.”

Kenworthy said the build-up to the final, including making a record, was unique for a club like Mansfield.

“Greaves was a great man-manager and I was fortunate to room with Keith Cassells,” he said.

“I remember the night before the game Greaves sat down with Keith and me and we had a couple of beers. That wouldn’t happen today!

“As for the game itself, we played really well and were on top. We were unfortunate not to win it in 90 minutes as Stringy (Ian Stringfellow) hit the bar with a header.

“Obviously Hitchy (Kevin Hitchcock) made his penalty saves, but I have a strong memory of him making a great save in normal play, diving to his right to tip a David Moyes header over the crossbar. I remember thinking wow, what a keeper. It was going right into the top corner.”

Kenworthy, who made 465 appearances for the Blades before going to play 126 league matches for the Stags, is full of praise for the Wembley-winning squad assembled by Greaves – in particular George Foster, Cassells and Hitchcock.

“It was just a great time to play for Mansfield Town and I feel very privileged to have done it.

“It was a fantastic group – and none of them have changed when we met up recently at the ground. I had been at Sheffield United for 14 years, but Mansfield was the best time I had - and the best tight-knit dressing room. If you wanted them to fight they would fight, but if you wanted to play they would play.

“That was down to Greavsie (Ian Greaves) and (coach) Billy Dearden. Greavsie was the best man-manager and manager I played under. He was so knowledgeable and he worked hand-in-glove with Billy, who was a good coach. They worked so well together.

“They brought in a mix of youth, players who maybe weren’t quite getting in at the likes of Everton and West Brom, with a few older, experienced pros such as myself, Foster, Whatmore, Cassells and Paul Garner. It was a kind of a raggy-arsed rovers team they put together but it worked well.

“It was a privilege to play alongside George. I had played with some good centre backs in my time, like Ken McNaught and Phil Thompson who won European Cups, but George was as good as any of them.

“He was better as a footballer than he was given credit for. I learned quite a bit playing with him even though I was getting on a bit by then.

Kenworthy said Dearden, a former Sheffield United strike, was one of the reasons he joined the Stags.

He added: “I also watched Cassells and Neville Chamberlain up front and thought I would rather play with them than against them. They were both brilliant and complimented each other with the way they played.

“Cass was the best striker I ever played with – and I played with some good ones, including internationals. He would get in my best all-time XI.

“Every time he put a football shirt on he was the best player on the pitch.

“Hitchy was the best goalkeeper too – and remember I played in front of the likes of John Burridge.”

After leaving the Stags in 1990 Kenworthy continued his love for and involvement in football, working at Darlington before managing Grantham Town for a year,

He now works for betting company SIS in the north east, but maintains his link with football through his family.

His 15-year-old son is a striker at the academy at Sheffield United and his daughter is going out with Hartlepool’s Ben Pollock, the son of former Middlesbrough, Manchester City and Bolton midfielder Jamie

Kenworthy said: “There is football peppered everywhere. It keeps me young. Once it is in your blood it never comes out.”