Virus forces Stags legend George Foster to re-evalute priorities

Although loving his return to first team football, Mansfield Town legend George Foster said the coronavirus pandemic was now putting life's priorities into perspective.
1992 Stags v Rochdale promotion match 1992 Stags v Rochdale promotion match
1992 Stags v Rochdale promotion match

After several seasons of scouting work, the former Stags captain and manager is now assistant boss at ambitious National League North side Gloucester City.

But with football suddenly halted by the virus outbreak, the 63-year-old said: “I am concerned about family and friends.

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“It's been like cutting off your right arm. It is just unbelievable and the longer it goes on the more frightening it is.

“What it does do is put things into perspective and makes you realise your health and your family are your No.1 priorities.”

Foster had been savouring being back in the thick of things at Gloucester.

“I had been in recruitment for quite a while and you forget that buzz when you win a football match,” he smiled. “It's great to be sat on the bench and being around the players.”

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When football resumes, City look set to avoid the drop after improved results under boss James Rowe, who was appointed in November, but the virus could not have come at a worse time for them.

“They are finding it very difficult financially now because of what has happened,” said Foster.

“They are building a new stadium which they're hoping to have ready for the start of next season, whenever that starts, and looking to go full-time from part-time.

“It is a club that's looking forward, so the timing of this virus could not be worse.

“They have everything in place and a full-time manager in.

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“Everything is geared to progress then all of a sudden this happens and it's now all in the hands of the gods.

“They do have enough points to be safe. James has changed it around now.

“He brought a lot of his own players in. Some of the players he released were Gloucester boys who'd been there quite a while and it takes new players a while to gel.

“But in the last three games they won two and drew one, so it was on the up.

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“With those three results you suddenly start looking up rather than behind you.

“He is a good coach and knows what he wants. He wanted me to come down with the experience I have.

“He makes the decisions and does most of the training. I am just there for another opinion.”

After finishing with management, Foster built up an impressive scouting CV which ended up with him being Swansea City's European scout, when they were in the Premier League.

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“I spent two years in Europe in my role at Swansea,” he said.

“People say, wow, what a brilliant job. But being away for two years with all the travel and flights was tiring.

“Then I was offered the chief scout's job at Cardiff City by Paul Trollope, going back to being my own boss and making my own decisions, which suited me.

“But it didn't work out as Paul left and Neil Warnock came in and I left.”

His next job saw a Mansfield Town reunion.

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“I went to Derby County as senior scout with the academy and Chris Perkins, who I had at Mansfield and gave him his debut, was the head of academy recruitment there,” he said.

“I had 12 months there but was made redundant, along with one or two others, which was a shame as the academy was very successful as they are finding out now with the amount of players getting into the first team.

“I then had 12 months with Tony Pulis at Middlesbrough as one of the senior scouts.

“I left when he did and at the moment I am doing some consultancy work with Southampton academy and some work with Blackpool as well as the Gloucester role.”

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Foster, who was a Wembley winner and promotion winner as a player with Stags and also had a promotion as manager with them too, naturally keeps a close eye on his former club.

He said he had been surprised to see owner John Radford suffer some stick from a small section of supporters but was delighted to see how the club has progressed off the field.

“I feel so sorry for the owner. People can be critical, but the man has invested so much money,” he said.

“Whether or not the right choices have been made in managers and coaches, he has invested a fortune in the club.

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“I know how passionate the people are in Mansfield, but it amazes me sometimes that people are not a bit more understanding when he has put so much money in.”

He added: “I was up at the training ground, working for Southampton, not long ago and was shown around the training ground.

“When I was at the club with Ian Greaves, and when I took over from him, we were clearing dog poo off the park before we went and trained on it or we trained up on the top pitch which was unplayable when it rained.

“So to see that training ground and how far the club has progressed is tremendous.”

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Foster is now keeping himself fit and busy until the virus outbreak is over.

“There is no work at the moment,” he said.

“But my two daughters have dogs so I am up at 6am and walking 12-15k a day sometimes with them and I am also out in the garden getting it straight.”

Former Plymouth Argyle stalwart Foster joined Stags on a free transfer from neighbours Derby County in summer 1983. He progressed to skipper and then manager but was sacked in September 1993 after a relegation followed by a poor start to 1993/94.