Saturday 7th May 2011 a day that Mansfield Town supporters will remember forever, and perhaps not for all the right reasons. We all know the final outcome, yet more heartbreak imposed on us after Chris Seniors striker late in extra time – we fell at the final hurdle. The memory of crying into my microphone as I attempted to commentate on those final minutes will stay with me forever, as will the memory of looking up from the desk, to see every single Mansfield Town fan with their head in their hands, some holding back the tears, the rest letting them flow.
It was true agony and not the happy ending we all hoped for, yet as I’ve put in previous posts those final moments don’t tell the whole story. We’ve match reports, blogs, photos & video clips to remind us of the game – but it’s still not enough to complete the story of Mansfield Town’s visit to Wembley.
One of my favourite sayings & perhaps one of my biggest beliefs is that there is ‘two sides to every story’ – so far, the only story told relating to Wembley, is that of the supporters & there crushed dreams – nobody knows the story of the players & staff involved – until now.
‘A406 The Road To Wembley’ has been brought out as one last reminder of the Wembley experience, reasonably priced at £9.99 in the club shop, I can honestly say it’s value for money. I know there has already been some critics saying ‘why would anyone want to relive a dull game which we lost’ – this DVD is much more than that.
Presented by the clubs head of media & communications Mark Stevenson, the DVD goes behind the scenes of the trip to Wembley, giving you a real insight into what the mood & atmosphere was like inside the dressing room of the first Mansfield Team to reach Wembley in 24 long years.
Mark, known better as ‘Stevo’ has the balance between informative & fun spot on – just a minute into the DVD, then manager Duncan Russell reveals openly in an interview a sports psychologist would be joining up with the boys at the hotel the night before the game to try and keep things in the dressing room as relaxed as possible.
Clips of the side training on the hallowed Field Mill turf is accompanied by good backing music which keeps the DVD not just fresh, but enjoyable, brining a smile to my face – the track ‘keep on running’ not only provides the perfect backing to the lads training, but also gives a soft gentle reminder at what effort it took for a club in Mansfield’s state to reach the final, it’s sometimes forgotten at the start of the competition back in December, the club had no home, no manager and a split dressing room after the departure of David Holdsworth.
Keep on running is what Mansfield did, the players brought into the Wembley dream despite it being written off by a massive percentage when we drew Luton in the semi final – but suddenly, we’d had enough of running away, being scared of reputation, enough of hiding our true possibilities – something which shone over the two legs & something the opening 5minutes of the DVD represents.
The interviews with staff from the office again highlights how much this final meant to the clubs supports and the town itself, the only reason we forget this? Because we lost. It also puts those who worked tirelessly behind the scenes into the limelight a little, another of the DVDs many credits – without the staff manning the phones, ordering stock, taking money, working all the hours – this trip to Wembley would have been ciaos & un-enjoyable.
As the players bored the bus outside the Field Mill doors, the DVD takes a light hearted and heart warming turn – the many buses journeys the players & staff had undertaken in search of success for the club are countless, however this one – the final one for the class of 2010/11 spread a message that those players were thoroughly focused on the task ahead.
Duncan Russell’s joke about selling the players tickets outside the turn styles on match day made me chuckle, from personal experience with Duncan over the many press meetings & post match interviews – you could tell he had a strong relationship with his players & staff – it was also clear to me that the man wanted success, watch his body language closely throughout the DVD and you will see.
As the coach heads off down the motorway towards Wembley, the soundtrack of ‘the long & winding road’ is the perfect choice, and actually brought a smile to my face, I guarantee that it will do the same to you, it may even make you shed a solitary tear of happiness – because deep down we understand how long & winding the road to Wembley, and all the things it could bring, actually was.
From Colin Larkin’s ruled out goal at the millennium stadium in 2004, the missed penalties & breakdown of a great team, to relegation, change of ownership, money troubles & unknown corners of the UK – we’ve seen it firsthand & on the morning of May 7th 2011 – we understood the day was our reward – the DVD reminds us of not only how far we’ve fallen, but more importantly how much we’ve rallied together in the face of adversity, both on & off the pitch, to reach the big stage & tell the footballing world – we’re back.
The DVD continues with Stevo showing off credentials for a fine stand-up career, trying to provide a smooth link, he’s plagued by an unrehearsed link followed by a tunnel’s darkness, thus getting into a vicious comedy cycle which actually makes for great viewing, the players laughter & Stevo’s facial expressions make the DVD value for money alone, move over Lee Evans.
I don’t wish to give to much away, but eventually Stevo presents perfectly and smoothly links into an interview only to be upstaged by a member of the playing squad, you do really have to concentrate to spot the joke though.
Paul Hall then rightly praises Stevo saying ‘I hope he can make the video extra special for us’ – trust me, he does! It’s just a shame Duncan Russell’s impression of a knight of the realm is average!
Interviews with players follow & the cameras follow the team around the hotel and around Wembley stadium itself, providing many more laughs, smiles & reminders as to why this day warrants a DVD to mark to occasion.
Moving onto the part which has been the most criticised – the highlights of the game itself. Do we need a reminder of a game which we lost, a moment which broke our hearts? Honestly, no – but after watching the DVD the highlights section is a lot much more than just a highlight package.
The clip of the supporters singing the national anthem makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up, the flags flying in the cool breeze, the warm sunshine & clear blue sky provides the perfect back drop, you have to look past the fact the game wasn’t a thriller, you have to look past the fact most of the players on the pitch that day have now moved on – that’s the point of the DVD, it’s not about what we have NOW, what we can achieve NOW, it’s about what we had THEN, what we achieved THEN.
The commentary from Nigel Pinnick & Steve Hartshorn is enjoyable too – it remains fair & gives a good account of what unfolded on the hallowed Wembley Turf, it also shines of passion – highlighted most at the bitter end.
The game’s highlight is well shot, a good balance of pitch level as we saw it live, and TV level – helping me to look back and remember certain phases of play with more detail any of my reports or commentary podcasts can provide. The high’s seemed few and far between, but I’ll keep saying this until I’m blue in the face – the highs we’re not on the pitch, but off it, in the smiles of the supporters inside Wembley – watch on with this in mind & the DVD shows this throughout.
As with every film made, every story written – there’s a bitter twist right at the end, we all know what it was, but that’s not down to the DVD’s editors – that’s down to the footballing gods, things happen for a reason, in a year’s time we’ll look back & hopefully will see that Wembley 2011 was the springboard for bigger & better things.
The DVD provides a look inside the dressing room, it provides laughter, tears of joy, tears of sorrow – but most importantly it provides answers and has a hidden message running deep within. The answers & questions are endless and they are for you to discover by watching, the message? The message is that, football is more than just a game, there is more to it than the end result. After years of hurt, years of major disasters and heart wrenching pain, we have a new story to tell, and despite its bitter ending, its morale is a positive one, as is its message.
A406 the road to Wembley, is not just a behind the scenes laugh, it’s not just a highlights package – it’s a story of love, a story of adrenalin, a story about people chasing big dreams, not achieving them, but achieving smaller ones along the way – it’s the small dreams that bring the most satisfaction.
The DVD ends with the coach’s final trip back towards Field Mill, if football is a religion – then Field Mill is our church. Another perfect backing track fits sweetly in with the tearful emotion of the situation, the greatest words written in any story - The end.
As the players step off the bus host Mark Stevenson turns to camera and wraps up the DVD perfectly ‘It’s been this whole journey that we will remember for a very long time’ - never has a truer sentence been spoken, I urge everyone to watch this DVD & watch on in the mindset that this is a story – not a cheap DVD you get from HMV for £3 at Christmas.
I know for a fact had all the goals been captured on camera, the DVD would have had more features, however such things were out of the clubs hands & a decision was made to just do a feature on Wembley itself – it was the right one.
An enjoyable watch, emotional, heart-warming & a fitting reminder of our story.
Mark Stevenson has worked exceedingly hard to put this together, reward his hard work & dedication by purchasing the DVD. A big well done to Nigel & Steve who provided the commentary & to Stuart Eggleshaw who was runner & assistant director – everyone who worked on this DVD can be proud of there efforts – and everyone who watches the DVD, will be proud too.