Dreams – funny things, made from a mixture of something you love with a massive dose of expectation and a little dash of hope. I remember just over three months ago sitting at this very desk, quickly penning a blog titled ‘Flashing White Lines’ for one of my 5 ‘Countdown To Wembley’ shows on Takeover Radio. Flashing White Lines looked back at a few of the darker times supporting the stags, including our very first game in the football conference – an away trip to then FA Trophy Holders Ebbsfleet United.
I worked my way from one dark moment to the next, eventually turning a corner and finding myself at the bottom of Wembley Way – Saturday 7th May 2011. I painted pictures of Mansfield fans singing, dancing and once again crying – this time tears of joy as a tired and depleted Mansfield battle and bring home the trophy. I told readers to be proud, to enjoy every moment and forget every dark moment of our past, as I was sure our moment of glory would come true on that Saturday afternoon. As it happened, it turned out to be another dark moment on the pitch, Chris Seniors late strike once again shattered our hearts into a million pieces, we had to watch on as Darlington’s players danced in celebration with their fans – as a broadcaster, I had the toughest job of all – watching on as Darlington lifted the trophy aloft, lifting the trophy which I’d given a little air kiss the previous Wednesday on press day. I watched on mumbling words I can’t remember, feeling rejected as another dream faded away.
You’d have thought I’d have learnt my lesson about painting pictures of dreams into both my head and yours – so why the hell am I sat at the same desk, just over 3 months after seeing dreaming sometimes gets you nowhere, using this blog as the blank canvas and my words as paint to yet another dream?
The reason is simple, Mansfield Town Football Club is part of me, it has been since the very first time I visited Field Mill back in 2002, it will be with me until the very ends – no matter what people say about me (don’t ask – I won’t rant!).
On Saturday afternoon, back on our home turf – the first whistle will sound and signal the beginning of yet another season, I understand that there’s only so much heartbreak and darkness a person can take and I also know it would be easy to quit now before we perhaps see the latest set of dreams about promotion back to the promise land smashed into oblivion. The thing is I honestly don’t think we will, this time around the dream mixture has that missing ingredient – true belief.
I write now not as a supporter but as a sports journalist & broadcaster. I do so, as not to let my loyalties and bias sway what I’m about to type. I’ve been privileged enough to meet with & chat honestly to Paul Cox, the man who is tasked with making the latest dream become a reality. I’ve interviewed him in different scenarios and studied the way he seems to go about his business and I get the feeling that this year actually will be OUR year. The reason is not because of the signings he’s made or the fact his side have achieved 5 consecutive wins to end preseason, scoring 18 goals in the 8 games the first team have participated in. The reason is the same reason we keeping coming back week in week out – love. Paul Cox strikes me as a man who loves football and loves every aspect of his job, the thrill of the chase and the thrill each game brings is too much of a lure to ignore. I get the impression that this job is not about picking up a pay check each week, doing just enough to keep things ticking over and keep the pay checks rolling – this job is a new task and one which achievement for ALL involved is the ultimate aim.
Many would say managers are often in it for self glory, I don’t think Paul Cox suits that tag. I’ve heard stories about when Paul was manager of Eastwood Town. His players had just achieved another success, whilst the players danced and celebrated with fans, Paul stood away from it reflecting quietly at the other end of the pitch. At a recent press meeting, Paul confirmed this story to be true, saying something along the lines of ‘it wasn’t my victory – it was there moment’ I got the feeling that his victory & his moment was hidden somewhere deep within – his victory & his moment was one of pride in his team, his adopted family – quite like a parent when their baby says its first word, completes his or her first day at school – you get the picture. Paul also said he doesn’t really keep a scrap book of the things both he and his Eastwood side have achieved – he didn’t really give a reason why, but I imagine it’s because the headlines wouldn’t have told the story from within.
I was trying to think of an analogy to best describe Paul Cox during that press conference, it hit me by what I had in my hand – a notebook, or to work better, a piece of paper. This piece of paper is the luckiest in the world, just by touching it you will achieve everything to you desire. Paul Cox is handed this piece of paper and as he touches the paper, he is not drowned with money, fast cars, big houses and fit women. Upon the Mansfield managers touch, the stands around the press meeting room suddenly fills with every single Mansfield Town fan, the paper separates and a tiny piece nestles into the hands of those fans and in turn the players appear on the pitch to a loud rendition of ‘We are the champions’ followed by a humongous cheer of ‘YEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEESSSSSSSSSSSSS’ as Adam Murray holds the league trophy aloft, he kisses it as Louis Briscoe, Lee Stevenson & several others dance around him with a flag reading ‘BSBP Champions 2011-12’. I look back into the press room to the present day and see Paul Cox smile with a little piece of that paper fluttering in his hand – he lets it go and it settles in the centre circle of the Field Mill pitch, intertwining with every inch of the ground (bar the away end) making sure every stags fans hopes & dreams will come true forever. In short, Paul Cox’s glory comes not to himself, but in providing everyone with what they want – satisfaction of a job well done (like that time at Eastwood) is sometimes the greatest achievement of all.
A magical piece of paper isn’t going to get us the glory, but I hope you see my point that Paul Cox is the type of manager who has seen the unity of dreams and expectations and will make it his priority to make a floodlit dream, a daylight reality.
It’s not going to be a doddle, Paul understands that, he also knows that we won’t be top from start to finish, each game is a different battle whilst the entire season is a war – sometimes you have to lose a few battles to win the war. Paul has accepted they’ll be some afternoons & Tuesday evenings were things don’t go quite to plan and we end up losing a game, he accepts we’ll have to go away from home and ‘shut up shop’ but most importantly he knows how to turn these frustrating times on their head – not by bringing in a new player every day, but by physiologically testing and reading his team. If the occasion calls for it, he will subconsciously play games with his own players to help them get the best out of them, if the gaffer thinks a certain players had a bad game, he will either tell them straight or purposely not praise them, depending on the time of characteristics that player has. It works; I’ve seen it work during pre-season.
Without writing an essay and sending you to sleep, I look to draw this blog to a close by telling you, now as a fan AND a journalist, from the bottom of my heart I actually believe the strong foundations needed to achieve success are firmly in place. Yes, it may take a little while for them to set and for the train to pick up steam, but it will come.
Saturday 13th August 2011 3PM – the referee blows the whistle to signal the start of the game, the start of the latest chapter. We love the thrill; we feed off the buzz each match day brings. They’ll be tears, they’ll be tantrums, they’ll be ups, and they’ll be downs but in the end, Saturday 28th April 2012 5PM – Mansfield Town FC will be back in the football league.
I end now by revealing with you a passage someone once wrote at 4.07AM on Saturday 7th May 2011. This person wrote because that afternoon, they were about to achieve a dream they never thought possible, because they knew that, THAT DAY would be magically, no matter the outcome, they wrote because they knew someday the words needed to be shared – today, ahead of this new season I feel that this persons words, need to be shared.
“I can see clear as day, yet I’m surrounded and trapped by the eternal darkness of our past. I need to break free from this negative trap and become blind to the darkness. I do so by embracing the glowing light of yet another floodlit dream. Standing in the light, I hope that one day I’ll know what is like to truly love someone or something. I hope to also feel the glory that the love will bring; I hope to find my happy ending. There is a song which says ‘No Hope, No Love, No Glory, No Happy Ending’ I understand now that hope is the key to all, without it, there is no chain reaction – so maybe, I should hope, one last time for this floodlit dream to become true.”
I won’t say who wrote it as that’s not important, what is important is to understand the moral of that – forget all that’s past us by during our time as Stags’ fans – lets be strong together and cheer the class of 2011-12 back into the football league.
THIS IS OUR YEAR!
Thanks for reading.