Fluidity, flamboyance, flair… No, I’m not talking about Manchester United or Arsenal, I’m talking about Mansfield Town. Although perhaps it was the lack of these 3 F’s that has led the club into the darkness of the Blue Square Premier for the first time since 1931.
While attractions to non-league football are numerous – the cheap ticket prices, the opportunity to build a rapport with the players, a replica shirt for just £7.99 – it is clearly a position that no one at any club wants to be in. But support at Mansfield has not diminished with early attendances averaging 2,500, as fans show their intent on willing their side back into the football league despite the fact that the players for whom they chant are the very same people that will deliver their post the following morning. Indeed there is no aura surrounding such players as Mark Stallard or Michael Blackwood – the Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo of Mansfield Town – whilst their best deliveries are often off the field rather than on it.
Early victories against Histon, Kidderminster and Eastbourne left ‘The Stags’ living the Blue Square Premier dream, sitting pretty at the top of the table. However, any early hopes of returning to the Football League at the first time of asking seem to be ebbing away with the team sitting forlornly near the foot of the table after a sombre run of 4 straight defeats against such giants as Woking, Stevenage Borough, Burton Albion and Wrexham.
Predictably, this has not roused the spirits of the fans, who voiced their disapproval by booing the side off the pitch at the final whistle in the home defeat by Wrexham. If the winning drought continues, the club could be drawn into a relegation dogfight raising the possibility of plunging deeper into the depths of non-league football – furthermore, once a four-point deduction for fielding ineligible players is enforced, Mansfield Town are just two places and one point above the drop zone.