John Lathan -
his career at Mansfield Town
by Martin Shaw
(photos at bottom of this page)
John Lathan is
written into the history of Mansfield Town, as he was a vital part of the
record-breaking Stags team that was champions of Division IV in 1974/75 and that
clocked up over 100 goals in all competitions. Playing in midfield, he missed
just one game that season. At just 5foot7, Lathan was not a tall man, but he was
busy and tigerish in midfield, and was something of a fans favourite.
Recently, having looked at the Vintage Stags pages of Stagsnet, John contacted me by email from his home in America. So I took the opportunity to ask him a few questions, and compiled a profile of his career, which you can read below.
Lathan was born in Sunderland in 1952, and joined
Mansfield from Sunderland in February 1974, in a swap deal that saw Dennis
Longhorn going the other way, with Mansfield also receiving cash. Lathan was
valued at £11,000 in the deal. He had played over 50 times for Sunderland.
on his debut in a 2-1 win at Newport County on 24 February 1974. The other
scorer was Dudley Roberts who was playing his last ever game for the club after
an excellent career at the Stags. Lathan
then scored again, in his third game for the club: a
1-1 draw at Exeter. Three more goals followed during the rest of the season: at
home to Brentford in a 1-1 draw (see photo at bottom of page), at home to Bury in a 2-1 defeat, and away to
Gillingham in a 2-2 draw. He ended the 1973/74 season having made 17
appearances, and scoring 5 goals.
The 1974/5 season
was one of the finest in Stagsí history and is remembered by many Stags fans
as one of the most enjoyable ever. The Stags were champions of Division IV and
clocked up over 100 goals in all competitions. Lathan made 45 league
appearances, and scored 9 goals. In fact he just missed one league game: the
very first game of the season, away to Southport, due to suspension.
The Stags won
their first four league games of the season, and then Lathan scored his first
goal of the season in the Stags first defeat of the season: a 3-2 loss at
Stockport. His next goal came in a 3-1 win at Barnsley in mid October 1974.
Lathan also missed a penalty in the game, as did Gordon Hodgson! Ray Clarke
scored the other two Mansfield goals. At the beginning of November, Lathan
scored in a 3-0 win over Barnsley (see photo) at Field Mill with Ray Clarke
scoring the other two.
December 1974, the Stags played Shrewsbury Town. The Stags were top and Shrewsbury were hot on their heels, just two points behind. Indeed the
Shrews were to remain second behind the Stags from October right through to the
end of the season. For the first time during the season, the attendance was over
10,000 and they saw a pulsating game as the Stags came from behind to win 3-1.
Lathan scored twice in a man of the match performance (see photos of both
goals). Shrewsbury took an early lead, but in
the 34th minute, Stags
keeper Rod Arnold cleared deep into Shrewsbury territory. John Lathan picked the
ball up and moved it to Jim McCaffrey, and Lathan was there to take the return
and sweep a shot home from close range past Shrewsbury keeper Ken Mulhearn. In a
game of end-to-end action, another goal always appeared imminent but it did not
come until the 79th minute. Terry Eccles was the scorer with a fine
header, after Lathan set up the opening with a cross from the bye-line. Four
minutes from time, Lathan smacked in his second goal after a superb move
involving Barry Foster, Jimmy McCaffrey and Eccles. It was the Stags 16th
win of the season, in just 22 league games.
next goal came in a dramatic 3-2 win at home to Exeter (see photo), on
Friday 21st March 1975. Lathan made it 2-2 after 58 minutes after McCaffrey's
centre was only partially cleared. Kevin
Bird headed the Stags winner in the fourth minute of injury time. The Exeter
players surrounded the referee to complain about the length of injury time and
then followed him all the way to the dressing room after he had blown the final
whistle almost immediately.
again on 14th April 1975, as Mansfield played host to Lincoln City and beat them
3-1. Mansfield's top gate of the season, 14,351, had to wait until the first
minute of the second half for something to cheer about as Kevin Bird scored. But
the real turning-point though was 8 minutes later, with a tremendous goal as
Lathan hammered in a 25-yard volley after Gordon Hodgson's corner kick was only
partially cleared (see photo). This game will always be remembered for an
outstanding performance by Jimmy McCaffrey.
No-one will ever
forget the game where the Stags clinched the Division IV Championship just two
games later, as the Stags demolished Scunthorpe 7-0 on Monday 21st April 1975 in
front of 11,020 fans. Lathan scored two of the goals: on 73 minutes Lathan made
it 4-0 as Hodgson's free-kick was only partially cleared and Lathan's fine shot
found itís way into the net, even though it touched Eccles on the way. Then on
81 minutes it was 6-0 as Lathan raced out of his own half with the ball and let
fly from 35 yards to leave the keeper grasping at thin air. Clarke (2), Hodgson,
Eccles and Bird scored the other Stags goals.
Lathan also played
in all 6 games in FA Cup run to the 5th round before losing to
Carlisle 1-0 at Field Mill, when the Match of the Day cameras made a rare visit.
At the start of
the 1975/76 season, Lathan played in 5 of the first 6 games league games, as
well as 2 league cup games, scoring away to Scunthorpe in the league cup. But he
broke his collar bone away to Bury in September 1975, which kept him until after
Christmas, when he returned for 6 more games, at which stage, the Stags were
rock-bottom of Division III.
February 1976, he joined Carlisle United for £11,000. It was the Stags first
sale of a player for almost two years! Later he joined Barnsley
on loan in February 1977, nd then joined Portsmouth in March 1978, where he went on to
captain the team.
rejoined Mansfield in August 1979 for £20,000, despite being offered an
attractive new contract at Fratton Park. He was keen to move back north. During the 1979/80
season, he made 29 appearances, scoring 1 goal in a 2-2 draw at Millwall. There
was actually some dispute over who scored that goal at Millwall, as Terry Austin
crossed and Lathan dived forward to divert it in, but may not have got a touch
to it. It is credited to Lathan in the official history of Mansfield Town.
He also played 5 league cup and FA cup games. His last game for the Stags was
away to Brentford on 7 April 1980.
left England to emigrate to
Australia in January 1981, where he joined Wollongong FC near Sydney, and he also took up coaching.
He continued playing and then coaching in South Africa from 1982 to 2002, when
he moved to New York, where he is now coaching at the Manhattan Soccer Club.
In total, John Lathan made 103 league appearances for Mansfield (including 2 as substitute), scoring 15 league goals. He made a further 13 league cup and FA cup appearances, scoring 1 goal. He is remembered fondly by Stags fans, as are the rest of that record-breaking team of 1974/75.
Scoring against Brentford in March 1974, a month after first joining Mansfield.
Scoring against Barnsley in November 1974.
Two goals against Shrewsbury in December 1974. Above and below.
Against Carlisle in the FA Cup fifth round in 1975.
Scoring against Exeter in March 1975.
Against Lincoln in April 1975. Lathan, extreme right, sees his sensational 25-yard volley about to enter the net.
Part of the 1974/75 winning team, pictured after the 7-0 win over Scunthorpe (back row Barry Foster, Rod Arnold, Jim McCaffrey, Kevin Bird, John Lathan, Gordon Hodgson, Terry Eccles. Front row: Arthur Patrick, Lawrie Madden, Sandy Pate, Dave Smith, Paul Matthews, Ray Clarke, John Haselden).
Back at Field Mill in 1979. Aqua-planing against Bury in October 1979.
Lathan in February 1974, upon joining the Stags.
In 1980, having re-joined the club.
Lathan today, in New York.