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Part Seven - Ups and downs (1949 - 1959)

by Paul Taylor and Martin Shaw

The Stags preparations for the move into the new decade received a shock in mid-August 1949 as manager Roy Goodall resigned. No reason was given, but shortly afterwards he moved back to his former club, Huddersfield Town, in a senior coaching capacity. In his place came former England international forward Freddie Steele from Stoke City. Although aged 33 he came in as player/manager.

Town started the season in terrific form, not being defeated until their 11th game. New manager Steele scoring on seven occasions during this run of 6 wins and 4 draws. This proved to be the high point of the season as from then on in there was no real consistency, although a run of six straight wins in March and April no doubt ensured the final eighth placing in the table. Steel finished as leading scorer with 18 goals from the 22 matches he played in. Town were not so successful in the FA Cup this time as old rivals Doncaster Rovers ended the run in Round Two. Walsall were defeated in the first tie. An all time record high average attendance of 12,128 was set for League matches this season, and unless Field Mill is further redeveloped this record which has now stood for over 50 years will not be broken. The season's best attendance of 19,466 for the League game with Doncaster is still the second best League attendance of all time at Field Mill.

Amongst Town's older supporters the 1950/1 season is remembered as the Club's best ever. It was certainly to that time the zenith of the Stags' achievements since attaining Football League status some 20 years or so before with major success in both league and cup. The season began with a five match unbeaten run (3 wins, 2 draws) before the first defeat at eventual champions Rotherham. There were only three more defeatsPirate programme from the 1951 match with Blackpool before Christmas and the New Year arrived with Town in fifth place. The team held their own in January and February before winning seven out of the eight matches played in March and moving into third place in the table. There were now just nine matches till the end of the season, but 5 draws and four wins were not enough to topple Rotherham from the top, Town had to settle for second place. Despite their best season to date, with only one team promoted, it was the Yorkshiremen who went up the leaving the Stags in the Third Division. Still, Town were unbeaten at Field Mill all season (the first team to achieve this from a 23 match home schedule). Perhaps surprisingly the average attendance dropped this season to "only" 10,262, Rotherham being the most popular visitors (in the League) attracting over 18,000 paying customers.

There was more excitement in the FA Cup where Town excelled themselves with their best run since the heady days of 1929. Famous amateur club Walthamstowe Avenue came to Field Mill in Round One and were beaten by the only goal in a hard fought match. More non-league opposition were dispatched in Round Two as Town won 4-1 at Chelmsford City. Second Division Swansea Town came to Field Mill for Round Three and they too bit the dust as Town turned in another exceptional display, winning by two goals to nil. Town drew a 48,696 crowd to Bramall Lane in Round Four and once again excelled themselves, bringing their Second Division opponents back to Mansfield for a replay following a 0-0 draw. A new cup record gate of 20,314 turned up at Field Mill the following Wednesday afternoon to see the Stags triumph by the odd goal in three after dropping a goal behind to the Blades. In the draw for Round Five the Stags were drawn to play away again, this time at First Division Blackpool, Stanley Matthews and all. This time, however, the Stags disappointed and never really got going losing eventually by a 2-0 score line, the match itself was not a classic. Blackpool eventually reach Wembley that season but were not good enough in the final losing to Newcastle United by two Jackie Milburn goals to nothing.

Following the euphoria of the previous season it was hoped that Town could go one better in 1951/2 and attain second division status at last. In spite of a reasonable start to the season (only three matches were lost before the end of November), Town faded and never really challenged for honours after that, finishing in 6th place. There was no Cup success this season either as Town battled out a 1-1 draw with Stockton in the north east and then lost the replay 0-2 at Field Mill to be dumped out in the First Round. Freddie SteeleThere was more fun and games off the pitch as Freddie Steele resigned as manager a few days before Christmas to take up a similar position at Port Vale. Sensationally Town's directors replaced Steele with George Jobey, 66 year old former Derby County manager, a man who had been suspended by the FA for making illegal payments to players a few years before. Secretary Bert Mee had also resigned in November to be replaced by WJ Warner.

The Stags started 1952/3 in reasonable form, there were only 5 defeats before the Christmas period but over the festivities a run of 5 successive defeats put paid to any thought of success for the season. In fact it was February before Town won again by which time the supporters were looking at the bottom of the table rather than the top. The team rallied towards the end of the season finishing in a very poor 18th place in the table. There was some success in the cup as Town humiliated Scarborough by eight clear goals to nil at their own stadium in the first round. In Round Two another away game resulted in victory when the Stags won 2-0 at Peel Park, the home of Accrington Stanley. Round Three brought a home tie at last and visitors Nottingham Forest attracted an all time record gate to Field Mill. 24,467 spectators witnessed a very good game of football but unfortunately the visitors took the honours by the only goal of the game.

Once again there were problems off the pitch. Secretary WJ Warner was sacked in December and it was announced that the club's finances were being investigated by the police. In fact by the time of the Club's AGM in the following month the books weren't available as the police still held them. It was stated at the meeting that the club was close to bankruptcy and the meeting was adjourned. In February Chairman Bill Hornby and Vice Chairman Merle Smith resigned from the board. At the end of the month Mansfield Magistrates committed Warner for trial, charged with theft and fraud to the tune of £2,344. The AGM was reconvened in March where it was revealed that the club had only £44 to meet the wage bill of £360. The AGM resumed again in April and JB Jenkins was elected Chairman with 6 new directors, this time it was revealed that the club had debts of around £4,000 and was close to folding. Nottingham Forest sent their full strength team to play a friendly match to help raise funds, the match brought in £360 1s 9d

The close season brought more fun and games as firstly in May George Jobey was sacked from his position as manager  and then in July the trial of former secretary, Warner, began. He was cleared of the fraud and theft charges but convicted of falsifying the PAYE returns and fined £75. Warner's defence was that he was covering up for, then manager, Freddie Steele's illegal payments to players. Assistant Manager/Secretary Stan Mercer was offered and accepted the Manager's job in August. Joe Eaton started his very long term in the secretary's position at this time.

The 1953/4 season started with the Stags in very indifferent form, languishing in the lower half of the league. Things slowly improved, there were two 6-0 wins in December, and eventually Town finished in a very creditable 7th place. Hartlepool put paid to any thoughts of a lucrative cup run winning a first round replay 3-0 at Field Mill. Off the field the club's financial problems had eased somewhat. The appeal fund started the previous April had raised over £4,000 and the sale of Billy Coole to Notts County had raised a further £6,000. The professional staff had been reduced from 33 to 24 reducing the running costs by £50 per week. McGregor had arrived from Leicester City for a fee of £25,000 but the Filberts had very generously allowed the fee to be paid in instalments over a 12 month period. In October the 4th AGM of the year revealed that the club's debts had been reduced to £6,149. In December a joint FA/FL commission met at the Victoria Hotel in Nottingham to discuss matters arising from the Warner trial. The outcome was that several former officials and players of the club were fined and/or suspended from football. The Club itself was fined £500 plus the costs of the commission, which added to the clubs already precarious financial position.  1954/5 season was not a resounding success by any standards, but this is probably understandable given the financial position the club found itself in. 13th place in the final table followed from an absolutely average season. The FA Cup provided no solace either as Bradford City triumphed on their own ground in Round One.

In spite of appointing the Club's first ever coach (Sam Weaver) in September, Town were languishing in the lower reaches of the division by January 1956, having managed only a handful of victories. After a 2-7 reverse at Stockport County and being asked to undertake more duties with no rise increase in pay  manager Stan Mercer resigned. Town's directors reacted by appointing a 'big' name to the post, when in February Charlie Mitten came to Field Mill as player/manager. From this point on performances improved and in the end Town were able to complete the season in 18th place. Only Round Two was reached in the FA Cup, Stockport were the victims in Round One and York City took the honours in Round Two. At the end of the season Uruguayan side Rampala came to Field Mill to provide very attractive opposition for a friendly match, the visitors won a very entertaining game by the odd goal in seven.

The 1956/7 season followed a very similar pattern to the previous campaign, a late season rally giving the Stags a final league placing of 16th. Workington cam to Field Mill for a first round FA Cup replay and won by 2-1, so there was nothing to write home about in the cup ties either. Foreign opposition once again turned up at Field Mill for an end of season friendly when German side Blauweiss were beaten 3-1. At the end of the season the appearance of the Field Mill ground started to change with the construction of the new North Stand at the railway end of the ground.

There was much to play for during the 1957/8 season as the Football League decided at the AGM that the regionalised third division would be reconstituted at the end of the season with the top 12 clubs from each section forming the new third division, the rest would make up division four. The new season proved to be very entertaining for the fans, as Charlie Mitten's side scored goals galore, hitting the net an incredible 100 times in League matches alone. This ensured that Town would be in the newly created Division 3 for the next season. However the 92 goals conceded contributed to a final 6th place in the table. Town were defeated heavily 0-5 in the third Round of the FA Cup by Bristol Rovers. Halifax Town and non league Wigan Athletic had been dispatched in the earlier rounds of the competition.

Once again there were backroom changes when manager Charlie Mitten left the club in June to become manager of Newcastle United. In a biography written in 1996 Mitten stated: "The Mansfield job was the best I ever had in football". He is also quoted as saying "The big and pleasant surprise was the backing I got from the Supporter's Club. Their amazing fund raising efforts allowed me to finance some astute purchases".

With Sam Weaver now taking Mitten's place at the helm, Southampton were Town's first opponents of the new 1958/9 season. The match, at Field Mill, was an absolute disaster for Town as the visitors ran out easy 6-1 winners. Right back, Hogg and centre half, Billington made their only appearances for the Stags in this match. Worse than this was the 3-8 debacle at Home Park Plymouth later in the season. The whole season was a bit of a struggle and at the end  relegation was avoided, but only just as the club finished in 20th position. Bradford City ended any hope of cup tie success, winning 4-3 at Field Mill in Round One of the FA's competition.

The 1950s were certainly times of turmoil both on and off the pitch, the league and cup success of Freddie Steele's side being closely followed by the near financial collapse caused by the 'Warner' case. But the club had survived and were now, if only just, in the Third Division what surprises would the 1960s hold?

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