by Paul Taylor and Martin Shaw
a season of mid-table mediocrity in Division III with glory in the FA
Cup in 1968/9, the 1969/70 season proved to be more successful in the
league with further excitement in the FA Cup. Stags finished sixth in
Division III thanks to a fine end in to the season in which nine of the
final 16 games were won. The goal-scoring honours were taken by Dudley
Roberts and Malcolm Partridge who, between them, knocked in 34 goals
during the season with Roberts netting 19 and Partridge 15. Stags hit a
purple patch during March and early April winning six consecutive home
games during the period culminating in a 2-0 home win over Rotherham on
4th April 1970 which saw Dudley Roberts making his 100th
Stags appearance and Stuart Boam making his 150th consecutive
appearance. Three days earlier, Stags thumped Southport 5-0 at Field Mill. The game provided a hat-trick for
Dudley Roberts, the first hat-trick by a Mansfield player for five
years, and a couple of goals for 19 year-old Duncan McKenzie, who was
starting his first game for the Stags on loan from Nottingham Forest.
McKenzie ended the season with ten appearances, including 3 as
substitute, and scoring 3 goals, before returning to Forest at the end
of the season. He came back to Field Mill three seasons later, again on
Stags had more glory in the FA Cup, after reaching the sixth round the previous season, this time the Stags reached the fifth round. After seeing off Bury and Shrewsbury in the first two rounds, Stags were at home to Barnsley in the third in front of 14,000 at Field Mill in a seesaw encounter. Stags ran out 3-2 winners with goals by Phil Waller, Malcolm Partridge and Jimmy Goodfellow. Stags were drawn away to Arsenal or Blackpool in the fourth round. After a postponement and a drawn match, Blackpool eventually beat Arsenal 3-0 in the replay. Blackpool were riding high, eighth in the second division and were eventually to be promoted but two goals from Stags striker Dai Jones on 4 minutes and 89 minutes gave Mansfield a mighty victory in front of 5,000 travelling Stags fans amongst a crowd of 23,715. Dudley Roberts said after the game "We never heard the Blackpool supporters, just one long roar cheering us on." The win won a fifth round trip to Leeds United who were the current first division champions and again leading the table. Stags took an estimated 10,000 fans to Elland Road on the 7th of February in an attendance of 48,093 which was Leeds� highest of the season. The Stags lost 2-0 to goals from Johnny Giles after 27 minutes and Alan Clarke after 34 minutes but the Stags were not disgraced and chairman Arthur Patrick spoke for everyone after the game when he said "I have never been so proud of a Mansfield side, not even when they beat West Ham." There was real controversy when Stags had a goal disallowed after just 13 minutes as Dudley Roberts nodded a ball down for Jimmy Goodfellow to crack home but the referee ruled that Roberts had climbed over Paul Reaney. It was an incident that could have changed the course of Stags' history. As it was, Leeds reached the cup final only to be beaten. In the League Cup, Stags knocked out Notts County in the first round 3-1 at Field Mill before going out to Queens Park Rangers after a replay.
1970/1 again saw Stags riding high in the league finishing 7th with Dudley Roberts again top scorer with 24 league and cup goals. In addition, Roberts scored the only goal in 1-0 wins over both Notts County and Nottingham Forest to claim the Nottinghamshire County Cup. Before the start of the season manager Tommy Eggleston was tempted away by a £10,000 a year contract from Greek side Ethnicos. Eggleston was replaced by Jock Basford who had been at Field Mill since 1967 as trainer-coach to Eggleston. In the FA Cup Stags were dumped out by Scunthorpe in the second round after a first round win over Wrexham. The League Cup saw a joyous 6-2 trouncing of Chesterfield in the first round with a Malcolm Partridge hat-trick. The second round saw Stags drawn at home to Liverpool, the only time the clubs have met in their history. Liverpool hit the woodwork five times at Field Mill but the Stags were unlucky after 76 minutes when a Dudley Roberts header was disallowed for pushing and the game ended 0-0. Before the replay, Malcolm Partridge was sold to Leicester for a club record of £50,000. In front of 31,087 at Anfield, Stags lost the replay 3-2 after extra-time and came so close to another upset. Indeed Stags were ahead or level for 108 of the 120 minutes. Jimmy Sutton put Stags ahead after 90 seconds with a shot off the underside of the bar from 30 yards. Emlyn Hughes equalised after 15 minutes before John Stenson restored Stags lead with a magnificent header on 65 minutes. Stags were dealt a cruel blow when Clive Walker was adjudged to have handled the ball in the penalty area on 81 minutes and Liverpool were awarded a penalty, which was converted by Tommy Smith. The winning goal for the Reds came after 102 minutes when Alun Evans converted a Steve Heighway cross. In the league, Stags had a good start and a good finish to finish a highly respectable 7th, but a run of just 4 wins in 19 games between early October 1970 and mid February 1971 prevented better things. At the end of the season, Stuart Boam was sold to Middlesbrough for £50,000.
The following season, 1971/2 was one of disaster as the Stags were relegated to Division IV after 9 seasons in Division III. In an unbelievable first half of the season, Stags failed to score at Field Mill in a league game until 18 December 1971, at home to Plymouth. It was their 10th home game of the season, and they still lost it, 3-2, to remain rooted to the bottom of the table. Plymouth had taken the lead in the 19th minute, but on 23 minutes the elusive home goal finally arrived, as John Fairbrother headed home from a Sandy Pate cross. But the cheers from the majority of the 3,728 crowd turned to groans of frustration by the final whistle as Stags went down to another defeat. The run without a goal at the start of a season of 833 minutes is a Football League record. During this period manager Jock Basford was sacked in November 1971 and replaced by Danny Williams. Stags finally won their first home league game of the season in the next home game on New Year's Day against Chesterfield. An improvement in form then followed but there were too many drawn games. Stags went into their final game of the season at home to Wrexham on 1 May 1972 knowing that a win would ensure safety. Winger Dave Thompson put Stags ahead on 56 minutes with a diving header, but disaster struck on 83 minutes when a tentative, swirling shot from 30 yards by Wrexham's Mike Evans deceived keeper Graham Brown and squeezed into the net just by the post. So Stags finished their programme with a draw, but could still survive if other teams, Tranmere and Rochdale, who still had games to play, stumbled. Unfortunately they didn't and Stags were relegated on goal difference. In the FA Cup, Stags were beaten by Tranmere in the second round, whilst in the League Cup Stags were humbled 5-0 at Field Mill by Chesterfield (incidentally the first ever Stags game this joint author watched!!). Stags retained the County Cup with a 3-1 win over Notts County on 15 May 1972, but it was cold comfort as they were relegated on the same night with Tranmere's result elsewhere in the league.
1972/3 saw the Stags back in Division IV and off to a magnificent start. They won the opening 5 games, and indeed won 8 out of the first 9 with 1 draw. Stags remained top of the table right through to 30 December when a 0-0 draw at home to Doncaster extended an unbeaten home run to 27 games - an extraordinary turnaround from the first half of the previous season. But Stags won just 6 of their last 20 games after the turn of the year to gradually drop down the table. The season saw defender Kevin Bird and winger Jimmy McCaffrey become firm favourites, and another spell on loan for Duncan McKenzie three seasons after his first spell. This time he was on loan with a view to a permanent transfer, but he was so successful, scoring seven goals in just six appearances, that Nottingham Forest recalled him. McKenzie went on to a successful career with Leeds, Everton and Chelsea. Stags went into the final game of the season away to Cambridge knowing that a win would earn them promotion and they led twice through McCaffrey and Dudley Roberts only to lose the game 3-2 with Cambridge thus being promoted in their place. The following season, 1973/4, was one of disappointment as Stags finished in 17th place and failed to make any significant progress in the cup competitions. The season started promisingly enough as the Stags won their opening seven home league games with new signing Terry Eccles in prolific goal-scoring form including two hat-tricks. Indeed the first home defeat of the season did not arrive until 10th February by which time they had won ten and drawn three at Field Mill. But the home form then tailed off and failure to win a single away game during the whole season ensured a disappointing campaign. Terry Eccles ended the season as top scorer with 22 goals followed by Dudley Roberts with 7. Roberts' final game for the Stags was a 2-1 win at home to Newport County in February 1974 in which he scored before he was sold to Scunthorpe for a £4,000 fee. He had been at Field Mill for 6 years in which time he scored 66 goals. Manager Danny Williams left the club in March to take control at Swindon for a second time and was replaced by Dave Smith in April. During the intervening month, Jock Basford was again in charge, as caretaker manager.
1974/5 was one of the finest in Stags� history and is remembered by many Stags fans as one of the most enjoyable ever. Stags were champions of Division IV and clocked up over 100 goals in all competitions. Before the start of the season, Dave Smith made two significant signings bringing in striker Ray Clarke and midfielder Gordon Hodgson. Clarke was to be an instant hit and ended the season with 30 goals as Stags led the table throughout almost the whole season. There were so many memorable games with perhaps the pick being a 7-0 demolition of Scunthorpe United at Field Mill on 21st April 1975 to clinch the title. The goals were scored by Ray Clarke (2), John Lathan (2), Kevin Bird, Gordon Hodgson and Terry Eccles. Promotion was achieved four games earlier with a 2-0 win over Hartlepool at Field Mill with goals from Clarke and Hodgson. Clarke, Sandy Pate and Hodgson were included in the PFA Division IV All Stars Eleven, selected by fellow players. There was also some success in the FA Cup as Stags reached the fifth round and a home tie with First Division Carlisle United at Field Mill. The game was featured on the BBC's Match of the Day but the Stags were beaten 1-0 despite having the better of the play in front of 18,293, the biggest attendance since 1969 when Leicester visited Field Mill in the sixth round of the FA Cup. Indeed Field Mill has not hosted a crowd anywhere near this size since with only the 16,019 at home to Sheffield Wednesday in March 1980 coming close. Terry Eccles ended up as second top scorer with 20 goals.
1975/6 was also an extraordinary season. Stags were back in Division III but made a disastrous start and by mid February were 5 points adrift at the bottom having won just 4 of their opening 27 games. Incredibly Stags remained unbeaten for the final 19 games of the season winning 12 and drawing 7, to end the season in the top half of the table and only nine points from a promotion place. There were several highlights including a 3-0 win over Sheffield Wednesday at Field Mill in front of 13,409, with goals from Sandy Pate, Ray Clarke and Gordon Hodgson, and a 3-0 win at Peterborough United in front of the BBC Match of the Day cameras, with 2 more Ray Clarke goals and a Jimmy McCaffrey effort. There was more success in the League Cup as two First Division sides were beaten in memorable nights at Field Mill. First to go were Coventry City, with goals by Clarke and Eccles in a 2-0 win, followed by Wolves who were beaten by a solitary Ian McDonald goal. In the quarter final Stags were away to First Division Manchester City but were beaten 4-2 in an epic encounter. Ray Clarke scored in the 17th minute, to level the scores at 1-1 before the Stags finally succumbed in front of more than 30,000 at Maine Road. City went on to win the cup. The season was another triumph for Ray Clarke as he notched another 29 goals (including Anglo-Scottish Cup). However just 3 days after the end of the season, Clarke shocked the Mansfield public by asking to be placed on the transfer list, claiming he was not happy about spending another season in Division III. Clarke made it clear that he had enjoyed his stay at Mansfield but would not be satisfied until he could play in a higher grade of football. In July 1976, Clarke was transferred to Sparta Rotterdam for a new Stags record fee of £90,000. In two seasons at Field Mill, Clarke scored 59 league and cup goals, missing just one game in the process. Just a few weeks earlier Stags fans had also been shocked by the sudden departure of manager Dave Smith. Chairman Arthur Patrick announced that Smith had been relieved of his duties, which seemed strange during such a long unbeaten run, and the reason for the dismissal remains a mystery. It seemed he was dismissed for no apparent reason.
1976/7, Mansfield were promoted from Division III to Division II for the
first and only time in their history. It was a fantastic achievement,
especially to win the championship, and to some extent this vindicated
the controversial sacking of Dave Smith towards the end of the previous
season. Former Stags favourite Peter Morris was brought in as
player-manager before the season started, but he made few changes to the
starting line-up as the side continued their stunning form, winning 5 of
the first 6 games. However this included a 3-0 defeat at Rotherham to
end a 20 match unbeaten run. The only player to be brought in was Johnny
Miller, a winger from Norwich, whilst Kevin Randall the former
Chesterfield and Notts County striker, who had scored just 3 goals in 19
appearances the previous season, was the man chosen to lead the attack
in place of Ray Clarke. Randall was to prove a great success and
finished the season with 19 goals (plus another in an abandoned game).
The highlight was when, on 8th November 1976, Randall scored all four of
the Stags goals in a 4-0 thrashing of Reading. The Stags hovered around
the top 6 through until mid December when they were beaten in the second
round of the FA Cup by Northern Premier League side Matlock Town by 5-2
at Field Mill. It was a shocking scoreline - one of the worst in
Mansfield�s history - but the following day Morris signed striker
Ernie Moss, Randall�s former striker-partner from Chesterfield, and
this proved to be the final part of the Stags jigsaw.
Stags went on to win 12 of their next 14 games, including 6 consecutive games in which Moss scored. By the end of this run, in mid-March, Stags had catapulted themselves to the top of the table, just ahead of Brighton and Hove Albion, Crystal Palace, Rotherham and Wrexham - all of whom were to feature in the race for promotion. In a tight and tense run-in, the Stags were never outside the top 3 and they clinched promotion on Monday 2nd May 1977 with a 2-0 home win over Portsmouth. It was fitting that Moss and Randall scored the goals. Two games still remained. The first - a 3-0 win over Northampton at Field Mill - took the unbeaten home league record to an incredible 37 games. So Mansfield went to Wrexham in the final match of the season on 14 May 1977 needing a draw to clinch the Division III championship. Meanwhile Wrexham needed to win to gain promotion. Writing in the CHAD, Stan Searl described the action: "An afternoon for the 3,500 Mansfield Town fans, and every member of the team and officials at the Wrexham game, to remember for a lifetime - yet one member of the side will have to rely on newspaper cuttings and gossip for his memories of the historic occasion. Player of the Year Rod Arnold was knocked cold right on the half-time whistle, and he could recall little of the preceding 90 minutes as he changed at the end of the game - except Mansfield had won and were champions, and Ernie Moss scored the winner. To remind him of his contribution, it was a super save which kept out a Billy Ashcroft header in the 33rd minute. It was left to the old firm of Ernie Moss and Kevin Randall to finally kill-off Wrexham's hopes of promotion. Randall eeled his way past his covering defender right on the bye-line, and chipped the ball in for Ernie Moss to score and send the Mansfield contingent of fans behind the goal, wild with delight. There were scenes of great emotion after the final whistle as the Mansfield players and fans celebrated their second championship in three seasons." It was one of the greatest days in the Stags history. Moss ended the season with 13 goals for the Stags in 29 games and hence as second top scorer to Randall. And so Gordon Hodgson, who had been made team captain in mid-season taking over from Sandy Pate, was soon able to hold the championship trophy aloft.
1977/8 turned out to be the first and only season in the old Division II.
Relegation seemed almost inevitable throughout the season as only 6
league games were won before Easter. However Mansfield did get off to a
great start beating Stoke City 2-1 at Field Mill on the opening day,
with new signing Dave Syrett, a striker from Swindon, scoring one and
Pat Sharkey the other from the penalty spot, against goalkeeper Peter
Shilton. The strike partnership of Moss and Syrett kept Randall out of
the side and Randall was soon sold to York, but disaster struck when
Moss, who had not been fully fit for weeks, was ruled out for the season
in November, having already scored 6 times. There were some memories for
Stags fan to cherish, especially a 3-3 draw at home to Tottenham on 25
March 1978, featuring a Syrett hat-trick, and a last minute equaliser
from a free-kick by Glenn Hoddle. This was followed 2 days later by a
2-0 win at Fulham, which started a run of 4 wins from the final 8 games,
but it was nowhere
near enough to avoid relegation. Syrett was Player of
the Season for his 16 league goals. The fact that the second top scorer
was Moss with his 6 goals told the story of Stags' failing. Manager
Peter Morris left the club in February 1978, with 27 games of the season
gone, to take the job of assistant manager at Newcastle United. His
replacement was Billy Bingham, who also managed Northern Ireland and
Everton. The season marked the final appearances of a long career at
Field Mill for right full-back Sandy Pate, who played over 400 games for
the Stags and was captain during most of that time. Stags won their
first game in the County Cup since 1972, beating Notts County in the
semi-final, but the final was held over to the following season, when
the Stags lost 4-0 to Nottingham Forest.
1978/9 saw the Stags back in Division III and they got off to a bad start
winning just six of their opening 35 games, to leave them firmly in the
relegation zone by April 1979. However, another six victories in the
final 11 games of the season led the Stags to safety, in 18th
place. Top scorer for the season was full-back Bob Curtis with just six
goals, five of which were from the penalty spot, though new signing,
striker Terry Austin, notched five in the final 16 games to help see the
Stags to safety. Austin had signed from Walsall with Dave Syrett going
in the other direction in a deal that valued Syrett at £105,000. Player
of the Season was Mick Saxby but at the end of the season, the young
centre-half was transferred to Luton Town for a new club record fee of
£225,000. There was little joy in the cup competitions either, going
out in the first round of the League Cup for the third consecutive
season, and also in the first round of the FA Cup.
The 1970s hence saw the only two championships in the Stags history in the Football League, and their only season in the old Second Division.