MEMORIES of arguably Mansfield Town’s greatest ever triumph have been revived by Tony Kenworthy, scorer of the winning penalty in Stags’ Freight Rover Trophy final victory over Bristol City back in May 1987.
Kenworthy, now 54, devotes a significant section of his newly released autobiography Blade Heart to a spell with the Stags, he concedes, came as an unforgettable surprise to the Sheffield United fanatic.
He says: “I never expected to leave Bramall Lane but it all started with a loan move to Field Mill during my testimonial season. I played a small part in helping us over the line to promotion from the Fourth Division but it was after I joined permanently the following season that things really took off.”
Despite playing for bosses such as Jimmy Sirrel, Harry Haslam, Martin Peters and Ian Porterfield, Kenworthy argues that Ian Greaves was in a league of his own – and was a major factor in Stags’ success in league and cup.
“I liked the guy from the moment I walked through the door to discuss the loan move. He asked whether I wanted a cup of tea, then took the teabag out of his cup and put it in mine. That told me he was a down-to-earth man and we took it from there.
“Mansfield did a great job getting hold of Greavesie after his success at Bolton and he was well supported by Billy Dearden, whom I knew really well from his Sheffield United days.
“But it wasn’t just about the manager – they had some very good players. Kevin Hitchcock was the best goalkeeper I ever played in front of and was the true hero of that Wembley victory with his saves. Then there was my mate Keith Cassells, another guy I got on famously with, and George Foster, with whom I didn’t
“The competition just grew on us round by round with the 1-0 victory over a super-confident Middlesbrough being an obvious highlight plus that nail-biting semi final against Chester.
“It was my only ever match at Wembley and it was nearly over before it started as I suffered a pretty bad eye injury. The game was evenly balanced throughout but penalties were kind to me throughout my career and I was thrilled when I stuck the ball past big Keith Waugh.
“There are photos of me sinking to my knees – that was in pure exhaustion, I can tell you.”
Kenworthy, who is now based in the North East and covers both Non League and Premier League matches, says he was delighted Stags made it back into the Football League – and is full of praise for manager Paul Cox.
“Losing their league status is a big blow to any club and the whole town,” he said. “I know full well just how hard the Conference is and to put together the kind of run Mansfield did was fantastic – and a tribute to the manager and his players.
“It’s been a rollercoaster for them so far, but it wouldn’t surprise me at all if there are more good days around the corner.
“I will always remember Mansfield Town with great pleasure. The spirit there was brilliant.”
Blade Heart is published by Vertical Editions and available from Amazon.