The best Mansfield Town XI ever?

Ken Wagstaff
Ken Wagstaff

Adam Murray looks to have put together the best Mansfield Town side for some years this season.

But what would be the best Mansfield Town side ever?

Unless you have been watching them since the year dot, it is almost impossible to be 100 per cent accurate from your own experiences.

You have a fully accurate picture of all the players you have ever seen play on a regular basis.

But for players before your time, you are reliant on other people’s opinions, old newspaper articles and statistic books.

Although I did see a game or two as a child with my dad in the late 70s, I didn’t start watching regularly until mid-season in 1989 and my first full Stags season was in 1989/90.

It is also hard to know how players from past years would compete in different eras of fitness and speed.

But I have had a try and I have put together a side in a 4-4-2 that should entertain, score goals and do fans proud.

STAGS BEST XI EVER:

GK: Rod Arnold

RB: Sandy Pate

CH: Kevin Bird

CH: Colin Calderwood

LB: Mark Kearney

RM: Liam Lawrence

CM: Peter Morris

CM: Paul Holland

LM: Wayne Corden

S: Harry Johnson

S: Ken Wagstaff

GOALKEEPER: I settled on the club’s all-time top appearance maker (513 League and cup, 440 in the League) for my keeper in Rod Arnold (1971 on loan, 1973-1984).

You don’t stay between the sticks at one club for over 12 years without being reliable and everyone speaks highly of his time here.

Arnold was part of the 1974/75 Division Four and 1976/77 Division Three title-winning sides.

Stags have had some excellent keepers in my time watching them, though, and Darren Ward went on to play Premier League football while Alan Marriott was solid and reliable season after season.

You would trust any of them with the jersey.

RIGHT BACK: Again I am going with a player from before my time but whose track record speaks for itself. Sandy Pate (1967- 1978) is a legend at Mansfield and at one time held the club appearance record himself with 471. Incredibly 366 of them were unbroken between September 21 1968 and August 9 1975 – a Glaswegian iron man!

Also part of the 1974/75 Division Four and 1976/77 Division Three title-winning sides, Pate was club captain for 12 years and worked under six different managers. After that he became a respected local publican and, appropriately, now has a bar named after him at the club.

CENTRE HALF: A third club legend from before my time it seems he has to take his place too – Kevin Bird (1972-1983). He played 11 full seasons with 445 appearances and chipped in with an excellent 63 goals in all competitions and was another member of the 1974/75 Division Four and 1976/77 Division Three title-winners.

CENTRE HALF: There are so many top class candidates for the other central defender shirt; but it’s hard not to go for Colin Calderwood (1981-1982) who became a full time pro at Mansfield at 17 and went on to become a £1 million player when moving from Swindon to Spurs and a Scottish international.

But Simon Coleman, Colin Foster and George Foster could all stake a claim while current centre half Ryan Tafazolli has displayed the potential to join them one day.

LEFT BACK: This spot is going to the ever-dependable ‘Scouse’ Mark Kearney (1983-1991). Kearney began his career at Everton but before making his debut for the Toffees, he joined Mansfield on a free transfer in March 1983. A character in the dressing room, Kearney was equally at home on the left wing or in midfield, took a good free kick and also became the club’s penalty-taker.

He was a member of the Mansfield side that got promoted from Division Four in 1985/86, and he was also a member of the side that won the Freight Rover Trophy at Wembley in 1987, converting his spot kick in the shoot-out.

Kearney played 303 first team games and scored 37 goals for Mansfield before leaving the club to join Bury in January 1991.

RIGHT MIDFIELD: A highly talented local product, I watched Liam Lawrence (1999-2004) as he came through the youth team into the reserves and, despite his young age, he immediately looked a class above. It’s been no surprise to see him go on to play Premier League football with the likes of Sunderland and Stoke City as well as gaining 15 Irish caps. He scored 35 goals in 136 games for Stags including a Division Three promotion season in 2001/02 and that electric stoppage time winner away to local rivals Chesterfield in January 2003.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BGIEVnR2JyI

His low moment for the club came in 2004’s Play-off final at Cardiff’s Millenium Stadium when his cheeky effort in the penalty shoot-out went over the bar as Huddersfield won the day.

CENTRAL MIDFIELD: Peter Morris (1959-1968) was said to be one of the most gifted players who ever graced the Amber & Blue. Born in New Houghton, he made his Stags debut at the age of 17 and soon became captain. Fans were annoyed when he moved on to Ipswich for a paltry £15,000. He had good years there and at Norwich before returning to Stags as player-manager (1976-1978) when he led the club into Division Two, these days better known as the Championship, for the only time in their history in 1976/77, though they came straight back down again.

CENTRAL MIDFIELD: A real toss-up here for me from my days watching Stags between Paul Holland (1991-1995), who also had two spells as caretaker-manager and a very brief and ill-fated spell as manager as Stags were plunging into the Conference, and current boss Adam Murray, at the club for a third spell and now impressing as a manager.

But I will opt for Holland as he was home-grown. He was given a first team debut at the age of 17 and oozed class and quality, helping the club to promotion to Division Three in his first full season and the Division Three play-off semi-finals three season later.

Holland picked up two England U21 caps and made a £250,000 move to Sheffield United with what was expected to be a glittering career ahead. However, after moving on to Chesterfield for three years, he joined Bristol City where a serious knee injury and a stress fracture of the kneecap in 2001 saw him prematurely retire and head back to Stags as youth team coach.

LEFT WING: On the left I am going to play tricky winger Wayne Corden (2000-2005), one of the best wide men on his day in my time watching the Stags. He dazzled defenders and also scored 38 goals in his 218 appearances in all competitions, though was another player who failed to net his spot kick in the Play-off final against Huddersfield in Cardiff. ‘We’ve got Cordinio’ was the chant from the stands as he took on opposition defences and he did help the club to a promotion from Division Three in 2001/02. He left after a row with boss Carlton Palmer and went on to play for another nine clubs, last seen still playing Sunday morning football in Staffordshire.

STRIKER: Before my time and before most people’s times, Harry Johnson’s (1931-1936) goalscoring record speaks for itself down the years. He bagged over 300 goals in his 476-game League career, 205 for Sheffield United and another 104 for Mansfield after joining Stags at the age of 32 when he was still bashing opposition goalkeepers into the net complete with ball with relish. Johnson never became a full-time player either, saying he wanted to keep his enthusiasm for the game and continued to work as an analytical chemist at Hadfield Steelworks.

Johnson pips Stags’ record-breaking goalscorer Teddy Harston only in that Johnson performed over a longer period of time. Harston (1935-37) had a fine first season for Stags with 26 goals in 29 appearances, followed by the record tally ever in Division Three North with 55 goals the season after. He was never as prolific before or after that.

STRIKER: Voted No.1 club legend at both Mansfield Town and Hull City, Langwith-born Ken Wagstaff (1960-1964) caught the eye as a junior as he banged in goals for fun for Woodland Imps. Scoring twice on his debut he netted 93 goals in 181 games for the Stags, helping fire them to promotion to Division Three in 1962/63.

In November 1964, Hull City paid a then-record fee of £40,000 for Wagstaff and he scored 31 goals in their promotion season and went on to bag 173 goals for Hull City in 378 appearances before a knee injury ended his career in 1976.

In 2000, club fans of both Mansfield Town and Hull City voted Wagstaff their club’s player of the century – the only player to be named by two Football League clubs. During club centenary celebrations in 2004 he was also voted ‘The greatest player to play for Hull City AFC’ by supporters. Amazingly once again he was voted for by both Mansfield and Hull City fans as ‘All-Time Favourite Player’ in 2007.

My substitute’s bench would be chosen from the following, giving plenty of thrilling options: Phil Stant, Roy Chapman, Barry Foster, Dudley Roberts, Simon Coleman, Darren Ward, Adam Murray, Chris Staniforth, Teddy Harston, Ray Clarke.

Do you agree with this as the Best Stags XI Ever? If not what would your Best XI be? Let us know via sport@chad.co.uk.