Farewell Sir Mal - and thanks for all the memories!

The one and only Sir Mal of Benning!The one and only Sir Mal of Benning!
The one and only Sir Mal of Benning!
It is no huge surprise to see Mal Benning – or Sir Mal as he is known to many Stags fans – leaving the club this summer to seek a new challenge.

Mansfield Town's longest serving player has made 251 appearances in the Amber & Blue and scored 10 goals from left back – two of them a pair of the most spectacular ones seen in years and one of them a goal that will see him always a club legend.

His match winner in the 1-0 away win at bitter local rivals Chesterfield in a must-win game for both sides on Saturday, 14th April 2018 was the perfect moment for him and the huge travelling following.

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He cites it as the most important goal he has ever scored – and no one of the Mansfield persuasion would argue.

In the 67th minute, Benning picked up the ball on the left of the Chesterfield area before driving into the box and picking his spot, finding the bottom corner to spark scenes of jubilation from the 2,617 Stags fans in attendance.

There were immediate tongue-in-cheek calls for a Benning statue in Mansfield market place.

But fans will also remember his spectacular strikes from 2015.

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Having already bagged a spectacular free kick on the opening day of the season, on Saturday, 3rd October 2015, Benning wowed fans with a spectacular volley from outside the box on his weaker right foot as Stags came from two goals down to win a thriller 4-3 at Dagenham & Redbridge.

It also won him Sky Sports Best Football League Goal accolade for that weekend.

Lightning then struck twice a week later as on Saturday, 10th October, Benning brought the house down at the One Call Stadium with a second stunning volley from outside the box in a 3-0 win over Newport County, this time on his trusty left peg.

They are wonderful memories that will stay with player and supporters forever.

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And, as a defender by trade, we should never forget the numerous great tackles, interceptions and goal line clearances that were his bread and butter at the other end.

But nothing lasts forever and six years at any football club these days is unusual and impressive.

Benning has still managed 38 appearances in this strangest of seasons, but never quite hit the consistent heights of previous campaigns.

His marauding runs forward from left back, that have been such a feature of his game, and accurate crossing have been rarer this season.

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And it's no great surprise that a fresh challenge elsewhere is now on the horizon for him six years after then manager Adam Murra brought him in from Walsall.

A change is as good as a rest and, at 27, Benning is still very capable of giving excellent service to someone.

Current boss Nigel Clough will have plans in mind as to how to make sure he has cover in the left back position for next season and clearly Benning will not be the answer for him now. Another club will benefit hugely from that.

The player has also proudly flown the flag for his Indian heritage with very few players with family history from that country playing at this level.

Most of all he was a kind, gentle guy who was easy to talk to and cared about Mansfield Town Football Club.

Sir Mal – we salute you – and thanks for the memories.

Still time for that statue campaign?