Former Mansfield star Martin Riley reflects on 'Battle of Ilkeston' that saw three players hospitalised

Martin Riley in action for Mansfield Town.
Martin Riley in action for Mansfield Town.

Former Mansfield Town defender Martin Riley has reflected on the club's infamous pre-season friendly at Ilkeston back in 2011.

Riley was one of three Stags players taken to hospital following challenges by Ilkeston striker Gary Ricketts during the game, and has been talking about the experience as part of a brand new Mansfield Matters podcast, ‘Stags Stories’.

Riley had just joined following spells with Kidderminster Harriers and Cheltenham Town, when Paul Cox’s Mansfield took on the then newly-formed Ilkeston FC during preparations for the 2011-12 season, a match which would send shockwaves across the footballing scene as challenges by one player put three Stags men in hospital.

Now 32, Riley has just joined Conference North outfit Hereford, but despite a number of honours and highs during his playing career, he can’t shake the memories of that ill-fated night, where Cox withdrew his team from the field of play after 73 minutes following an horrific injury to John Thompson.

Popular central defender Riley required five stitches just above the eye, whilst fellow defender Richie Sutton ripped two tendons in his shoulder. However, the worst was still to come when former Nottingham Forest and Notts County man Thompson was sent crashing at pace into the metal pitch-side advertising hoardings requiring several stitches to the inside of his mouth along with damage to his nose – an injury from which Riley feels Thompson never fully recovered.

He said: “I’ve never had an experience like that in my life, three players sent to hospital in one pre-season match was just crazy. Mine and Sutts’ [Richie Sutton] injury you can kind of take on the chin to a certain extent but what happened to John was disgusting and ultimately, and I think he’d probably admit this as well, it probably finished his career.”

Thompson did eventually recover and went on to help the Stags back into the Football League but only after a prolonged lay-off, whilst Riley was back in time for the season’s opener against Bath City, helping the Stags to achieve a play-off finish before he moved onto pastures new.

Riley didn’t stay away too long, spending a season at Wrexham before returning to the Stags who were now a Football League side, spending two further seasons with the club.

Speaking in the brand new ‘Stags Stories’ podcast, the defender who became a firm fans favourite reveals all about his two spells with the club, telling stories from within the dressing room which included how he, Richie Sutton, defender James Jennings and the rest of the squad taught the youth team a lesson for not following ‘footballers food etiquette’, how midfielder Gary Roberts enjoyed a cigarette or two on the team coach, how an innocent cup of coffee got him ejected from York City and how the Stags' rampage towards the play-offs earned Riley a pretty penny.

Stags Stories: Martin Riley PART ONE – will be released at 5pm on Thursday, June 6 on all good podcast apps, with the video version also on Facebook, Twitter and online at www.mtfcmatters.co.uk