About 11 years ago Yeovil Town fans Colin and Julie Mather went to their first match together at Mansfield Town.
Now for 2016/17 the pair will buy their first Stags season tickets after being made so welcome by Stags fans over the past season or so.
Both are originally from Leicestershire and moved to Loughborough from a small village around two years ago.
After a random attempt to see a Stags game was thwarted by a postponement, the couple came up to Mansfield again to see Billy Kee, who had lived in the same village as them, on loan at the Stags from Scunthorpe.
Kee quickly moved on, but the Mathers had been bitten by the Stags bug and have quickly grown to love the town and its people.”
“As new fans to Mansfield we thoroughly enjoyed last season,” said Julie.
“We decided to come to watch some matches last season and ended up coming to nearly every home match.
“We manage to get the same seats each time which is brilliant and the people around us have made us so welcome.
“We ordered season tickets as soon as they came out. The people around us have been instrumental in persuading us to become season ticket holders and everyone we have met involved with the club have made us feel that we are valued which means a lot.”
Originally Yeovil fans, Julie said: “Both Colin and I were season ticket holders for a number of years until I became ill and the travelling became too much.
“My love with Yeovil began as a child. Firstly I have family down there and secondly I was always fascinated by the fact they were famous giantkillers and I can remember, as a young child, a commentator saying ‘the fairytale continues’ and for some reason as a young child this stuck in my mind.
“As I got older I decided rather than follow one of the big teams I would have Yeovil as my team and the first match I ever went to was with my cousins down in Somerset.
“I didn’t get to see them play regularly just when I was down in Somerset or if they were playing in our region which prior to the conference wasn’t very often due to the fact they were in the Southern League.
“When I met Colin, through a mutual friend around 15 years ago, he was a Manchester United fan and it must have been around two years later I persuaded him to come with me to a Yeovil match which was against Mansfield.
“From then on we went to watch Yeovil whenever we could until illness made it difficult for me to do the travelling. Colin, like myself, loved the friendly family atmosphere and we have made many friends from there who we are regularly in touch with.
“So I have supported Yeovil for about 40 years and to this day still have a soft spot for them and want them to do well.
“We have found Mansfield to be very similar in friendliness and atmosphere and already have made many friends. We both enjoy the lower leagues to the Premier League.”
She added: “Around two seasons ago we ventured up to Scunthorpe as a friend of ours, former Yeovil player Paddy Madden, was playing for them.
“We enjoyed the day and then Billy Kee signed for them and we ended up going to Scunthorpe for a season to watch him and our other friend, although unfortunately for Billy it never worked out for him there.
“However, Scunthorpe is very different to Mansfield and Yeovil, both of whom we would class as friendly family clubs. It also quite pricey compared to Mansfield.
“Billy is a Leicestershire lad and spent a lot of time in the village where Colin and I had lived for a number of years where he was very popular with everyone.
“Billy used to play for a local side until he got his break with Leicester but he has never forgotten his roots and he is such a lovely young lad who just enjoys playing the game.”
A trip to see the Stags then didn’t work out for them.
“Two seasons ago we had decided to come up to Mansfield when they drew Concord Rovers in the FA Cup as we fancied watching someone different,” said Julie.
“We travelled up only to be informed there was a pitch inspection.
“The steward was really friendly and suggested we go into the Sandy Pate bar and he would keep us informed. We went in there and engaged in conversation with some of the Mansfield supporters and really enjoyed it.
“Unfortunately the match was called off. We didn’t think we would be able to come to the replay so thought we would lose out as there were no refunds on tickets.
“However, Rebecca Radford kindly organised for us to have a refund on our tickets and because everyone had been so friendly we thought we would try to come up again at some point.
“Then Billy signed on loan so we decided to take the opportunity and come and give him some support. We purchased tickets in the main stand and from the first game people around started talking to us and made us welcome.
“We came up for a second time and had the same seats and once again the people around made a point of welcoming us back and what really stood out to us was that some of them asked us ‘why we had come to Mansfield’ and when we told them they thought it was really good and said ‘we will have to make you so welcome you will stick with us’ and they all did.
“We were hoping that Billy would sign for Mansfield as he had told us Scunthorpe would be looking to terminate his contract.
“I know he was grateful to Mansfield for helping him get back his fitness and there was a few clubs interested in signing him, but Accrington offered a good deal so he signed for them. I think it was a shame because he is good for at least 15 goals a season and indeed this season he has had another good season.”
Neverthless, Kee’s departure did not deter them from returning for more Stags.
“We both decided we would come and watch a few more matches this season with Mansfield as we could make a day of it,” said Julie.
“We have found a nice place to have lunch and we like the town centre -it has far more than Loughborough - so first match of last season we came up.
“From the start the people we sat near were so pleased to see us back and asked us if we were going to come on a regular basis. At that point we were not planning to do this.
“We absolutely loved last season. There were highs and lows, but through it all the spirit of the fans shone through. There is a togetherness at the club. It is a lovely, friendly family club and there is a feeling that there are good times to come.”
Do their friends think they are mad to be travelling up to North Notts for their footy fix?
“Strangely enough they don’t,” said Julie. “They know that Yeovil was our club for many years and understand that because of certain factors I cannot do the travelling any more, so they think it is really good that we have found somewhere not too far where we can go and enjoy the day.
“We have had a couple of our friends say they might come and join us for a match so will keep working on them.
“Most people here support Leicester or Nottingham Forest, but for us both there is something special about the smaller clubs.”
She continued; “A friend of ours is a lifelong Leicester fan and he told us that no one really speaks to each other there and to this day he still doesn’t know half the people who sit around him even though they have sat there for years.
“The players, like many at top clubs, are aloof and the fans are quick to turn if things don’t go right. He is also aggrieved at the number of fans who have jumped on the bandwagon this year who have never supported Leicester and genuine fans have been unable to get tickets but you get that with all clubs who become successful.
“For us the lower leagues is getting back to grass roots. You don’t have the prima donnas or the flashy foreign players who have no interest in the fans. The lower league clubs seem to value their fans far more than the top flight clubs.
“It might not be the best football but most of the players in lower league are playing because they want to, they enjoy football and they have time for the fans.
“What stood out for us with Mansfield as well was that the people in charge really care and the staff all present a friendly welcoming service that makes you feel that you are valued as a fan.
“The chairman and his wife both come across as genuine people who really care about what they do and we were both impressed when we saw a behind the scenes video that Mansfield had posted on their site with the things they were doing.”
Left back Mal Benning has quickly become their favourite player.
“We both think he has a great future ahead,” said Julie. “We have also been impressed with Jack Thomas who also has a good future ahead of him.
“The players that Adam Murray has brought in we think are good signings and hopefully the addition of an extra striker will make the difference and hopefully they will play two up front this coming season.
“We both feel quite positive about the coming season and we think Mansfield could be the dark horses.
I think the main threats will be Doncaster and Portsmouth. Plymouth will be up there as well and possibly Leyton Orient.
“Doncaster have made some good signings and they are looking quite strong. They have a good striker in Andy Williams and they have signed Gary McSheffary, who we have had the pleasure of meeting a number of times, and is a really great guy who still has a lot to offer.
“We can’t really see the other three teams that have come down doing much and the two from the Conference possibly mid-table. We think that realistically we could finish in the top six.”