Not just Keith Haslam to blame for 2003 relegation says ex-Mansfield Town boss Stuart Watkiss

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Ex-Mansfield Town boss Stuart Watkiss said it would be unfair to solely blame former chairman Keith Haslam for the relegation of 2002/03.

A lack of investment by Haslam in the newly-promoted Stags was seen as a huge factor in their immediate relegation.

But Watkiss said other factors played a large part, including a huge injury crisis.

“Finances were tight, but we have to be fair here and everything wasn’t down to the chairman,” he said.

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“I think the ITV Digital money collapsed at the same time, so money he thought was coming into the club didn’t come into the club.

“I think it’s well known we gave all the youngsters a new contract which they all thoroughly deserved after being so good, but we didn’t then have the finances to bring in the two quality central defenders that we needed.

“Also, you can’t blame on the chairman that we started the first game against Plymouth with 10 players missing. And I think by the third or fourth game of the season we had 14 players missing.

“I would defy any manager to be able to cope with an injury list like that. The bench was always apprentices who really were not ready to be introduced.”

Despite all their problems, Stags still tried to entertain and Watkiss said: “I don’t know how many games I was in charge of that last season but, I bet you, for three quarters of those games the opposition managers would come up to me and say we were the best team they had played that season – having just pipped us 3-2 or 5-4 or whatever.”

He added: “I did make mistakes. Letting Les Robinson go was a mistake. I did it for the best reasons as I wanted to bring two big, powerful central defenders in.

“With hindsight with the injuries we had, Les would have been a really important player for us.

“That was arguably my biggest mistake, but you live and learn.”