Our feature on madcap businessman John Batchelor’s failed attempt to take over Mansfield Town Football Club in 2008 brought back painful memories for former Chad deputy editor Tim Morriss.
In an attempt to interview Batchelor, who among other ridiculous ideas wanted to rename the club Harchester United after the Sky TV Dream Team fictional soap opera side, Morriss had his foot run over by Batchelor’s car as he drove off when turned away from Field Mill.
“I first heard of John Batchelor in March 2008 when James Derry revealed the controversial businessman had joined him and Steve Hymas in a bid to buy the Stags,” said Morriss.
Click HERE to read the original John Batchelor feature
This was after months of takeover speculation. James Derry had failed in a first bid with John Thorpe and Ian Randall. There had been talks of an interest from America, a definite interest from Australia, and Stags owner Keith Haslam installing Stephen Booth as his latest chief executive.
“Within 10 minutes of my revealing the news of Batchelor’s involvement in the Stags, he rang me at home,” said Morriss.
“I remember it well. It was Good Friday. I had just got home from work. I had promised my family a bank holiday afternoon out.
“Three hours later the phone call ended. The day out had to be cancelled, but I quickly realised that the Stags were in danger of being turned into even more of a circus than the takeover and Haslam’s ownership had already become.
“After initially coming on the phone full of what transpired to be mock anger that I had somehow defamed him for writing about his controversial past, Batchelor finished our conversation with the words: ‘I am going to have some fun with this’.”
Batchelor, flamboyant but infamous for his dealings with York City, admitted he did have a record of asset-stripping companies after Chad was deluged by ex-employees.
He was quickly dumped by the Derry consortium for trying to pursue a dream of buying the club for himself.
Morriss added: “The club quickly distanced themselves from him too - but Batchelor insisted on putting himself in the national spotlight.
“I broke the news on the Chad website on a Friday that Batchelor planned to rename Mansfield Town as Harchester United, a fictional team in a TV soap opera, if he took over.
“It was a story that made headlines around the world within a couple of hours.
“It was a mad day as the circus continued to roll into town.
“A couple of weeks later Batchelor, determined to keep himself in the spotlight and on Sky Sports, went into the Stags fans at Macclesfield - and had to be escorted away for his own safety after heated discussions.
“As he wanted, he made national headlines again.”
Then came Morriss’ painful encounter.
He recalled: “Batchelor was told he wouldn’t be allowed in Field Mill so he rang Sky Sports and got them to have a cameraman in place for when he tried to get into the car park on a matchday.
“Batchelor co-ordinated beautifully, ringing the police when he was a mile from the ground and then making sure Sky, myself and a Chad photographer were in place to capture the moment when he was turned away from the ground.
“Unfortunately for me, as his Jaguar pulled away up Quarry Lane he ran over my foot!
“That’s a painful reminder of a painful episode for the club.
“Fortunately, Haslam didn’t sell to Batchelor.
“Everyone though local businessman Colin Hancock was to be the new owner, but as we now all know it was the Three Amigos - Andy Saunders, Steve Middleton and Andy Perry – who took that prize.”