mansfieldtown.net brings you the first of two extracts from Simon Mapletoft's new book 'Meatpies and Microphones'.
Chapter 13: DEBUT AT THE OLD SHOWGROUND
In the first of two exclusive extracts from his new book ‘Meatpies & Microphones’, Simon Mapletoft recalls his Mansfield Town ‘debut’ for the Chad in a cup tie at Scunthorpe United …
My Mansfield Town ‘debut’ for the Chad came in August 1984, when I was dispatched to The Old Showground to cover the club’s League Cup first round tie against Scunthorpe United. Stan (Searl) was on his annual sojourn to Skegness to cover the bowls championships among a fraternity who respected him just as much as their footballing counterparts. I had gained vital experience covering the local non-league scene, but now my name really would be in lights. I recall to this day my nervousness as I climbed onto the team coach in the West Stand carpark. Quietly, I slid into my seat a few rows from the front and sat as quietly and inconspicuously as I could, in complete awe of the familiar faces around me. Kevin Hitchcock, Colin Calderwood, Tony Lowery, Noel Luke, Dave Caldwell ... I could hear their banter and spirits were high. Two rows in front of me were the directors, who were joined a few moments later by the great man himself. Silver hair gleaming in the sunshine, his sheer presence overpowering the space around him, the manager Ian Greaves took his seat, and we were off.
It was that trip when Ian suddenly rose from his seat and sat beside me. He always had time for me, which I appreciated, and although my shyness and youthfulness left me completely in awe of him in those days, he did make me feel at ease whenever I was in the club’s inner sanctum. He didn’t speak more than a few sentences on this occasion, but what he did say before patrolling further down the aisle stuck with me. “If there’s anything you want to know, or anything you need, come to me son,” he said. This great man-manager instantly put me at ease, and made me feel an acknowledged member of the team party. Suddenly, I had the confidence to sit straighter in my seat, drop my shoulders and enjoy my first team ‘debut’.
Apart from penning my first back page report, I was particularly looking forward to the match for another reason. Neil Pointon, whom I knew from school, was in the Scunthorpe team and I was determined to have a chat with him before the game. Neil, or ‘Wimp’ as he was known to his mates, was a year below me at the Meden Comp, but was already making the most of his apprenticeship with The Iron. I’m not at all sure to this day why he had such a nickname, as he certainly wasn’t a wimp in the true sense of the word. It was about an hour before kick-off, and I was standing in the tunnel waiting for the team sheets. Sure enough, Wimp was playing at left back, and peering through the door marked ‘Home Team’, I could see his curly locks amid the claret and blue shirts that hung from their pegs in readiness for combat. As we made eye-contact, I forgot myself for a few moments, and found myself inside their dressing room and deep in conversation with the kid from Warsop Vale. It must have been the sudden change of expression on Wimp’s face that made me aware that our discussion wasn’t entirely going un-noticed. As the young left-back slumped back onto the bench with a blush, I turned to see the Scunthorpe manager Frank Barlow scowling at me from a pace away. He didn’t say much. Didn’t need to. I mumbled a hurried explanation and made myself scarce, amid the chuckles of the United team. Barlow shook his head with a gaze of disbelief. Time to take my seat in the press box, I thought.
Over the years, I followed Neil’s career with great interest, penning many a feature on his progress in the Chad. I sat for hours with his late father Wilf, who travelled the length and breadth of the country watching his son in action. By the time Mick Vinter had secured The Stags a 1-0 win at the Old Showground that evening, Wimp was already attracting the attention of First Division scouts. It was no surprise then, when he was prised from the Fourth Division strugglers by Howard Kendall’s Everton after four years and 159 first team appearances. The Champions splashed out £75,000 to sign him - a significant cash injection for a basement league club in those days - and pitched him straight in at the deep end. Neil went on to establish himself as a first team regular at Goodison Park, winning a Championship medal of his own before eventually rejoining Kendall at Manchester City for the princely sum of £300,000.
Simon recalls how a practical joke on an overnight trip to Bournemouth with the Stags squad led to a sleepless night.
- Phil Stant, one of the most popular number nine’s ever to pull on a Stags shirt, will be the special guest when Simon Mapletoft officially launches his new book ‘Meat Pies & Microphones’ at One Call Stadium next month.
- Stanty, whose 26 goals fired The Stags to promotion in 1992, will join Simon and other special guests for a chat show-style evening, co-hosted by Mansfield 103.2 presenter Tony Delahunty.
- 'An Evening With Simon Mapletoft’, which also includes a two-course meal, will take place in the Kevin Bird Suite on Thursday 7th November and tickets, though limited, are on sale now, costing just £15. Call 01623 482 482 to book.
‘Meatpies & Microphones – Adventures of a Football Reporter’ is available on the night of the launch for £14.99. Signed copies can be purchased on request.