Having just avoided relegation in 1958/9, worse was to follow in 1959/60 as the Stags were relegated, for the first time since joining the Football League.
The Stags had an appalling start to the season and won just one of their first thirteen games to leave themselves rooted to the bottom of the table. Their first home victory came in a 4-3 win over QPR on 10th October. A general improvement in form followed and included a 6-2 win over Wrexham at Field Mill but, following a 5-1 defeat at home to Bury, and with Stags still rooted to the bottom of the table in mid-January, manager Sam Weaver was asked to resign. Two weeks later, Raich Carter, a former England international, who had previously managed Hull and Leeds, was appointed the new manager. There was an improvement in form and Stags ended the season winning a total 11 home games, but defeat in three of the final four games of the season saw them relegated in 22nd place out of 24 clubs. Stags fared a little better in the FA Cup beating Accrington Stanley and Chester before losing at First Division Blackpool in the third round, in front of nearly 19,000 fans.
Our team in the 1960/61 season.
So the Stags started 1960/1 in Division IV, but once again got off to a poor start, failing to win the opening three games. But victory in the 4th game away to Rochdale was significant as 17 year old Ken Wagstaff, who had signed from Langwith Woodland Imps, made his debut and scored both goals in a 2-1 win. By mid-December Stags were hovering in the bottom four of the table though wins over Aldershot and Hartlepools either side of Christmas improved the situation. New signing Jimmy Gauld scored in both games but broke his leg in the latter game. Gauld was to hit the headlines later for his part in a soccer betting scandal, where he had developed a betting syndicate whilst recovering from his broken leg. In the next eight games, seven were lost and one drawn to push the Stags into the bottom two. But a crucial run of three consecutive victories followed with Doug Wragg and Ivan Hollett, who ended the season as the two leading goalscorers, scoring the decisive goals. These results pulled the Stags out of the bottom two and for the rest of the season with the odd game won and the odd game drawn, Stags managed to finish fifth from the bottom and hence outside the bottom four, though only on goal average from Exeter City. Thus Stags marginally avoided having to apply for re-election, In the FA Cup, Stags lost in the second round to Accrington Stanley after having beaten Blyth Spartans in the first. It was the first season of the Football League Cup, and Stags lost in the first round to Leicester City. Also the Notts FA County Cup restarted for the first time since the war, as Stags lost 1-0 to Nottingham Forest.
During the close season in 1961, the Supporters Club paid £10,000 to buy the grandstand from the Hurst Park racecourse in Surrey. It was estimated that the total cost once transported and re-erected would be about £30,000. The intention was for it to become the West Stand. However, after the components lay for several years next to the ground, it was not until 1966 that the stand was first used, and it was not until 1971 that it was fully seated. The final cost reached £200,000 - more than 6 times the original estimate.
The allotments being leveled during the summer of 1961.
At the start of the 1961/2 season, Stags reverted from a strip of white shirts and black shorts that had been used for 7 years, to the more accepted colours of amber shirts and blue shorts. Stags got off to a better start with victory in the opening game of the season over Exeter City. After defeat in the second game, Raich Carter paid a club record fee of £10,000 for Roy Chapman from Lincoln City. Chapman, father of Lee Chapman, was an instant success, scoring 20 goals in the season and with strike partner young Ken Wagstaff netting 12, Stags finished the season with 44 points from 44 games for a mid-table position. In the FA Cup, Stags were again knocked out in the second round, this time by Southport after having beaten Grimsby Town in the first round. In the League Cup, Stags beat Exeter 5-2 in the first round and were drawn at home to First Division Cardiff in the second round. The game was to be the first at Field Mill to be played under the newly installed floodlights on 5th October 1961, and attracted a huge crowd of 17,380. A thrilling game ended 1-1 with Mike Stringfellow scoring for the Stags. Stags lost the replay 2-1 at Cardiff.
Floodlights were first erected at Field Mill in 1961.
1962/3 was a hugely exciting season as Stags were promoted on goal average by 0.118 of a goal. Stags got off to a tremendous start by winning their opening 6 Division IV games of the season and being unbeaten in the opening 10 games. By the beginning of December, Stags had been caught by Oldham but were still top of the league on goal average with 21 games having been played. Raich Carter resigned as manager in January to become manager at Middlesborough but he had already done enough in assembling a team with talented youngsters such as Wagstaff, Stringfellow and Peter Morris. New manager Tommy Cummings was appointed in March. As the season progressed Stags slowly dropped down the table and hovered around fourth or fifth place (with 4 teams to be promoted). And so it came down to the final game of the season on 20th May 1963. Stags were sitting in fourth place but were just a point ahead of Gillingham. Stags' final game was away to Stockport County whilst Gillingham were at home to Oxford, but, in a situation which would not be allowed to happen today, the Gillingham match kicked off an hour before Mansfield's game. At half time there were no goals at Stockport, but the news came through that Gillingham had beaten Oxford 2-1. Stags knew that a draw would be good enough to achieve promotion on goal average. Stockport took the lead after 54 minutes, but Town got the all important equaliser after 64 minutes from Sammy Chapman after a crisp pass by Ken Wagstaff cut open the way. Stags comfortably held on to get a 1-1 draw. And so Stags made it . by a little more than a tenth of a goal. Stags' goal average was finally 1.567, Gillingham's was 1.449.
The season also featured a remarkable FA Cup run, which included a 9-2 first round replay win over amateurs Hounslow Town at Field Mill after a 3-3 draw at Hounslow. Then a 2-2 draw in the second round away to Crystal Palace in which ten Stags players were booked by the referee for "ironically applauding" him off the field (still a record in this country), after the man in black had awarded a controversial penalty in the last few minutes. This was followed by a 7-2 win for Stags in the replay over Palace at Field Mill, including a Wagstaff hat-trick. But the Stags were beaten by first division Ipswich in the third round, 3-2 at Field Mill. The season was a triumph for strikers Ken Wagstaff and Roy Chapman, who knocked in 41 and 37 goals respectively. No side in the league has had two players to each score 30 league goals in a season since this. The average home attendance of 9,848 was the best since 1950/1. In early May 1963, Stags captain Brian Phillips was named in The People newspaper as having been involved in a match-fixing scandal, and was immediately suspended by the club, thus missing the exciting run-in to promotion. The story was later to escalate into what The People called "the biggest soccer scandal of the century".
The new West Stand at Field Mill in the mid-1960's.
Stags were back in the Third Division for the 1963/4 season. The season was to be another major success for Ken Wagstaff and Roy Chapman, as Wagstaff smashed in another 29 goals and Roy Chapman 20. Stags finished a very creditable seventh, nine points behind promotion to the Second Division. The season was built around an impressive unbeaten home record with 15 wins and 8 draws, though the season ended with the backdrop of the football scandals in The People newspaper continuing as 24 hours after the final match of the season, five Stags players were named as having provided money to fix a win at Hartlepools the previous season. As a result, Stags' skipper Sammy Chapman was suspended by the club whilst Jimmy Gauld was given a life suspension by the Football League the following month. In the League Cup, Stags lost 5-1 at Leeds in the second round after having beaten Watford in the first round.
Stags started the 1964/5 season in entertaining fashion with several high scoring games and by mid-November were fifth in the table, when popular striker Ken Wagstaff was sold to fellow Third Division club Hull City for a club record £40,000. Whilst it was inevitable that the prolific Wagstaff would leave Field Mill, it was something of a surprise that he joined another Third Division club. Then Roy Chapman left for Lincoln City in January. Nevertheless, Stags' form even improved a little with the goals from Bill Curry, who joined from Derby County in February, ending the season with 15 goals from 16 games, and Harry Middleton, who joined in November from Shrewsbury, scoring 16 goals from 24 games. There were some hugely impressive wins such as 8-1 over QPR, with hat-tricks by both Curry and Middleton, as Stags chalked up the second biggest win in their history, and 6-1 over Southend with Curry netting 4. After the Stags beat leaders Carlisle United 2-0 at Field Mill on Easter Monday 19th April, Stags were sitting second in the table (with two teams to be promoted) and with just two games to go. The Stags were a point behind the leaders and two points ahead of third-placed Bristol City. The following day, Stags travelled to leaders Carlisle for the return match, when victory could have seen the Stags go a long way to lifting the title. But in a nightmare first half, Carlisle scored three times to eventually win 3-0. Meanwhile, Bristol City were winning. So Bristol City moved into second place on goal average, which was the equivalent of about six goals better than Stags.
Stags' legend Dudley Roberts.
And so it came to the final day of the season. Stags won their final match 3-2 at Barnsley, and a story spread round the Oakwell ground at the end of the game that Bristol City had dropped a point. Stags fans went wild with excitement, but soon the news came through that in fact the real result was a 2-0 win for Bristol City. As the excitement of supporters and players evaporated, manager Tommy Cummings philosophically stated "We hope to go one better next year." So the Stags finished in third place and missed promotion by virtue of having a goal average of 1.56 compared to Bristol City's 1.67. Meanwhile in the League Cup, Stags won 5-3 at Manchester City before losing 3-2 to Coventry City.
The soccer betting scandal continued during the season and at the end of January 1965, Jimmy Gauld, who had been identified as the ringleader of the match-fixing syndicate after admitting that between November 1961 and April 1963 he had been grossing £1,000 a week from the match-fixing fraud, was sentenced to four years imprisonment. Two other Stags players were imprisoned: Brian Phillips for 15 months and Sammy Chapman for 6 months. Seven players from other clubs were also sentenced to imprisonment.
1965/6 promised such a lot after just missing out on promotion the previous season and Stags won the first 4 games to put themselves on the top of the pile with Bill Curry netting five goals. But a terrible run of form followed and only two further games were won before February 1966, by which time Stags had sunk to second bottom. Three wins in the final five games of the season enabled Stags to pull away from the relegation zone and finish sixth bottom, two points above the drop. It also brought the club £500 after the local paper, The Chad, had offered this figure as an incentive for the team to fight its way clear of relegation when there were seven games of the season remaining! Stags were defeated in the first round of the FA Cup by Oldham, but beat Birmingham City of the Second Division in the League Cup before losing to First Division West Ham 4-0. West Ham went on to reach the final and contained in their side three of the England team that was to win the World Cup a few months later.
The 1966/7 season was to see an inconsistent start for the Stags. A terrific run of six straight wins including a 6-4, two 4-1 wins and a 4-2, propelled Stags into second place in the table, just a point behind leaders QPR, with Bill Curry again in terrific scoring form. Stags entered April with nine games remaining in third place, but a disastrous run of 7 defeats with only one draw and one win, saw Stags plummet down the table to eventually finish ninth, six points behind second place. The final game of the season saw a debut for 18 year old Stuart Boam, who was later to become a Stags hero at centre half and then a Stags manager in the 1980s. In the FA Cup, Stags reached the fourth round for the first time since 1951, after having beaten Bangor City, Scunthorpe and Middlesborough before losing to First Division Sheffield Wednesday by 4-0 in front of a crowd of 49,049. Bill Curry and Stuart Brace ended the season as joint top scorers with 26 goals apiece. The West Stand, which had been purchased from Hurst Park racecourse and which was modelled on a stand from Highbury, was used for the first time during the season.
Bob Ledger scores against Tow Law Town in the FA Cup.
The 1967/8 season was again to be a dramatic one as Stags finished in the bottom four of Division III but were spared relegation as Peterborough United had sufficient points deducted by the Football League to ensure that they finished bottom. Peterborough's crime was to make illegal payments and bonuses to their players. Manager Tommy Cummings had left the club in July 1967 to take up the vacant manager's chair at Aston Villa and was replaced by Tommy Eggleston, who brought in Jock Basford as his assistant. After winning the opening game of the season, 4-2 over Southport, with two goals by Peter Morris, a disastrous run followed with only one more win from the next 17 games, and by mid-December, Stags were rooted to the foot of the table. A run of five successive wins between 23rd December and 3rd February lifted Stags to fourth from bottom, and despite only winning 4 of their last 19 games, Stags somehow managed to avoid relegation. Indeed the last four games of the season were all lost but defeats for their nearest rivals, together with the punishment for Peterborough United, kept the Stags up on goal average. Even then it was incredibly tight as Stags finished with a goal average of 0.761 compared to Grimsby Town's 0.754. To show how close Stags were to relegation, they lost their final game 3-0 to Bournemouth - had Bournemouth scored a fourth, Stags would have been relegated. Meanwhile, in the FA Cup, Stags were disgraced losing 5-1 to North Eastern League side Tow Law Town in one of the most humiliating defeats in Stags' history. During the season, Peter Morris, who had been a regular in the side since 1961 and had been one of Stags all time great players, left the club for First Division Ipswich, for the measly sum of just £15,000. He was later to return to Field Mill in the mid-70s as player-manager.
1968/9 was to be a season of mid-table mediocrity in Division III thanks to 14 games won at Field Mill and only two won away from home (those being the first and last away games of the season). But it was a year of glory in the FA Cup. In the first round, Stags were again drawn against Tow Law Town. Stags were behind after only 13 minutes but recovered to win 4-1, with 2 goals from Bob Ledger. Rotherham United were seen off at Field Mill in the second round, after a replay, and Second Division Sheffield United were beaten 2-1 in the third round thanks to two goals from Dudley Roberts. Stags were drawn at home to Fourth Division Southend United in the fourth round and had to come from behind to win 2-1 with goals from Nick Sharkey and Dudley Roberts. It took the Stags into the fifth round for only the second time in their history. Stags were drawn at home to West Ham United, who were standing sixth in the First Division and who had three World Cup winners in their side: Bobby Moore, Martin Peters and Geoff Hurst along with youngsters Billy Bonds and Trevor Brooking. The game was postponed five times before it finally went ahead on Wednesday 26 February 1968, on what turned out to be one of the greatest nights in the club's history.
In front of 21,117 at Field Mill, the Stags took the lead after 22 minutes when Dudley Roberts turned the ball into the net after Ray Keeley, Jimmy Goodfellow and Nick Sharkey had ripped the West Ham defence to shreds. On 38 minutes, Keeley got a tremendous goal to make it 2-0. West Ham keeper Bobby Ferguson punched the ball off the head of Roberts as he went up for a cross but it only went straight to Keeley who hit it first time on the volley into the net. On 49 minutes, Sharkey set the seal on an historic evening - Ferguson had dived at Sharkey's feet but Sharkey won the ball back and slipped it into the far corner of the net. Stags manager Tommy Eggleston said "It was a very good display all round." Meanwhile West Ham boss Ron Greenwood said "We didn't play badly, so they must have played very well to beat us." Stags thus became only the fourth team in club history to knock out clubs from five different leagues in the same competition. Also this was Stags first ever win over First Division opposition.
Our side enjoy their 'finest hour' in the FA Cup, playing against West Ham United.
In the quarter final, Stags were drawn at home again, this time to Leicester City. The game was delayed a week from 1 March to 8 March, which meant that Stags were included in the draw for the semi-final for the only time in their history. In front of 23,500, Stags lost 1-0 to a goal from Rodney Fern after 58 minutes, but were unlucky to lose and were thwarted by Leicester keeper Peter Shilton, who was later to play for England. At the end of the season, Stags were awarded the prestigious "Giantkillers Cup" by the Daily Mirror for their exploits in the FA Cup.