Our window cleaner told me today that one of Mansfield Town players, who was sold to Blackpool, has bought a house on near where I live. Yes, you’ve guessed it, Batiste, the full back. He is now with some other football team now.
Field Mill Football Ground
It made me think, not a lot has been told on these pages of what at one time, just like our market, was the heart of our town, so it prompted me to do a sketch of the entrance to the football ground. Mainly bikes and Shanks’s Pony was the way the supporters travelled to the match. I have enjoyed both watching and playing on Field Mill football ground. Walking onto that pitch made you feel ten feet tall.
I have no idea what it looks like now, but this is how I remember it from 1947. Living on Bradder Street, I grew up with the Saturday excitement of league football in our close proximity. When I was too young to go to the match, you always knew which team had scored a goal, the cheers meant we had scored, and the groans were the opposition had scored. There were no cars about in those days only bikes and Shanks’s Pony. The crowds started walking down our street from about 2pm to get a good spot for watching the match. After the game, the crowds did the return journey from the game in much larger groups than before the match.
Footballers of Yesteryear
The style of football, was so much different in those days, The set up on the pitch was also different. It went something like this. A Goalkeeper, two Full Backs, three Half Backs, and five forwards, made up of two Wingers, two inside forwards, and a Centre Forward. Footballers back in those days were not professionals, they had working jobs through the week, playing only on Saturday afternoon. If they played and won they received £23. A draw and they received £21 and £20 if they lost. Not bad really, for they would work all week for less than half that amount. I wonder what they would think of the millions of pounds the modern day footballer earns today. For the footballers of yesteryear played their hearts out.
Football Then and Now
The game today, is a different game to what we knew back then. Today, we have the four, four, two system. Operating at the rear guard as a Flat Back Four, the second row of four move backwards and forwards as the game swings from one end to the other, either helping the two forwards, or turning the defence into an eight man defence. One of the biggest changes to the modern game was, the changing of the ball.
The old teams of yesteryear played in shirts that were Blue and Amber quarters, and the old players of the 40’s/50’s I remember were, Dennis Wright, Vic Cromack, Sammy Chessel, Big man Barks, Hoggy, To name a few. Field Mill has seen many top class players sporting their skills on the hallowed turf. Probably Mansfield’s finest hour was the defeat of West Ham United. When W.H.U. had the likes of Bobby Moore, Martin Peters and Geoff Hurst in the team. To be fair, the pitch was a quagmire, most unusual for W.H.U., but as they say, “It’s the same for both sides ” Unfortunately, I didn’t see that game..
Sam Weaver WAS Mansfield F.C. for many years, he looked after just about everything, the ground and the players. That is until the modern game began to take over. Amateur players became professionals. Many of the top players became managers, a natural follow on from their playing days, but it didn’t always work. Mansfield had it’s share of those who had finished their careers,Raich Carter, and Freddy Steel to name but two.
Bradder Street Team
Several of the Bradder Street Boys Team had played on Field Mill, when playing for Mansfield Boys School team. One notable game worth a mention when playing at Field Mill was, when Mansfield played against Nottingham Boys. My then good friend Ron Parnwell played Centre Forward, he lived on Princess Street, scored, ELEVEN goals for Mansfield Boys. He had another first class feat when playing Cricket for Reed Mill Cricket Team, taking all Ten Wickets in a match. Of course he was presented with the ball. A few years ago I spoke with him on the phone, sadly he is no longer with us.
There were players from Mansfield F.C. who moved on to greater things. Morris, the Right winger, went to Liverpool, his nickname was the Tank. Harry Oscroft, went on to play for Stoke. Stringfellow also moved upwards.
To return back to the sketch, if you were stood facing the entrance to the ground, at your rear, what used to be, was the largest (Water Wheel that fed power to Field Mill Factory), in the country. Of course it was before my time, nevertheless, we used to play around the large pit that seated the huge wheel. It was deep.
Baths and Gym
The single story building on the right, was the main offices. The building housed the offices, the showers, the changing rooms, the baths, and the Gym. The two baths were for the two teams to jump into after the match, the water was hot in the bath, this was followed by standing under a very cold shower. Training consisted of exercises on a coconut mat with a very heavy medicine ball. Around the actual football pitch at Mansfield was a cinder track, further training consisted of running round the track once, and then walking round the track once. This kind of training continued for the best pat of an hour, also followed by a cold shower. It was nice to have a session kicking a ball.
The stand on the right was known as the Directors Stand. I don’t know why it is called a stand for everyone sat down. It gave a sort of comfort for the Directors and Season Ticket holders. In the 40’s, the seats were not seats as such, they were long planks of wood placed along deep steps. Most uncomfortable. The cover being made up of corrugated iron sheets. In those days, there was an abundance of corrugated iron sheet, it was used for many things.
Across the pitch on the side facing the Directors stand was the popular stand. This was an all wooden stand , that is apart from the Corrugated Iron back and sides. At one end were the toilets, that is if you could call them toilets. Once again the old cinders came into use, for the men, that is. Some youngsters found out that if they climbed the corrugated iron, they could drop into the toilets and get in free. The other end of the stand was the Oxo Kiosk, always welcome during the cold weather of the Winter.
The wooden fixture on top of the wall on the left, was for the halftime scores. There were letters of the alphabet on the front, these were repeated in the programme for the match being played, and at the side of the letters in the programme were the teams playing around the country. One looked up the halftime scores of the teams which told them how they were doing, on the board.
Quarry Lane End
Known as the Quarry Lane end, the stiles shown, admitted thousands of spectators into the ground, allowing access to three sides. About three quarters of the way through the match, they would open the large gates to allow any late comer’s free access to watch the last quarter.
Quarry Lane was not the only way to get into the ground, Known as the North End, or the Railway End, directly opposite were other ways of getting into the ground. There were two ways of arriving to it. One way from just under the first bridge of the railway viaduct, (No longer there), climb up the stone steps, stride over the stone, (as in a previous page), then walking along the narrow pathway through the allotments, the stiles to the ground were on the left. The other way was from Portland Street, (Opposite the Bulls Head Pub, Now Gone). Follow the narrow pathway at the rear of Lord Street up to the corner of the ground, again you come to the stiles.
Of the houses you see over the Directors Stand, the first is the top of Bishop Street, the second is the top of Lord Street. Other parts of the ground were surrounded by allotments, there seemed to be hundreds, and they also have disappeared.
For some reason on match day, down town always appeared to be very quiet. I wonder why?