Thursday 28 September 2017


Here are notes from  the Stags Fans United fans forum with John Radford, Steve Hymas, Steve Middleton and Mark Burton, held on Wednesday 6th September 2017

Notes by Darren Shaw and Pete Wright

Q - How do you think the season is going so far?

John Radford – I’m disappointed with the start to the season but it’s a lot better football and we’ve been a little unlucky missing three penalties. There’s a long way to go. There are lots of big clubs through the leagues in similar positions to us. I’m confident we have put the right team together and we have the right manager to take us forward. I would be much happier if we were top of the league because then we would have larger crowds with another 1,000-2,000 fans attending.

Q – Are you disappointed with the gates so far?

John Radford – No because I know gates will only improve when we start winning. Success attracts more fans. Lincoln had a gate of 9,000 the other day. I asked Lincoln’s Chairman why their gates had improved. He said it was all down to the Cowleys who are loved by the fans and the fact that they have been winning regularly and have had success. We just need a bit of success. If our manager does this then our fans will love him even though fans of other teams will hate him.

Q – How does the transfer process work?

John Radford – Agents and players want the best deal. It is a little bit cloak and dagger. Players are chased by a number of clubs. If you put it out in the press that you are going for a player then the price goes up. Players want to sign for a club that is going to be promoted so that is a reason why we have been able to attract players. The fact that we were one of the favourites to win the league also helped. Steve Evans told me about Calum Butcher 6/7 weeks ago but we have only been chasing him for the last four weeks because the Millwall manager changed and he was surplus to requirements. Players not on your list can suddenly become available with a change of manager at a club or because their club has signed a new player.

At the end of last season, Steve Evans gave me a list of players he wanted to sign and it had 26 names on it. The first thing I did was take a photo of it. We signed eight of the twenty six targets. He has pretty much got his ideal team. There were only two players who we talked to who we did not sign. They both went to clubs higher up the league. The last few days of the transfer window were very frantic. George Taft was lined up to go to another club until an hour before the deadline and then Cambridge came in and offered more money. George Taft needed to go out on loan because he was going to struggle to get on our bench. He needs to get regular games. He can come back to us after Christmas.

Q- What about signing strikers? All the fans were waiting for a marquee signing.

John Radford - We nearly had a “Marquis” signing (laughter). There were six strikers on the list but everybody was chasing these players. We managed to sign three of them. Our strikers have some of the best stats around. The list did not include Dave Tarpey.

Q – Were you surprised that Matt Green was allowed to leave?

John Radford – I didn’t want him to leave but Steve Evans said we could get better. We had a year’s option on him and so we could have kept him. The board wanted to keep him but the manager did not want to keep him. Football is all about opinions.

Q- You must have been a bit annoyed by not getting a transfer fee for Matt Green.

John Radford – Yes we turned down £200,000 from Leyton Orient and £50-£60,000 from another club during the season, but that’s football. If I had accepted the offer I would not have been popular. We would have been perceived as a selling club. In hindsight I would have liked to have taken the £200,000 but he still scored a few goals for us

Q- Is it true Ollie Palmer was on holiday with you?

John Radford – He happened to be staying at same hotel and I was surprised to see him when he came and used the next sun lounger to me. It turned out he had received offers from Lincoln and Cambridge and I advised him to choose Lincoln.

Q – Will we receive any more money for Sam Clucas?
John Radford – We are in arguments with Chesterfield about whether we are entitled to another fee. We had high hopes of some money from Tom Naylor’s future moves after Derby but it never materialised.

Q – Why aren’t we blooding more youth players in the first team?
John Radford – Steve Evans does not want to take the risk yet. Our manager really hurts if we lose. I’m a sore loser but he is worse than me and that causes problems between us after defeats. He really wants to win his tenth promotion. If we get miles clear at the top then we will give some of the young lads a chance. I want to get to League 1 so we have a bigger gap between ourselves and the National League. This will give us more security. Promotion to League 1 is our priority.
Steve Hymas – Our youth team is top of the league again for the third year running. I would like to see more youth team players getting a chance but I want to win promotion as well. We have 11 former youth team players on contracts with the majority on loan to gain men’s football experience. We have a great academy. It’s getting better every season. We have ten full time coaches. It is a general problem that youth team players do not always get the chance and time to develop. Managers tend to sign tried and tested players rather than take a chance on youth. There are too many foreign players in the Premier League and Football League.
John Radford – Jack Thomas is a talented player and we are just waiting to find the right club for him to send him out on loan.

Q – What are your views on the Checkatrade Trophy? Should Steve Evans play his strongest team?
John Radford – We had a nice run last season. It would be disappointing if a U23 team reached the final. Steve Evans is confident we can still progress by beating Notts County and Everton U23s. The clubs receive good prize money. We made over £100K last year. The teams receive £10,000 for every group win. Steve Evans wants to win every game.

Q – Are Monday nights “Evenings With….” coming back?
Steve Middleton – Yes they are. We are just waiting until Tuesday night games are not in the way.

Q – What are your views on the goalkeeper situation?
John Radford – We have two good keepers. It divides opinion. We are fully behind both of them. Steve Evans picks the team. He lives and dies by results. Both keepers were on Steve Evans’ target list. They were the ones he wanted to sign because he had worked with both of them before. Steve Evans did not want to sign Jake Kean. He was not on the list. They want to keep clean sheets. Our goalkeeping coach will only get paid if we keep a clean sheet! It’s early in the season but things are starting to gel.

Q – What are your views on the penalty taker?
John Radford – It should be one of the strikers. All the strikers should be able to step up to the mark and take a penalty.

Q – Are you satisfied with the new pitch?
John Radford – We have spent a lot of money on the pitch every year. We’ve brought people in to look at it. Mark Burton (a new Director) who works for Ulyetts Landscapes has been very helpful ensuring the money is well spent. He has helped sort the contracts out and get us some good prices. The grass is cut every other day and growing 6mm a day. The pitch has new drainage (Steve Middleton showed a video of the drainage working before the Rochdale game.) The directors walk around the stadium after each board meeting picking up issues and challenging the stadium management team. There are still some problems but everything is slowly getting better.

Q – There have been a number of complaints regarding queueing at turnstiles, no beer in Kevin Bird Suite on match days, delays in processing card transactions etc.
John Radford – Supporters need to provide specific details. I suggest supporters contact the fans’ representatives so they can bring the complaints to the board meetings. The directors are not always aware of the problems. The board tend to try to fix and solve most problems. If complaints are brought to a board meeting then it is on the radar. We want to make the stadium and ground are a nice place to come to. (New arrangement put in place where all fans’ complaints should go to SSA or SFU as per the post on Stagsnet and Facebook).
I do appreciate the financial support that supporters provide and the £10-£15,000 provided by members of the SSA.

Q – What’s the position with the scoreboard?
John Radford – I wish I had never bought it. It only cost £10,000 and I thought it would be a bargain. We’ve had problems with the software and other issues. I actually bought it from a man in a pub (laughter). It was sold to me by Paul Dixon who owns Retford United’s ground.  I’ve still got some more panels. I could actually make it three times the size. Paul Broughton has assured me it will be working for the Grimsby game. It is not one of my priorities.

Q – How is the training ground at Woburn Road, Pleasley progressing?
Steve Hymas – The original planning application was to remove the stone and the big hump. This has all been cleared. It took a long time. It’s not just a case of putting in a planning application and starting work the next day. These projects take years. We’ve had numerous meetings. You would not believe the amount of meetings we’ve had. There are two grass pitches up there looking very good. Two grass pitches on different levels. Mark Burton has put a lot of work into it. Mark’s staff have come in and seeded and cut the pitches and other grass areas. He’s going to top dress them. Hopefully we will have good news on a start date soon. The pavilion will take a good while to build. A road has to be built up there and street lighting. It is not an easy process.
John and I started up a company called Mansfield Town Developments Limited. We bought some land from Mansfield District Council and some from Notts County Council. The planning is through Mansfield District Council. There are lots of onerous conditions that we have had to comply with. There was originally 3-4 metres difference in levels. We have spent £15,000 on machinery sorting that out.

Q – What are the plans for the Bishop Street Stand?
John Radford – We currently do not have the crowds to justify any plans at the moment. It is one of Paul Broughton’s long term plans. We are looking to turn it into terracing with access from both ends. The depth of the steps would have to be changed. They could be refurbished.

Q – Was hosting an England U19s game a success other than the result and the floodlights?
John Radford – Well at least we found out about the problem with the floodlights. It was a moderate success. It was a good game to watch. We tried to advertise it as best we could. It was a set fee from the FA. We do not get paid based on the crowd. It is geared for children. I was proud to host it.

Q- Why don’t we have embroidered badges on the kit? Some fans complain the badge looks a bit tacky.
Steve Hymas – An embroidered badge costs a lot of money. Most kits are sublimated where the pattern is made part of the fabric. If you want the badge then it increases the cost, timescales to produce it and makes it labour intensive. Sublimated shirts can be very detailed. I like an embroidered badge but it does increase the price.
John Radford – I like this season’s shirt.

Q – Can the fans have a choice of kit during the season?
John Radford – We decided to change the home kit one season and the away kit the next to save fans money. We can produce a new kit every season if the fans want it.

Q – Why did we not play in amber shirts at Carlisle?
John Radford – I get quite annoyed when we do not play in our amber shirts away from home when there is no reason not to. It must have been the manager or the kitman’s decision.

Q – What about Mark Burton’s views on the ground and pitches etc
Mark Burton – Unfortunately we have chafer grubs on the top pitch. It comes in cycles every three to four years. We are treating it at the moment. We’ll give it a second treatment later mid to late spring. We are also laying some new turf.
The main pitch is looking good. It should do. We’ve spent a lot on it. We cut it every other day. It is growing very quickly – six mm per day. We’ve had a few moles up at Woburn.  I’m loving life on the board.

Q – Why has Andy Sutton resigned as a director
John Radford – Andy has not been well and needs to focus on sorting his health out and getting better.

Q – Why can’t we sell away fans more tickets?
John Radford – One of our ticketing systems had the wrong number of seats entered for the North Stand. It was 250 seats out. I made one of my staff go and count all the seats to check. I think the error has now been rectified. There is a difference between “Ticket Only” and “All Ticket”. “Ticket Only” means that away fans have to buy tickets beforehand but you can only sell 90% of the available tickets. Perhaps the reason is that there has to be some space to put fans if more turn up on the day. The police may prefer to let them in the ground rather than have them roaming the town. “All Ticket” means that home and away fans have to buy tickets beforehand but you can sell every seat. We want the stadium as full as possible.

Q – How long are the players’ contracts?
John Radford – Most of the players are on two year contract with the club having an option to extend it. The thinking behind that is that we are hoping to win promotion and so these players will still be with us in League 1.

Q – Why are transfer fees “undisclosed”?
John Radford – It depends upon who is involved the contract. Sometimes players and agents insist they are undisclosed if they are not happy with the value that has been placed on the player. I would happy be to disclose them. I know we have paid more than our transfer record.

Q – Have we broken our transfer record? The previous record was £125,000 for Colin Larkin although Keith Haslam said that we had paid £150,000 for Lee Peacock. Carlisle said we had only paid £90,000.
John Radford - Yes but I am not allowed to disclose who it is. I can say we have paid Peterborough at least £300,000 this year.

Q – Where are we with paying for the ground?
John Radford – There are another two payments left in March 2018 and March 2019. Hopefully we will be in The Championship when I pay my final cheque for the ground. That would be very nice.

Q – Are there plans for another pre-season trip abroad?
John Radford – I enjoyed the Malta trip. We all had a good time and it worked out fine. We are looking at other options next season. We will take the players on a packaged training camp overseas in Austria for example so we do not have to set it up ourselves. There are lots of companies who organise these trips.

Q – Your horses are not making me much money.
John Radford – Your dogs could be eating them soon (laughter). Hugo Boy is supposed to run one good race and one bad race but I’m not sure which is which.

Q – Is Carolyn enjoying being Chief Executive at the moment? She has been in the press a lot lately.
John Radford – She is enjoying life at the moment and helping to attract lots of publicity for the club. She is increasing our profile. This helps to attract players.

Q – Are we doing enough to attract kids to support Mansfield? 
John Radford – We are getting better but we could do better. We could start Little Kickers for 2-4 year olds. It’s nice to see more kids with Mansfield shirts and tops on. All kids under 7 can get into free. It has also helped with Steve Hymas setting up all the youth teams which go down into U7s.
Steve Hymas – All the youth teams had shirts and training tops. The old kits have been passed to other kids so there is around 350 kits that have been passed on and you see kids wearing them around town. The academy is not just about producing players. It is about producing a new generation of Stags fans.

Q – There has been a lot of work on the ground e.g. the dug outs, astroturf around the pitch, the top pitch, the car parks have been cleared out and tidied up etc
John Radford - We are looking at improving the ground all the time. It does not always come down to cost. Some things do not need improving straight away. The astroturf will go to the end of the Ian Greaves Stand at both ends.

Q – Any details about the hotel at the ground?
John Radford – The project manager and architect have been instructed. It is not connected to the Bishop Street. There are meetings in progress. There are a few hoops to jump through. The position of the hotel has not been decided yet. It has to be agreed with Mansfield District Council (planning) and Notts County Council (highways). There will not be much land lost if we have to build a car park. Any car park can be underground or on stilts. A lot of Hilton Hotels are franchises. They take a cut of the fees for introducing clients to you.

Darren Shaw from Stags Fans United thanked everybody for attending and particularly thanked John Radford for being very open and honest with the fans. John has attended seven or eight fans’ forums and had answered every question that had been asked even personal questions. It all helped to increase transparency and accountability at the club. He also thanked Steve Hymas, Steve Middleton, and Mark Burton for supporting the evening and making some good contributions. It was very much appreciated by the fans.

photo: John Radford (left), with Darren Shaw of SFU (centre) and Steve Middleton (right)