MANSFIELD TOWN’S TOP TEN PLAYERS OF THE 21ST CENTURY

Leave a comment

October 13, 2012 by mapperleystag1

10. Alex-John Baptiste

A product of Mansfield’s once envied youth academy, Baptiste made his debut for the club at the age of just 17, in April 2003. Over the next five years he became a regular in the centre of defence for the Stags, making just shy of 200 appearances for the club. With Mansfield’s relegation, Baptiste moved to Championship side Blackpool, where his abilities have been showcased to a wider audience, especially with his performances in the Tangerines’ promotion to the Premier League and in their brief but unforgettable stay in the top flight.

Alex-John Baptiste, one of the many talented players produced by Mansfield Town over the years.

9. Iyseden Christie

 A favourite amongst fans, Iyseden Christie had the capacity to switch from being unplayable to downright ridiculous, all in the space of just a few moments. It is no coincidence that he was nicknamed the lower-league Paulo Wanchope, as he shared many of the eccentricities and extravagance of the latter. This is exemplified by his ten minute hat-trick against Colchester United, in a match when he scored all four goals and his dramatic last minute equaliser at Meadow Lane, where he rescued a point for the Stags in a game they dominated, firing the ball into the back of the net to the delight of the Mansfield fans behind the goal, leaving Notts County players and supporters screaming for an offside flag that rightly never came. Izzy’s potential unsurprisingly was never fulfilled; his inconsistency ensured that his career became one of a lower league nomad, constantly having the capability to infuriate and amaze in equal amounts.

8. Richie Barker

Barker signed for the Stags in November 2004 from nearby Rotherham United. He quickly became a fans’ favourite in the time he spent at Field Mill, with his commitment, leadership and work rate in an average side standing out. His goal scoring record, previously a weakness at his former clubs was excellent, scoring a career-best 23 goals in the 2005-2006 season, including the only goal in the Nottinghamshire derby at Meadow Lane. An overall strike rate of 40 goals in 95 games stands up to close scrutiny. However, it was Barker’s model professionalism and his efforts as captain which endeared him to the supporters, who were rightly furious at the decision of owner Keith Haslam to sell him to Hartlepool United in January 2007, a move that Barker himself was reluctant to make.

7. Craig Disley

A critical part of the successful 2001-2002 promotion-winning side, Disley’s performances in the centre of midfield earned him significant praise, with his partnership with Lee Williamson one of the best in the lower leagues at the time. Disley’s ability to make late runs into the box, unnoticed by opposition defenders, allowed him to score crucial goals for the club, most notably against rivals Chesterfield at Saltergate, in front of the home fans. Along with a number of talents from the youth team, Disley was allowed to leave the Stags in the summer of 2004, joining Bristol Rovers, for whom he made over 200 appearances.

6. Adam Murray

Picked mainly for his first of three spells at the club, in which his 7 goals from 13 games from midfield helped Mansfield secure automatic promotion to League One in 2002, Adam Murray’s career can be viewed as one of wasted talent. An England under 21 international and hot prospect for Derby County, Murray struggled with a drink problem early in his career, which ultimately meant he never fulfilled his undoubted potential. Now, at the age of 31, he may not be as quick and energetic as he once was, but he more than makes up for it with his commitment and leadership qualities, epitomised by his display in the Conference playoff semi-final 2nd leg, where his performance deserved so much more than being on the losing side.

Adam Murray showing his passion and determination in his third spell at the club.

5. Bobby Hassell

Another product of Mansfield’s youth academy, right-back Bobby Hassell became an integral part of the successful promotion-winning side a decade ago. His partnership on the right-hand side of the pitch with Liam Lawrence contributed endless goals in the seasons they played together. Another player who Keith Curle inexplicably allowed to leave the Stags at the end of the 2003-2004 season, Hassell has enjoyed an excellent career in South Yorkshire at Barnsley, making over 250 appearances for the Tykes and being club captain for the last two seasons.

4. Lee Williamson

Yet another product of the last golden age of Mansfield’s youth academy, Williamson’s initial appearances wide on the right towards the end of the 2000/2001 season gave little indication of the substantial impact he would make as a combative, yet technically proficient central midfielder in the Stags’ promotion campaign the following year. The highlight from that memorable season was his two goals at Sincil Bank, as the Stags annihilated Lincoln City 4-1. Despite his surprising lack of goals, Williamson continued to put in consistent performances over the following seasons until he was inexcusably played out of position at left-back by Curle, then sold to Northampton Town for a pittance. His career since leaving the Stags has only emphasised what a terrible lack of judgement this was, having played consistently in the top two leagues of English football.

Lee Williamson celebrates one of his goals against Lincoln City, scoring past current Stags keeper Alan Marriott.

3.  Wayne Corden

Brought to the club by Billy Dearden, whom he had previously worked under at Port Vale, Corden was one of the stars of Mansfield’s promotion campaign. His quick feet and mesmerising trickery on the left side of midfield completely confused opposition defences. Moreover, his crossing and ability to cut in on his favoured right foot and unleash unstoppable shots made him a favourite amongst supporters, to whom he was affectionately referred to as “Cordinho”. Perhaps his most important goal was in the final game of the season at home to Carlisle United, a game the Stags needed to win to clinch promotion. His thunderous shot early on settled the nerves of the players and the crowd of over 8500. Arguably, rivalling this was his goal against Notts County the following season when he tormented the hapless Magpies’ defence before stroking a right foot curler into the top corner of the net. Another player to fall foul of Curle’s selection policy, Corden left the Stags in 2005 to join Scunthorpe United. However, he never came close to matching his shining achievements at Mansfield for any of his subsequent clubs.

Number Three in our list: the midfield maestro Wayne Corden.

2. Chris Greenacre

Brought to the club initially on loan from Manchester City following Lee Peacock’s £500 000 transfer in the other direction, Greenacre quickly became a fans’ favourite and one of the most feared strikers in the lower leagues due to his combination of pace, anticipation and lethal finishing. His 28 goals in the 2001-2002 season were instrumental in Mansfield gaining automatic promotion. Highlights from the season included a brace at home against Luton Town, when the Stags slaughtered their fellow promotion candidates 4-1, an overhead kick winner against Shrewsbury Town and most importantly the opening goal in the automatic promotion shootout against Cheltenham Town, in an unforgettable match where the whole ground was filled to capacity and hundreds of Mansfield supporters stood by the floodlights at the North Stand end of the ground. In the close season, Greenacre moved to Championship side Stoke City, where manager Tony Pulis astonishingly utilised him as a central midfielder for three years before a move to Tranmere Rovers, where he once again demonstrated his predatory goal scoring instincts. He finished his career with the Wellington Phoenix in New Zealand, where he remains as assistant manager.

Greenacre, Mansfield’s best striker in a generation, in action against Leicester City. However, he is beaten to first place on the list by Liam Lawrence.

1.  Liam Lawrence

Perhaps the most talented out of the crop of young players that Mansfield produced at the turn of the century, Lawrence had the ability to change a game single-handedly often through a combination of skill and determination to win. Becoming a regular for the Stags in the second half of the 2000-2001 season, Lawrence quickly established himself as a key component of a midfield that comprised of him and the aforementioned Williamson, Disley and Corden. His goal scoring record for a midfielder is also impressive with 35 goals in 136 games for the Stags. Possibly his greatest moment in a Mansfield shirt coincided with the highlight of this century for Stags supporters- his last minute winner away at Chesterfield is quite rightly still remembered fondly by fans of the club. It is sad therefore that his final kick for the club was a missed penalty in the playoff final against Huddersfield Town in the 2003-2004 season, as his performances in the amber and blue did not deserve to finish in such a disappointing fashion.

Liam Lawrence, Mansfield Town’s player of the century so far, scoring a penalty against Wycombe Wanderers, his only hat-trick for the club.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

%d bloggers like this: