Football: Mansfield stand firm on and off the pitch

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The Independent Online
MANSFIELD TOWN fans who demonstrated against chairman Keith Haslam after Saturday's win over Swansea were lucky to have seen any football at all at the club's Field Mills ground after players had threatened a revolt.

On Friday, the stadium had witnessed extraordinary scenes when angry players mounted a blockade in the car park after the club had failed to pay them for a second consecutive month.

The first-team squad demanded a showdown meeting with Haslam and to ensure he did not slip out unnoticed while they waited in the dressing-room the players positioned their own vehicles so that Haslam's car could not leave the ground.

Haslam emerged to face them at 11.30 am and following a heated confrontation the entire squad - as well as non-playing staff - later received their pay cheques, but only after the Professional Footballers' Association had stepped in to bail out the club for a third time this season.

The chairman, later interviewed on local radio, blamed the crisis on cash flow problems, which, he said, "affect every club at this level at this time of year".

Despite what had hardly been the ideal preparation for Saturday's game, Mansfield still managed to extend their unbeaten run to 11 games, which goes to prove that money is not every footballer's driving force. However, lest Haslam be tempted to employ similar motivation techniques next season, several senior players have privately threatened to quit if there is any repetition of last week's farce.

Meanwhile, two members of the Plymouth Argyle side relegated to the Third Division with Saturday's defeat at Burnley can claim what is possibly a unique if unwanted record. Barry Conlon and Stephen Woods were both completing loan spells with the Devon club and return today to Manchester City and Stoke respectively, both of whom have been demoted from the First Division in their absence.