Stags boss Cox: Ground deal 'like Berlin Wall coming down'
IT is the announcement Mansfield Town fans have been waiting to hear for years; a moment to truly savour and one many feared may never come.
But now it is official: Field Mill is back in the hands of the club and former owner and landlord Keith Haslam's involvement is effectively no more.
After more than 17 months of wrangling, chairman John Radford has finally got his wish in securing the Stags' home since the 1919-20 season.
A 17-year lease has been negotiated to enable Mansfield to meet a Football Conference deadline of 5pm yesterday, allowing the club to compete in this season's Blue Square Premier play-offs, providing they finish in the top five.
The handover of the freehold will then go through today.
Along the way there has been blood, sweat and tears; bluff and counter-bluff.
Radford instigated court action, while Haslam evicted the club from the ground, albeit temporarily.
But now, at last, all that is a thing of the past after a substantially improved seven-figure offer from Radford to buy the stadium complex was accepted by Haslam.
Any other week, the first return of former boss David Holdsworth with another club – Lincoln City – for the first time since his departure in November 2010 would be the subject on the lips of every Stags fan.
But not this week. Not once the news that could see the Stags enter a whole new era filtered through yesterday tea-time.
The importance of this breakthrough has certainly not been lost on Mansfield manager Paul Cox, who, like everyone else, has seen the soap opera slowly unfold.
He is delighted that a more secure future is on the horizon – one which means the team's on-field efforts so far this season have not been in vain.
But he is also hopeful that Radford, the man who employed him last May, gets the kudos he feels he merits for 'putting his money where some would not put their mouths'.
"I think this could be a massive moment in the club's history, one of the biggest," said Cox.
"The chairman deserves immense credit and praise for what he has done and it sums up the kind of man he is.
"It shows just how committed he is to the club and how much he wants to make it a success. He has had to be very patient.
"When you look at the mindset that the supporters have had in the past few years, this is a watershed moment.
"It is almost like the Berlin Wall coming down for the Stags fans.
"There has been a whole anxiety around the club and its future that has now been lifted.
"They will understand now that John is the real McCoy. We can start planning ahead because this is a real landmark."
Cox said just before he was appointed to lead the Stags that he felt the club was capable of getting into League One in the long-term.
He still holds the view that the club should have no limits on its ambitions, especially now. Cox said: "I think this is a massive incentive for everyone connected to the club.
"As soon as I knew we'd got the ground I thought 'the hard work starts here' and I'm sure the chairman thinks the same way.
"But we now have the chance to put a whole infrastructure in place and build for a successful future.
"John has said all the way through to me that he would get it sorted and he has been true to his word."
Cox recalls the moment vividly when Radford pulled him aside at training to tell him a deal was to be agreed.
"When the chairman came to me I knew it was something special because he was like an excited schoolboy!" he said.
"He showed me some paperwork and said: "I'm buying it." I couldn't believe it.
"He really has pulled out all the stops to buy the ground for the club – way beyond the call of duty – when he doesn't owe them anything.
"Everyone can now get behind the club and concentrate on football. The uncertainty and stigmas have gone.
"Supporters may have had their doubts this would happen before, but know they can have no doubts now."
Cox feels the news will help the morale at the club as they go into an important last 13 games of the season.
He said: "I think this will be a huge psychological boost. Standing in front of the players and saying we have the ground was a fantastic moment.
"But the only way we can now take advantage is by getting the results between now and the end of the season.
"The chairman has done his bit and now it's up to us to do ours."