Field Mill is the oldest professional football ground in the world and has been open since 1861, having been the home of Mansfield Town since 1919. It is true that the stadium certainly has a feel of a traditional ground, but it does seem a little run down in places. The place where this is most evident is the Bishop Street side of the ground being completely closed and boarded up for safety reasons. This reduces the stadium’s capacity from 10,000 to 9,295, although at least the ground is all seated. It looks quite dispiriting seeing a whole stand boarded up with sponsors and sorting that out has to be a priority for the Mansfield owners if they have promotion ambitions any time soon. The Quarry Lane End is a single tier stand opposite the away end, while the Ian Greaves Stand rune to the right of the away fans and seems to be where the majority of the atmosphere comes from.
The away fans were given the entire North Stand behind one of the goals, with a capacity of 1,500. The allocation is one of the smaller ones in League Two and, had the stand held more, I’m sure Pompey could have taken at least double that number. The away end is single tiered and all seated, and one good aspect is that there is a sizeable gap between the front-most row and the advertising hoardings, which allowed the supporters to move around freely during the match. The stewards at the ground were helpful and allowed the fans to have some fun with various inflatables and even allowed some fans to do a ‘conga’ at the front of the stand. The facilities in the away end are reasonably good, and there is a bar area which runs all along the back of the stand. There are two turnstiles for the away end, which is enough considering the capacity is only 1,500. The turnstiles work with scanners which are operated by the fans and seem to work well on the whole. Everything in the away end was run very efficiently and Pompey fans were well looked after, although it would have been nice if the capacity was a little larger.
The pitch seemed to play relatively well and there were not too many bobbles to obstruct the flow of the game. At this stage of the season most pitches are wearing a bit thin and are in need of relaying over the summer but Mansfield’s pitch seemed as good as new. The view was completely unobstructed as well which certainly added to the away fan experience. Food is widely available too, as the bars behind the away stand sell hot food and drink, while there is a Burger King and a Frankie & Benny’s in between the train station and the stadium so there is plenty of opportunity for away supporters to refresh themselves. As far as bars are concerned, there is a bar under the away stand, while there is also a pub called the Sandy Pate behind the Ian Greaves Stand which is open to away fans. The home fans impressed me, which was not something I was expecting to happen. Mansfield supporters do not have a reputation for being very noisy but they were able to out-sing the visiting fans for much of the game. This could be due to it being a very important match for the hosts, meaning the home fans turned out in numbers. Most of the singing came from the Ian Greaves Stand in the upper tier nearest the visiting fans, and they also had a rather inspirational quote in that area: ‘until Mansfield, never was I happy.’
Field Mill is very easy to get to by train, as it is possible to see the ground from Mansfield train station. The station is a ten minute walk from the stadium and simply involves walking along a dual carriageway for a couple of hundred yards before the stand comes into view and one can access the away end by crossing over the road at the traffic lights and going down a small lane to the North Stand. From the South Coast, Mansfield is not especially easy to reach and, when coming from Chichester, fans must change three times. The first leg of the journey is Chichester to London Victoria, then the Tube to King’s Cross/St Pancras, then an East Midlands Trains service to Nottingham, then a local service to Mansfield. The train from Nottingham to Mansfield comprises of just two coaches so it is very crowded, especially after matches when vast numbers of supporters are trying to board the same train. The overall journey took me about five and a half hours each way so it is not one of the easiest stadiums to get to.
Overall I enjoyed my trip to Mansfield and everything within the ground seemed to be run efficiently. The view was very good as well and, despite being very old, there are certain aspects of the ground which are quite modern, such as being all seated. However, there are some very obvious improvements which need to be made to the ground to make it fit for purpose – none more so than re-doing the Bishop Street side of the stadium as it is quite embarrassing for a ground only to have three stands open in 2017. The ground is easy to get to from the train station and there are plenty of places to eat and drink around the ground. The only negative part of the ground access is that it is difficult to reach from the South Coast, but that is not Mansfield’ fault! On the whole, Mansfield’s ground is quite ‘Jekyll & Hyde’, as it seems very modern in some places but very old and run down in others. However, I would be very happy to go back at some point if they can make the necessary improvements to the stadium.