Colchester v Mansfield
CAROLYN RADFORD is making progress in her twin mission to be a role model for women in football and get her beloved Mansfield promoted.
The 35-year-old has been chief executive of the Stags since 2011, during which time the club have won the National League and reached Wembley, where they lost to Darlington in the FA Trophy final.
Owned by Radford’s husband John, they are openly ambitious and have a manager in Steve Evans with nine promotions on his CV. Only this week Radford had to fend off an approach for the Scot from Gillingham — ‘the phone’s been red-hot’ — but sees it as a consequence of the club’s success.
Mansfield are eighth in League Two but they’re only looking upwards. For Radford that is vindication she is getting it right despite the fierce criticism she has received, initially, she says, for being ‘blonde and a woman’, and the claims her appointment was just a ‘publicity stunt’.
‘It’s getting easier [but] I still get trolled on social media. But I feel appreciated by the people I work with and that’s all that matters to me,’ she says.
‘People just make reckless and disparaging comments about me. It helps being vocal. I feel I have a social responsibility to show what I can do in a man’s world. The women that come to our games now say they appreciate it.’
Radford manages to take the abuse in her stride. Her energy and enthusiasm has certainly brought something fresh into Field Mill. Evans, too, is a big personality, shall we say.
The well-travelled manager knows exactly what is expected of him this term. ‘He’s under pressure to get promotion — he also wants a tenth promotion for himself,’ says Radford. ‘The deal is, we want two promotions.
‘We were favourites to be promoted after signing Championship and League One-level players. We really want to achieve but everybody wants promotion. We’d love Steve to be our Alex Ferguson. I want us to keep hold of our man.’
Radford wants more women to join her in high-powered positions within football, admitting she is fed up of going to away grounds and being the only woman in the boardroom, feeling she is not taken seriously because she’s female.
She is backing her words with actions, starting a mentoring scheme for young women to come and work with her. ‘I want to show it’s not scary and intimidating,’ she adds. ‘But it might put them off!’
More than anything Radford wants young women to share her enjoyment of a game she had only admired from afar before working in it. It’s certainly not that way now.
‘Football is a bit addictive,’ she admits. ‘You get immersed in it. My football knowledge is a lot greater now. I listen to talkSPORT in the car — much to the annoyance of my kids!’
DID YOU KNOW?
■ Radford is one of just two female CEOs in English football’s top four divisions. The other is Katrien Meire at Charlton.
■ Radford’s husband John paid £1 for Mansfield in 2010, a year before she joined the club. They married in 2012.