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EXCLUSIVE: Mansfield Town CEO Radford talks Cardiff, Man City & the magic of the FA Cup

Ironically, for a club that sits on the edge of the Sherwood Forest - the home of Robin Hood - Mansfield Town are embarking on their own tale of taking from the rich and giving to the poor.

Green tights and bow and arrows have been replaced with boots and a round ball, but the traits of bravery and courage ring true. For there isn't any further parity in football than between the two clubs of Mansfield and Manchester City - the club they've drawn in the fourth-round of the FA Cup.

Despite the critiques of England's premier cup competition - namely the excessive resting of players - you just need to talk with the Stags CEO Carolyn Radford to know the magic of the FA Cup is alive and well.

"I think the FA Cup for anyone that gets through is really important because it just gets a huge buzz," Radford exclusively told Tribalfootball.

"[There is] hype around the club and the players love that and it really does give you a huge push as far as the league goes. It's just a wonderful cup to be involved in."

The Nottinghamshire club are hoping to advance to the fourth-round of the competition for the first time since 1988 when they host Cardiff City on Tuesday night.

Steve Evans' side earned a replay after a spirited 0-0 draw in Wales two weekends ago and Radford believes they were unlucky not to win the game. She also jokes that they'll be doing their very best to make it uncomfortable for the visitors after they make the three hour journey north.

"At least it's at our home ground, so we'll be able to make sure there's no hot water in the dressing room and it's very cold and uncomfortable for them when they come," she quipped.

"It's difficult because it's a Tuesday night, but our capacity is 10,000 and were expecting 6000 to 7000 and Cardiff have requested 1000, but they'll probably need more than that.

"It should be a really good atmosphere and there's a massive prize at the end of it with Manchester City flying high. If we managed to beat them that would really raise the confidence of the camp."

A meeting with a club of City's stature can do wonders for the likes of Mansfield.

There are the sponsorship and marketing benefits from playing in a nationally and internationally televised game, which also helps boost the club's profile.

Then there is the chance to host the City supporters, which brings gate sales and concessions, and money spent on businesses in Mansfield itself, which comprises of 90,000 people.

35-year-old Radford has been in her role for six years and as she notes, a fixture against a big club like City would provide an opportunity to get advice off opposition directors and potentially form a relationship where players can be loaned down the leagues.

"I'd love to meet Pep [Guardiola]," said Radford excitedly. "They're always respectful to the lower league teams, even Cardiff when we went there. You exchange different points of view and also it helps develop a relationship, so if we did want to loan some players from a higher division, we could.

"It's really helpful for me also, because i've only been doing the job six years, so it's always great to meet different contacts."

Business off the field isn't the only incentive the FA Cup provides for clubs in the same position as Mansfield. As Radford recalls, it was their performance in a third-round tie with Liverpool in 2013/14 that transformed not only their season, but their direction as a club.

"We made the third round against Liverpool probably about four years ago now," said Radford.

"When we played Liverpool we were probably much lower in the league at that point and we didn't win because Luis Suarez did a handball, but thats another story, and we wanted a replay at Anfield but that didn't happen.

"The rest of the season though we were on a huge trajectory up and managed to be champions that season."

It will take a colossal effort for Mansfield to emulate cup runs like that of the Kidderminster Harriers in 1993/94 or Millwall in 2003/04.

The last time Mansfield made the fourth-round of the FA Cup was in the 1987/88 season - when Radford was just five years of age.

The prize meeting that awaits manager Steve Evans and his troops provides them with more than enough motivation. However, Radford insists the club isn't getting distracted from their number one priority.

"We composed a team over the summer with 15 new players under Evans and the aim was promotion," she said assertively. "So it's project promotion still at the forefront."

The economic importance of staying in the Premiership, making the top-four or promotion has forced the bigger clubs to push it down their list of priorities. Fortunately for Mansfield, they're coming up against a Cardiff side who fits into this mould.

The Bluebirds snapped a seven-game winless streak with a resounding 4-0 win over Sunderland on the weekend, which has kept them within two points of the automatic promotion spot. With a tough away fixture against Sheffield Wednesday on Saturday, Neil Warnock wouldn't be blamed if he rested a few players for Tuesday night's game.

Regardless of who Warnock puts on the field, Mansfield will still hold hope - because that's what the FA Cup does.

No matter the size, resources or history, when the whistle blows at 7:45pm at One Call Stadium on Tuesday night, the Stags' merry men will give everything they've got to topple their opponents. And who says the magic of the cup is dead?

You can catch the third-round FA Cup replay between Mansfield Town and Cardiff at One Call Stadium on Tuesday January 16 at 7:45pm.

Andrew Maclean
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Andrew Maclean

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