By Tony Leighton

Mansfield Town are back in The Football League, their five-season return journey completed as champions of the Blue Square Premier.

Those five campaigns, particularly the first two following their relegation from npower League 2, have contained lots of pain and heartache.

The turning point came when Mansfield-born and bred businessman John Radford took over the Stags at the start of the 2010/11 season.

The club had desperate financial problems at the time and Radford told football-league.co.uk: "I was shocked to see the amount of debt.

"A group of fans were running the club with their heart, and it needed someone like me to come in and set the club back on a sound footing."

Radford has certainly done that, as chairman overseeing three exciting years of achievements for his club both on and off the pitch.

Crucially for the long-term future of Mansfield Town, he regained ownership of the club's Field Mill ground in March last year.

On the pitch, meanwhile, the Stags had in the previous season reached the Wembley final of the FA Trophy, finishing runners-up to Darlington.

The start of the 2011/12 campaign saw another significant turning point with the recruitment of the then virtually unknown Paul Cox as manager.

Cox had been in charge of nearby Eastwood Town, taking them in five years from the bottom end of the Unibond League to the top end of the Conference North.

The former Notts County defender has proved an astute appointment. "I wanted an up and coming young manager rather than an old head," said Radford.

"He hadn't got that long a history in management, but he had achieved a lot in both league and cups and I felt that he could do the same for us."

Cox almost achieved promotion in his first season, leading the Stags to a third place Blue Square finish but losing to York City in the Play-Off semi-final.

But the 41-year-old manager has come up trumps in his second season, and not just in guiding his team back up to The Football League.

They also had a memorable FA Cup run, ended by Liverpool through a controversial winner by striker Luis Suarez at a packed Field Mill.

And a month after that January cup tie, Cox was famously handed an Aston Martin by Radford following an 8-1 League win against Barrow.

The chairman recalled: "We'd beaten Dartford 5-0 a week earlier and I told Paul that if we got five in the first half against Barrow, I'd give him the car.

"I didn't expect five in the first half, but it was great to see us then go on and get eight and I was happy to honour my promise to Paul."

The car's value was around £80,000 but, in comparison, promotion back to The Football League is priceless to everyone involved with Mansfield Town.

Now they are looking forward to life in League 2 and Radford said: "It's been an absolutely fantastic season and I've been a lucky chairman.

"We're going up into League 2 knowing it's going to be far from easy, because there are some very decent teams in the division.

"But we are strong enough, with our fan base and the set-up behind the scenes as well as on the football side, to become a good Football League club again."

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