Close season is often a nightmare for football fans, as the only thing they have to look forward too, is when the club announce a new signing or pre-season friendly.
Sometimes you may find an exhibition game for charity, but as the majority of pitches are now in the relaying stage – games are pretty much non-existent, therefore we find ourselves glued to the transfer news.
We always look out for news on ex-players moving on, sometimes with an eye on those tasty sell-on clauses and sometimes, we sit in shock as players, who lets say didn’t really shine at Stags, move onto better things.
This week’s post is all about that – as over the last few weeks, we’ve asked you for your suggestion on an Exhibition XI of players who, for whatever reason, didn’t shine in the amber and blue – but went onto bigger and better things.
Here’s the XI your suggestions have picked…
The hardest position to pick was goalkeeper, we’ve had plenty of flops – but all of them have continued to flop and flap, meaning there’s very few keepers in recent years that have gone onto bigger and better things.
Grof was by no means a flop – this XI is definitely NOT about Stags flops, we can save that for another day.
The Hungarian Shot-Stopper is actually, in my eyes anyway, a club legend for his stand-out performances which got us too Wembley back in 2011, when he joined on loan from Notts County.
Grof had little first team football under his belt when he arrived from Meadow Lane and sadly, transfer ruling meant he missed out on his place at Wembley as his loan ended the day before the final (It may have been a few days before, either way – Duncan Russell was unable to re-sign him for the final, meaning he missed out).
Released by Notts County at the end of the season, I believe Grof may well have re-joined Stags but as Paul Cox took the reins, the club went in a different direction and Grof, following a successful trial – joined league one Walsall.
A clean sheet on his saddlers debut was followed by a string of early quality performances between the sticks which made Grof a popular choice with the Walsall faithful, however as the season went on – Grof fell down the pecking order and moved abroad.
Spells with German side Goslarer SC and Berliner AK followed before the now 28 year old joined Hungarian side Budapest Honvéd where his performances recently, have helped the side onto silverware, winning the OTP Bank Liga, the first time the side have won the title since 1993.
For me the biggest surprise of a player whose gone onto bigger things, as the Steve Cook who pulled on a Mansfield Town shirt for eight times back in 2010-11 was nowhere near Premier League Standard… and yet this season he’s established himself as an ever present figure in the Bournemouth side who finished 9th in the Premier League, also bagging two goals.
One of many signed by David Holdsworth, Cook started well with a solid debut at FC Halifax in the FA and had an impressive long throw, but suffered indifferent form – when he turned up he was good value, but when he didn’t it was costly – I think the search party for Steve Cook at Grimbsy (7-2 defeat on New Years Day) is still on-going. If you’d have identified him as a future premier league player that afternoon, you’d have been admitted to a mental hospital. Woeful.
It doesn’t help Cook’s case that, since his rise up the leagues with Bournemouth, he’s slagged Mansfield off at every given opportunity, saying that playing for Mansfield made him want to quit football.
Come on, how many of you said “Who?” – Maxime Chanot was a floppy haired French young centre back who signed on loan from Sheffield United during our debut season in the conference.
He impressed on his debut with a man of the match display at home to Woking in a 1-0 defeat, but then the following game, promptly got himself sent off in a 3-2 loss at Stevenage for two bookable offences.
After serving his one game ban, he returned to the side but was sloppy and at fault for what proved to be the winning goal for Wrexham – he was then in and out of the side before returning too hs parent club.
For years’ the promising, yet constantly fouling, young defender went under the raider, before with a fresh hair cut – making a name for himself in the Belgium with Kortrijk winning numerous player honours and bagging a move to the MLS, and New York City FC, managed by Patrick Vieira, captained by World Cup winner David Villa – it’s amazing what a good hair cut can do!
Alex John Baptiste
Again by no means a flop in the amber and blue, we always new Sutton-In-Ashfield born bap would go onto bigger things, although we perhaps expected a move to League One and a steady progression, rather than jumping straight to Championship level with Blackpool – where after getting his head down he became a regular and ended up in the Premier League.
Further spells in the Championship with Bolton, Blackburn and Middlesbrough followed as the Sutton born defender flew the Mansfield flag.
Ok so not a player whose gone onto play in the premier league or in the MLS, but Amari’i Bell, who was signed on loan at the start of the 2014-15 season by Paul Cox – hasn’t done too badly for himself as a stable left back at League One level with Fleetwood.
Bell impressed in pre-season, with good performances against Notts County, Aston Villa and Leeds United – but for whatever reason, couldn’t get in the side ahead of Lee Beevers and was recalled by parent club Birmingham City and loaned elsewhere.
After impressive displays Swindon and Gillingham, Bell signed for Fleetwood on a free in 2015 and close to 100 games later, is highly rated by a number of league one and championship sides
If I was an actor, I’d be in line for playing the part of Sam, in “Clucas – The rise of a ginger” as the tricky winger has risen from the conference to the premier league in the space of five seasons.
Often played out of position by Paul Cox as an out and out front man to fill the void left by Matt Green, Clucas established himself as a quality goal-scorer but for whatever reason, didn’t look happy in the front man role, often drifting wide which wouldn’t have gone down well with Cox.
On transfer deadline day in 2014, he did the unthinkable and signed for Chesterfield in League One before, again after impressing on the wing, was snapped up by Championship side Hull City, netting Chesterfield some money, but also giving us a cut… so we can perhaps forgive the switch now?
Clucas played a key part in Hull’s promotion to the Premier League netting six goals in the Championship and didn’t look out of place in the Premier League last season and will no doubt be on the move again soon.
What a story.
Part of the side who were relegated from the football league, Bell was a key figure in the heart of midfield, who like many others jumped from the titanic-esc Mansfield once relegated, opting to join the other MTFC – Macclesfield.
Whilst Bell has few trophies to his name, he’s been pretty much an ever present wherever he’s been and often won player of the season awards, with spells also at Crewe Alexandra and Burton Albion before moving into coaching.
Giles is one of three players to ever don the back of a Stags shirt owned by me (Neil MacKenzie and ‘BEAST’ are the others!) and arrived as a cheeky youngsters back in 2005 from non-league Kingstonian.
Playing 70 games over two seasons, Coke fizzed in an otherwise mediocre side and attracted the attention of clubs higher up, eventually opting for Northampton, who thanks to a tribunal owed us around £70,000.
Coke after returning from injured continued to blossom and joined Motherwell, followed by spells with Bolton, Sheffield Wednesday and Ipswich.
Recently signed by championship side Sheffield United, Thomas arrived from Motherwell after catching many a fans eye with his performances for Plymouth, famously leaving Lee Beevers on his backside against us.
Thomas was highly rated and on his day, was a decent outlet for Stags – but under Adam Murray you could sense Thomas either wasn’t bothered, unhappy or possibly both – and was allowed to join Hartlepool in January 2016 after 17 games in the Amber and Blue.
The occasional twitter jibe with Stags fans hasn’t helped his cause, but I guess we wish him all the best in the championship next season – despite being part of a Hartlepool side relegated to the conference last season….
You could tell Gregory was a fantastic talent who just didn’t get a look in, however he did grab a goal in his Stags career which lasted 106 minutes – a tap in at Southport on his debut.
Scoring goals for fun out on loan, Gregory grabbed the attention of other clubs but had to climb the ladder the hard way, unlike to right place right time luck of Steve Cook. Gregory joined FC Halifax following a loan stint from us permanently, helping the club rise from non-league obscurity to conference national, was snapped up by then Championship side Milwall.
Gregory loved a goal at Halifax, 95 in 155 games isn’t bad at all… something he’s matched at Milwall, with 51 in 136 including vital goals which have propelled the Lions back into the Championship.
At 28, It wouldn’t surprise me to see a premier league side come calling for Gregory, who with a record like that, deserves it!
Scoring goals for fun in Scotland had attracted the Stags to Russell, who joined at the start of the 2005-06 campaign.
With six goals in eighteen games Russell departed having failed to really live up to expectations, dropping into non-league with Forest Green rovers and seemingly off the radar.
A return to Scotland re-captured Russell’s form and after scoring 34 in 32 games for Airdrie United, he moved to Kilmarnock and then to the MLS, winning the 2010 and 2011 NASL league Championships with the Carolina RailHawks.
A move to Orange Country Blues followed, dropping into a midfield role to take the skippers armband – and then into coaching and internet fame, as the superior striker, a regular feature on Soccer AM.
On The Bench
Naturally there’s a few to miss out, Rory Boulding had to live in his brothers shadow at Stags, but has since thrived in the Scottish Premier League and Championship with a number of clubs, whilst the likes of Jake Buxton and Tom Naylor both went onto play for Derby in the Championship.
Special mentions on this list go to Calvin Andrew, a hero for his goal against Chesterfield, who otherwise couldn’t find his range at Stags, has found it at Rochdale – whilst Alex Neil, who had to fill the void left by Liam Lawrence, ended up going into management, masterminding Norwich City’s climb to the premier league, sacked somewhat harshly in March this year with his side in prime position for a return to the Premier League.
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Article By | Craig Priest
When manager Steve Evans announced his reatined list, it was a major disapointment to see tenacious midfidler Jamie McGuire’s name on the list of those released – however today, the popular former Fleetwood Town man has accepted a role within the academy set-up as a coach, for me the best news of the close season so far.
McGuire has taken mantle of Mr Mansfield Town from Adam Murray and just listening to his interview on the clubs website just rehighlights his passion and commitment to the club, and at a time where the academy set-up continues to grow – having that passion and commitment can only help in creating passionate and committed local players,.
It was Paul Cox who brought McGuire to the club from Fleetwoord, having been a key part of Fleetwood’s rise and stabilsation into the league – something at the time we needed having just been promoted from the conference.
McGuire was known for his hot-headed nature and its fair to say at first, wound a lot of players up for over-the-top challenges, silly bookings and suspensions. However through it all was passion, the mentality of someone who wanted to succseed and battle – whatever the curcumstance. You know, the type of player who runs through brick walls, walks on broken glass, baths in fire.
They were the qualities for which Adam Murray was known, only Murray had that extra passion for the club having been there numerous years – but playing alongside Murray, McGuire soon inheritted that passion and lets be honest, when Murray became manager and hung up his boots – there was no need for the “Oh we miss an Adam Murray figure in the middle” because over time, we developed Jamie McGuire.
McGuire skippered the side often under Murray and took other players under his wing like a leader, and given that responsbility and perhaps extra passion for the club as time progressed – McGuire’s rash and sometimes liability nature was gone, but the same passionate and committed player remained.
When McGuire wasn’t picked in the starting line-up by Cox, Murray or Evans – you could still hear him from the side-lines, he’d kick every ball, make every challenge and live the game – If you ever need an example of this, watch the video from when Yoann Arquin scored the fourth against Accrington earlier this season. It’s the 89th minute, it’s 4-4 – Arquin darts off to celebrate, Magga pegs it down the touch line, drags players back out to the middle “never say die”.
Further examples, and frankly prime Saturday afternoon viewing, is from pre-season when the 33 year old donned the go-pro camera for a series of training vlogs, 100% effort all the time, 100% vocal encouragement to all players. One word – leader.
Speaking of his role within the Academy set-up, McGuire told the club “As soon as I walked in here [The One Call Stadium] four years ago, everyone’s been brilliant with me – I’ve got on with everyone, met some great friends all over the town.”
“Mansfield is me now, I’m Mansfield trough and trough – that’s what I am, so I’ll give my heart and soul to the club as a player like I did and as an academy coach”
McGuire also heaped praise on Evans for making the coaching deal happen, and I think it’s fair to say that Evans would be a slightly unpopular man with many a Stags supporter had McGuire just been completed let go – to many, the club is family – and Jamie McGuire has certainly become part of the furniture.
I think he, like John Dempster, will become an excellent manager one day – hopefully that will be at Mansfield Town.
Jamie McGuire, thanks for the memories and good luck with the coaching career – let’s hope many a player from the McGuire school of coaching, ends up with passion like this
This time last week, the Mansfield Town 2016-17 rollercoaster had reached its final bend in the track – there was a slight chance there may be a final twist, but most knew and accepted the ride was about to come to a slow end, and it did.
With little time to look back and reflect, Steve Evans had met with Chairman John Radford and agreed a plan for 2017-18 and wasted no time in reshuffling the desk, releasing eleven players from the club and, at the time of writing, signing two new faces.
Usually when the retained list comes out, there’s a bit of negativity – something I expected on mass when leading goal scorer and club legend Matt Green’s name was on the list, yet there appeared to be very little.
That’s something which highlights to me that everyone, from the boardroom right across to the terraces knows it’s time to move on. Matt Green will forever be a legend that’s without question – but as we look towards promotion into league one, sometimes it’s best to let go of the old guard and thus stop the “He’d have buried that in the conference” references and attitude, which was so prominent against Portsmouth when Green missed that golden chance.
The remaining ten to be released were Yoann Arquin, James Baxendale, Ashley Hemmings, Kevan Hurst, Pat Hoban, Brian Jensen, Jamie McGuire [Offer U21 Coaching Role], Scott Shearer, Corbin Shires and skipper Lee Collins, who other than McGuire was perhaps the only name on the list that was questioned.
Naturally I can’t really pass judgement on the majority of that list having not seen them play much this season [FYI I’m not jumping back on the band-wagon, I’ve been locked in a production studio for a season!] but I did rate Collins and thought he gave his plenty of options – but Evans likes a smaller squad and already judging by the players retained and the signings he’s made so far – it’d be tough to see where ‘skipper’ Collins would fit.
What you said
As always, we asked you to give your views via twitter and Facebook – he’s a selection of your responses
So far Evans has made two quality additions, goalkeeper Conrad Logan signing from Rochdale, who he helped to a steady 9th placed finish – and solid defender Zander Diamond who has been there and done it with both Burton Albion and Northampton Town, turning down a new deal with the latter after winning player-of-the-season too join the Stags.
Two top class players who are both experienced in winning trophies – in previous years, the early signings have been mouth-watering ones which have set the bar of expectation high, which hasn’t then been met – but with Evans and the clear ambition to win promotion, I don’t think that’s going to be an issue.
Things are shaping up well and on paper, with last season not even seven-days dead – the next can’t come around quick enough.
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Mansfield Town’s near impossible task of finishing in the top seven of League Two proved one step too far, as a resurgent Crawley Town came from two-goals behind to ensure the Stags’ season finished in a disappointing whimper.
With the odds stacked heavily against Steve Evans’ men, yesterday was always going to be a tall order, but even for me, watching from the outside for the majority of the campaign, it was plain as day that this Mansfield Town were missing the key ingredients that make a side successful.
At 2-0 up with two well worked and well taken goals, you could argue I was talking rubbish – but the fact of the matter is, on reflection, from the very first whistle – Crawley had Mansfield sussed and got under their skin – good teams don’t allow that or find a way to fight back, for my money the Stags had no fight in them, the cracks starting to show when Crawley reduced the score to 2-1.
At 2-1 the hill to climb became a mountain, in fact – it was like watching 90s classic gladiators on the pyramid game and a five-feet-nothing average Joe going up against the seven-foot-twelve muscle and brute force of warrior or hunter – in short, there was no way Mansfield were making it beyond the first step, and they didn’t.
The fact they didn’t isn’t all down to players’ lack of energy or enthusiasm, it’s also down to a Crawley side who after sacking their manager on Thursday evening, were determined to end the season on a positive note and battled from the first whistle to the very last – and to be honest, had they had a few more ingredients themselves in key areas, they may have finished in a higher position.
You look at players like Dean Cox and James Collins, both twenty-goal a season front men with pace and power, both players who get under defenders’ skins and make things happen – I look at Mansfield’s front line and other than Danny Rose, who I think will continue to grow under Evans, I can’t see any striker that has enough about them too make the difference when it comes to the crunch.
Matt Green, forever a legend, but nowhere near the Matt Green we need – Shaq Coulhirst, too much of a one-man band from what I’ve seen – I could continue but once again, I only want to write about what I’ve seen, it’d be unfair to do so otherwise.
On reflection a 12th placed finish doesn’t look great, but it’s so tight, anything could have happened and so nearly did. John Radford has to get the cheque book out and let Evans do what Evans does – create a winning team, failure to do so and I don’t see Steve Evans remaining Stags boss for long – another post for another time really, as is the fact we as a town need to put bums on seats and watch another season of League Two football, which is looking on paper like another intriguing tale.
REPORT | CRAWLEY TOWN 2-2 MANSFIELD TOWN
Venue | Checkatrade.com Stadium, Crawley
Date | Saturday 6th May – 5.30pm Kick-Off
Competition | Sky Bet League Two
Referee | Carl Boyeson
The odds were truly stacked against the Stags, they HAD to win and then hope FOUR of FIVE games elsewhere went their way to creep into 7th place – most people knew it was perhaps a step too far, however nobody gave Leicester City a shot at being Premier League Champions and that happened so, there was always hope.
Steve Evans made two changes from the side which lost to Portsmouth, Alfie Potter and Matt Green replaced Lee Collins and Shaq Coulthirst respectively, and whilst some were perhaps surprised to see a less attacking line-up, the options Evans had allowed a transition from a flat 4-4-2 to a 3-4-1-2 with Hayden White dropping into a back three, Mal Benning moving to left-side-midfield and Alex MacDonald and Alfie Potter alternating between the centre-attacking-midfield role off the shoulder of Green and Rose.
Hosts Crawley had the better start as Stags failed to settle early nerves, Dean Cox with the pick of the chances for the hosts, his fourth minute effort pushed away by Jake Kean in the Stags goal, before a good recovering challenge from Rhys Bennett prevented another opening for James Collins two minutes later.
The Stags did eventually settle and enjoyed by far their best spell of the game, Krystian Pearce and Alex MacDonald both saw efforts go over before Danny Rose gave Mansfield a much needed lead on eleven minutes.
Hosts Crawley couldn’t keep hold of the ball in midfield as Joel Byrom won possession back, playing a ball low into the area into the feet of Danny Rose who made no mistake in keeping his composure, setting himself and firing low beneath Glenn Morris in the home goal.
Boyed by the opening goal, the Stags continued to press a wonderful cross from MacDonald on the left paved the way for Ben Whiteman to head over on 17 minutes before two minutes later, Matt Green turned provider with neat control inside the box to tee-up an advancing Whiteman, his effort cannoning back off of the post.
On Twenty-Two minutes Whiteman made it third time lucky as, following an excellent peace of fluid counter-attacking football, he drove from the half way line to around 25 yards from goal, firing beyond Morris who could do nothing bar fetch the ball from the back of the net.
Three minutes later, Mal Benning arrived from nowhere to blaze over a left-footed volley from a Hayden White cross before Matt Green also saw an effort palmed away expertly by Morris – questions remain however over if Green should have teeded up Whiteman who was in a far better passion and unmarked.
The cracks then began to show as Stags, in search of a much needed goal number three with all results bar Stevenage in their favour, threw bodies forward and saw their 3-4-1-2 formation unpicked by a cleaver Crawley, who drawing Hayden White out of position to allow a low first-time left sided cross – pulled a goal back. Dean Cox converting five yards from goals as the Mansfield back line failed to track runners and looked all at sea.
A final chance of the half saw Matt Green and Alex MacDonald combine but fail to find the target, and as results began to go against them, the deflation set-in and despite a 2-1 half time lead, you sensed the second half may not be the one Mansfield were dreaming off.
Crawley put the pressure on right from the off as the second half got underway, two corners in quick succession had Mansfield on the back foot and looked by far the side in control, levelling the game with an outstanding net-buster on 54 minutes.
It all stemmed from lapse defending from Mansfield who failed at the basics, not reacting to a short Dean Cox corner who simply rolled the ball to the edge of the Stags box to Jordan Roberts, who pulled the trigger and slammed the ball beyond Jake Kean.
The Collins-Cox combination looked dangerous and had Mansfield at sixes and sevens throughout the second half, a chance on the hour saw Cox fire wide before four minutes later, Collins was inches away from converting at the far post following a Cox low cross.
With 67 played Crawley should have taken a three-two lead, James Collins took advantage of an unusually static Pearce, winning the ball before racing through 1 v 1 with Jake Kean who did well to deny Collins with his legs.
Kean again came to the rescue four minutes later, as another Cox corner found its way to Collins at the near post, the Crawley front man’s effort palmed away one-handed by Kean as the hosts pilled on the pressure.
Stags substitute George Taft and fellow defender Pearce both had efforts fly up and over alongside the Gatwick Planes either side of Collins hitting the woodwork for Crawley as the game entered its final stages, and Stags season end on a whimper.
FULL TIME | Crawley 2-2 Stags
STAGS: Kean, White (Taft), Pearce [C], Bennett, Benning, Whiteman, Byrom, Potter (Coulthirst), MacDonald, Rose (Hamilton), Green
UNUSED SUBS: Jensen, McGuire, Lee Collins, Lewis Collins
Report & Blog | Craig Priest
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