As the new season approaches at rapid speed, excitement is building over whether all of the hype from the bookmakers can see the Stags in, or if the talk will just be the words of torn up hopes and dreams.
I will NEVER slate Adam Murray, the guy is a hero of mine as a player and I believe will go onto have a good managerial career, but starting out here, wasn’t quite ready for the challenge of delivering Promotion – in fact I think there’s only person the Radford family would trust enough to give the financial backing required to deliver promotion.
That man was found in Waitrose (or on his way to Waitrose depending on which version of the story he tells!) in the form of Steve Evans, and now in his first full season as Stags boss – I think the fiery scot, faces the toughest challenge of his career.
Having delivered Promotion and good times to Stamford, Boston [twice], Crawley and Rotherham – Evans rightly earned the chance to work higher up the league pyramid and did so with Leeds United – however his stay lasted seven months before he was axed by Leeds Owner Massimo Cellino, becoming the 6th Manager sacked by Cellino in two years.
The fact he delivered no promotions or real success to Leeds in his 38 game tenure was [wrongly] questioned by some, could Evans manage at a higher level – had he lost the magic touch?
Personally that’s rubbish, his record speaks volumes and if you look at how he transformed us last season in a short spell, those whisperings of doubt should have been well and truly extinguished – however I do think this is the biggest challenge of his career as I say, perhaps a little because they’ll be a voice in his head wanting to prove the niggling voices wrong [we all get them, let’s not deny that] – but also because the way in which football is managed now over a longer period, has changed.
That change came into effect at the start of last season – as the transfer window said, with the expectation of unregistered players, you could only sign a player during the window, meaning that vital short term loan option to cover injury or just freshen things up, was gone.
To clubs like our beloved Mansfield, that rule could have ruined us – how many times have we been in a position where a one/two month loan was needed? Too many to count. Every club was in the same boat in fairness, some managed it better than others and if you look at how Evans has gone about his business this window so far, you have to ask – actually, has he been very coy here and given the club the depth needed for those sticky patches late in September through to December when a fresh pair of legs with quality is needed.
I think he has, I think I could name four, maybe even five different combinations of shapes and sides Evans can utilise to get us through those periods where others clubs might be struggling.
The challenge comes in managing this in the right way, let’s take for instance we had a squad of 20 [Including the younger players Jack Thomas and Lewis Collins] rather than 24 [the current number] – the four others would have been brought in on the loan market to support the 18 senior players at pivotal points in previous seasons, they’d come in from other clubs hungry to show what they can do etc, now they come within – but will those four (whoever they may be) be happy to be sitting on the side lines just waiting for their chance to come?
How often do you rotate things to keep players happy, to keep players fresh, and to keep them competitive and fit? Its all well and good playing pre-season friendlies in banks of 60/30 or 45 a piece when you can make unlimited substitutions, but over the course of a season – it’s not as easy.
I guess the Under 21s Set-Up will be used, or to give it the proper title ‘The Reserves’ – but Steve Evans has previously commented that whilst he’s happy for senior players needing game time to play the home fixtures, he doesn’t like them travelling when the same benefits [of fitness and match minutes] can be arranged in house.
Will this be the case this season, no matter which combination you put out as your first eleven, those left [used as subs or just missing out] still makes up a VERY strong side! I think it’s great to have that depth to call upon, but we’ve been here once before – and on that occastion, splits in the group were rife, ladies and gentleman, this blog is dedicated to remembering ‘The Quarry Club – Circa 2013’
Paul Cox was the man at the helm and signed a number of high profile players who were highly thought of and wanted by other conference clubs – aka the clubs who were our nearest promotion rivals.
George Pilkington, Jamie Hand, Jamie Tolley, Andy Owens, Godfrey Poku, Nick Wright to name just a few – all top class players who didn’t get in the side early doors, ended up in the ‘Quarry Club’ and never made it back, tossed onto the Stags scrap heap, hating the club and causing ruptures within.
Luke Jones was the only one who made it out of the Quarry Club and into the team of heroes, I just hope that – with another big squad, with another load of ambitious hopes from the top – the whole thing is managed positively and firmly, imagine if we get to January and end up selling six players [therefore needing to recruit six] because players aren’t playing and they’re unsettled – that would set us back no end.
Mansfield Town do not need one step forward, two steps back.
I have no doubt that Steve Evans will be subject to speculation about his future throughout the campaign, it’s natural given his reputation – it’s clear listening to him that he feels like he had more to give at Leeds United and very much wants to be in that division again in the future, as he deserves to be – but let’s not forget, he turned other clubs down to be here, and for this season at the very least – he’ll fight to the end, to find the answer to the bookmakers questions ‘Can Mansfield Town win Promotion to League One’.
We all have a hope we can’t surrender as we head into the new season, the hope of success and celebration, let’s not get drawn into speculation and the rumour mill – let’s sit back, sing loud and close the door on Mansfield Town being a league two club, or being that side who won the conference a few years ago. That starts at Crewe on Saturday!
For more topics like this, make sure to download and listen to the BRAND NEW Mansfield Matters Podcast which will launch this coming Friday [4th August] at around 6pm – we’ll have lost of Stags topics, mixed in with fun/daft features which we welcome you to get involved with on Social Media. PLEASE tell your friends and spread the word, let’s follow the journey together
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