Craig Priest writes…
During his weekly press-call earlier today, Steve Evans joked about one bus turning left and one turning right – as the Stags head for Matlock and Gainsborough respectively tomorrow evening.
The first team will be equally split on each coach, first thing Wednesday morning though I believe all this squad splitting has to stop, and the nine-time promotion winner – need’s to put his players on a central path and say “right this is my side, the rest of you prove me to me why I should change it”.
The worse thing when you’re managing a group of people is the smaller groups that form within the whole, it’s human nature really to pair up with someone but when this happens and you form bonds with the minority, when the majority comes together – the pieces of the jigsaw won’t fit properly and in football that can have a huge effect within the dressing room.
Remember the school trip when you’d try and room up with your best mate, but then be split from them in group tasks – there was an awkwardness about the whole situation because from the off, you’ve stayed within your comfort zone rather than be open to include the whole group.
It wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest if there was a split dressing room already, not everybody will get along and that may be down to certain pairings and smaller groups isolating themselves from the rest. It’s the age old water cooler syndrome, where you’re reluctant to go and get water because you can’t engage in conversation about certain topics or feel part of stories – that happens a lot when players join from the same club.
In fairness Evans has tried to address this issue as much as possible and reshuffle the deck in every match, but the problem there is, with only x-amount of games to find partnerships – I’m feeling that as time goes on, certain players aren’t gelling and that leads to mistakes on the pitch which could be costly.
I can see why Evans has arranged the Matlock game tomorrow night to be played at the same time as the Gainsborough match – it’s one last chance for people to get a full 90 minutes in the tank and be match ready, but how he splits things will be interesting, does he go for partnerships, does he go for systems or does he get Hogwarts on the phone and ask to borrow the sorting hat which the players put on before learning which game they’ll play in? Potter’s in Griffindor [Sorry, had to be done]!
Actually that wouldn’t be a bad idea to build some trust – get every player sat in the dressing room and blindfold them and one by one - they’re led onto a bus. The blindfolds remain on until the arrival at said ground where on the bus during the journey, the players must communicate to know there team mates for the night and ultimately TRUST each-other.
Or maybe it’ll be “all those born in the first half of the month on bus one, all born in the second half of the month – bus two” – but a similar tactic didn’t end well for Mike Bassett.
Joking aside, I don’t for a second think Evans is going to do a U-Turn and send more players to one location, therefore one thing that is a must – Evans and Raynor must do the unthinkable and take a conscious uncoupling, another good reason actually for saying “sort who plays where out between yourselves, we’re just here to watch – not babysit”.
Imagine for a second being a Stags player (no, not doing a full lap of the pitch when you smash the winner from 40 yards against Chesterfield) – imagine being in “group B” and neither Raynor nor Evans being at your game – straight away the mind-set says “well they’re not interested in me, so why bother” Raynor is like a housewife really, on the outside it looks like Evans wears the trousers, but behind closed doors – Raynor, just like your Mrs, is the boss! By which I mean his opinions and views are equal and whole heartedly trusted by Evans.
If they want to make this split side scenario work, it has to be one side watched by Evans, the other by Raynor, both at the same game would be a huge mistake on a whole number of levels.
Naturally the other staff will chip in with their opinions, using Richard Cooper, John Dempster and Mike Whitlow from the U21s set-up gives more independent view-points, whilst you’ve also got Lee Taylor and Ian Pledger [and no doubt a team of scouts we don’t know about] to watch.
Wednesday morning comes, and the staff get locked in a room - nobody leaves until a starting XI for Crewe is ironed out, with Evans saying to the squad “this is it, those who haven’t made it – don’t spit your dummies out, prove to me why you should be involved –in training, when you appear against Alfreton and [dare I say] Rainworth”.
Then the group knows where everybody stands, and the squad as a whole moves on with one thing in mind – winning football matches and getting Mansfield Town out of League Two.
There comes a point when you have to stop experimenting and flirting around the edges, you can break down the walls in your own mind a million times, but you have to put one foot in front of the other at some point and take the first step – you’re never going to live, if you’re too scared to die.
I believe this is Steve Evans biggest test as a manager [a talking point I’ll address in another blog maybe this week, but certainly before the start of the season] and I don’t think that’s been helped by the changes to the transfer market which came into force last season [again another point for another day] – but with League Two so competitive, the room for error is little.
Tomorrow afternoon one group of players become two, two buses will leave the ground travelling to two matches. They’ll be two sets of games to analyse and two results to reflect on – two groups will arrive back at the One Call Stadium following an intentional divide, it’s going to take one hell of a mathematician to make two become one again, but it has to be done – otherwise, it’ll be a long way home for the countless dreams of the Mansfield Town dreamers.
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