Mansfield Town exited the league cup on a wet Tuesday night courtesy of a Callum Camps wonder goal in the first half.
Their was 6 changes from the side that drew against Crewe Alexandra with the likes of Oljenik, Bennett, Pearce, Digby and Sterling James. Their were plenty of chances for the Stags to progress through to the next round of the cup but it wasn't enough for Steve Evans men.
The first half saw Anderson (captain for the match) with a fine shot just outside the box, that had the keeper beaten all ends up but his shot could only find the woodwork. Dale then took the lead when from a resulting corner the ball got cleared out to Callum Camps whose shot ended up in the top corner, leaving Oljenik no chance. Shortly afterwards the Stags nearly equalised, when Spencer intercepted a pass from Dales defence towards goal, which saw his shot just wide of the keepers goal.
Mansfield kept on pushing for that elusive equaliser but they had to withstand pressure from the league one side, who tested the former Exeter City man, hoping to impress the gaffer. As the half progressed the Stags grew into the game by playing good attacking football but couldn't find a way past the Dale keeper. The second half started quickly with good work from Atkinson down the wing, who cut back to see his shot hit the side netting. Rochdale also came close when a cross got whipped in and hitting the bar, much to the delight of Stag fans. Sterling James also looked a dangerous threat going forward, causing Dales defenders problems by cutting inside and out pacing the on rushing defenders. Benning also had a chance from outside the box, with the cries of "shoot" from Stag fans (including myself) only to see his effort go high above the net.
The Stags were huffing and puffing and was awarded a penalty when Rose was tripped inside the box, up he stepped to take the penalty, hoping it would be the equaliser to get the Stags back into the game only to see his shot well saved by the Dale keeper to keep the scoring 1-0. Evans also introduced CJ Hamilton and Alfie Potter respectively to try and have an impact on the game.
Sterling James also had half a chance to score when his half volley shot when wide across goal, much to frustration of the Stag fans. In the dying seconds of the game Evans sended Oljenik forward with a last roll of the dice by ordering him up for the corner, only for it to be cleared away and end of preceding. It was a frustrating night, knowing we could have easily have won the game with the amount of chances we created in the match but the positive thing, for me to have come for tonight's defeat was Sterling James performance, as I mentioned above he looked a threat every time he went forward, skillful and hungry for improving.
On another night we would have easily have won but comfortably 3-1 but football can be a cruel game to us all. Onwards and Upwards UP THE STAGS !!!!
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
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.
Mark Plumb writes...
Mansfield Town welcomed Premier League hopefuls Middlesbrough at One Call Stadium, as part of their preseason preparations ahead of the new season.
It was another good test for the Stags with tougher opposition but mostly importantly getting minutes on their belts. Their was no Assomlabonga in the team for Middlesbrough though, much to the disappointment for anyone wanting to see the £15m man.
The Stags got off to a good start by pressing the championship side high up the pitch forcing Konstantopolous into saves early on from Sterling James and Lee Angol. The backline of Taft and Diamond in coped well under pressure, not to mention White and Benning who rose well to the challenge.
It paid off when the Stags was awarded a free kick,when Byrom whipped in a ball out to Benning, who whipped a good ball into the box and the unfortunate Johnny Howson scuffed his clearance into his own net to make it a deserved 1-0 lead to the home side. Shortly afterwards the Stags doubled their lead with a defence splitting pass in from Paul Digby who found Lee Angol with a cool finish to make it 2-0 to Steve Evans men.
The deficit got pulled back with a ball over to the top to Mikael Sisako whos persistence got his just rewards as he ran into the box, whose shot was an absolute net buster, no chance for any keeper to save to make the score 2-1.
The goal gave Gary Monks men confidence and tested Bobby Ojenik, which drew some impressive stops from the former Exeter City man, who did himself no harm in impressing Steve Evans. He could do nothing from the equaliser from a corner quick where Daniel Feoy rose well to bring the score level 2-2, much to some questionable defending.
The second half Boro enjoyed a lion share of possession throughout the half but the Stags showed they could compete and was great at hitting them on the counter with Paul Digby who was the interceptor of their attacks and had played well alongside Paul Anderson in midfield.
Sterling James caused problems for them all game, running at them and putting in some good balls into the box, along with Angol who tracked back well and brought others into play working hard for the team. Jack Thomas also got run out for the last part of the game, hoping to be apart of Steve Evans plans going forward with a point to prove.
Jordan Slew also got a chance to impress with Evans, who played the night before against Stocksbridge the night before showing why he should be given a contract with the Stags. Overall another good workout for Mansfield against another tougher opposition, hoping to mount a promotion challenge of their own.
Their was a number of good displays out their, that will no doubt give manager Steve Evans a good headache to have ahead of the new season. Another big test will be against Nottingham Forest, that will give the former Leeds man a fair idea of who will start against Crewe. Up The Stags !!
Craig Priest writes…
A few weeks ago when new faces were flying into the One Call Stadium, it was only glances at Wikipedia which ramped our excitement up. Phrases such as “promotion winner” or “established league one player” intensified our lust for football – but it all felt a little immaterial.
However now the fixtures are out and further pre-season friendlies have been announced – it feels a lot more real.
Now plans can be made, maps can be plotted, prospects of weekends away are being eyed-up, all with one thing in mind – following the promotion dream, I honestly have never been so excited for a season.
Bookmakers have us favourites for promotion, even after our terrify surge to the play-offs under Paul Cox we weren’t made favourites for promotion – we then went on to win the league, something very few of us expected.
Even that’s different this time around, OUR expectations. In previous years, conversations about how we might fare in the coming season have always flirted around the edges of “Yeah we might sneak into the play-offs” or “the play-offs would be nice, but I’d settle for top 10 with a decent cup run” – but this close season it’s been “I think we can win the league” or “we’ll definitely get promotion” – and that’s a brilliant feeling to have.
Not for a second do I believe Steve Evans is here for the long hall of more than few seasons, I don’t think he’ll mastermind Mansfield Town going from an average league two side to serious championship competitors chasing the premier league dream. It’d be nice, but it’s far from realistic – personally I think it’s why he’s been so successful, because things aren’t allowed to go stale.
BUT [Before you sharpen your pitch-forks] – What he will do (and has already done) is raise expectations and give us something to cherish for a couple of years.
He WILL take us up into League One and give us new experiences, he WILL give us exciting football to watch, he WILL make supporters look at those midweek games and think “I wonder if I can pull a sickey at work” rather than “Ah I’ll listen on the radio” and just that shift in power is phenomenal.
Supports are buying into the dream from the off, rather than picking up when things start to look interesting. Season ticket sales are already better than last season, I’m sure when the new home shirt is finally put on sale, they’ll go very quickly and when we welcome Sheffield Wednesday, Middlesbrough and Nottingham Forest to the One Call Stadium, they’ll be a larger interest than usual.
In my head, I question if it’s just me. I missed pretty much the entirety of last season through work producing the coverage for 103.2 – I only got to see the Doncaster cup game, Portsmouth at home and Crawley away, so I do question if it’s just the bug biting me again. If you then couple that with the prospect of being able to drive to games (I’ve been learning to drive for six months or so now) – perhaps it is just me wanting to do new things, but then I remind myself of other people’s comments.
We’re signing players that we wouldn’t usually stand a chance of signing, we’re actually spending money on them too – anyone that thinks Barry Fry was giving Hayden White & Lee Angol a lift out of the goodness of his heart needs their heads looking at!
Evans say’s we’re one player away from being complete, I don’t think it’ll be too long before we see that particular deal done and personally I think that’s imperative to our intended success – the majority of these players have played little league two football and being players who are used to being regular starters, will have bigger egos to manage, they’ll need time to gel and click.
No doubt I’ll write more on that as the week’s progress, I don’t want to dampen spirits right now. This feeling of excitement I feel goes beyond any personal thirst for football and I think it also goes beyond that football blues feeling too – this is something unique, something nervy but exciting.
I really wish I was heading out on a plane to Malta, but as these past few weeks have proved, gingers and sun don’t mix! Joking aside, if you’re heading out there, go and enjoy the experience and give them a shout from those of us back home – we’ll count the day’s until the turnstiles open, the smell of Bovril wafts through the air along with the fresh print of the program.
We’ll count the days until the feel of the new home strip brushes against our skin, until the sight of the freshly laid (and much improved) pitch comes into view. We’ll count the days until football is back.
Click HERE to download a fixture list for 2017-18
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Fancy being part of a new podcast? We’re also on the lookout for supporters to be a part of a new podcast, sharing their views on games and everything Stags related throughout the new season – email firstname.lastname@example.org for more info!
Written by Mark Plumb
As we all know last season’s down fall was not having a goal scorer that could have made the difference to our season.
Although still 22, the signing of Lee Angol shows true intent by the club moving forward, by beating competition off of other clubs higher in the football league pyramid. He could prove to be a real gem of a signing by Steve Evans, who has shown that he can attract top players and will help fulfil his potential, who said one day will be "championship player one day".
Lee first attracted attention from clubs when he scored an impressive 25 goals in 32 appearances for Boreham Wood, on loan from Luton Town.
To add to that he was rewarded with the clubs player of the season, young player of the season and his goals sent Boreham Wood to the National League for the first time in their history. Although it was non-league level, he got a big move to Peterborough United for an undisclosed fee.
In his first season at Peterborough he bagged himself 12 goals, showing signs of potential to be a good young talent. The season after he suffered a serious injury that ruled him out the start of the season, disrupting his progression until March when he joined Lincoln on loan for the rest of the season, scoring 6 goals in 13 appearances for the Imps. While at Lincoln his goals were vital for them returning to the football league, for the first time in six seasons.
When Peterborough transfer listed him Lincoln fans were left disappointed that he didn't sign for them opting to join us and surprising many football league clubs, who were keen for his signature.
With the likes of Macdonald, Anderson and Atkinson in midfield supplying him to name a few, not to mention Rose who finished last season on high. The system Evans has the team playing, will hopefully fulfil his potential at Mansfield Town.
Roll on next season UP THE STAGS !!
Written by – Kirsty Swann
I think all stags fans will agree with me when I say that this has to be the most exciting pre-season that we have had down the mill in many years, with only a week after the final game of what was a good season for us we had season ticket news, players coming and going and just a general buzz around the place.
In recent years we haven’t had this kind of buzz in pre-season with it taking weeks after the season had ended before we found out any news.
I think a lot if this is down to the appointment of Steve Evans who is certainly a man who doesn’t like to sit around and let opportunities pass him by, he also brings with him great knowledge and professionalism we haven’t had before in a manager due to his connections.
The signings that have been made by Evans have been very good and have definitely got the stags fans excited for the coming season, which is also very evident with the amount of season tickets that we have sold which are in the region of 2,000+ which means we are going to have a cracking atmosphere at the ground next season.
Arguably the biggest news to come out the club this past week is that we have arranged a friendly with Sheffield Wednesday in July, even though this is just a pre- season game it’s a massive game for the club in more ways than one, with it bound to be a big financial boost for the club due to Wednesday’s massive away following, but it also brings a massive test for Evans new look squad ,who will face off against a club which have reached the play offs in the championship for the last two seasons.
There are also plenty of rumours flying around this week with regards to new signings coming into the club over the next few weeks, I don’t know about you but I can’t wait for the new season to roll around.
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
Time flies when you’re having fun, it moves even quicker in football! Can you believe that TEN years ago today (January 7th) Mansfield Town of League Two, made the trip up North to face Premier League Newcastle United in the FA Cup Third Round.
I was fourteen at the time and back then, a much skinner, far ginger and much more awkward me, regularly skipped school (I mean attended lots of dentist, hospital and optician appointments) to watch Mansfield Town FC without fail.
I didn’t have a season ticket so was petrified I wouldn’t get a ticket for the game so I was naturally buzzing when I was presented with tickets. Dressed in a horrible pair of jeans with a longsalde jacket I’d got for Christmas covering my home shirt (with COKE 15 on the back), I remember the excitement of matchday and how much of an awesome experience going to Newcastle was.
I remember little of the journey, other than a gang of us all congregating together as coach up on coach lined all the way down quarry lane to ferry the population of Mansfield to St James in the hope of a giant killing. We all stuck together as “the regulars” and managed to get on the same coach, I slept and listened to my Alba MP3 Player all the way – changing the pound shop batteries every two minutes whilst chatter and excitement built.
The experience was epic and was unlike any pre-match build up I’d experienced before, the play-off final in Cardiff had far too much worry and expectation attached, this time we were there for the ride. I still remember the sound of excited gasps followed by admirable silence as the coaches drove past St James’ to the drop of point.
Before hand a group of us crammed into Shearers Bar, constantly turning to anyone who could translate the native tone in order to have a conversation with our Premier League hosts.
I have to be honest, I hated the pub before hand – I’ve always wanted to see the warm ups and study the coaching drills, so was pleased when we headed back up a slight hilly incline towards the entrance.
We stopped half way and had a photo to show my dad, it was outside the St James Park welcome sign and taken on an old white phone which I’ve since lost! After going through the turnstyles, we headed up numerous flights of stairs to our stated destination – at which point my brother said to me “this isn’t high” – I walked out first, took one look and turn around, even more pale than usual and said, “wanna bet” (or words to that effect!). It was HIGH! Even higher when we reached our seats which were on the edge of the row.
My day was temporary ruined when a drunk supporter tripped UP the step and spilt a bottle of Coke on my COKE shirt – oh the irony. A sulk later, it was game time.
I remember little else, the players were dots, which perhaps explains why I still don’t use 3D mode on Football Manager. We played well, perhaps the best we played that entire season, but were inevitably beaten by a Historic goal from a footballing god – Alan Shearer, spinning midway through the second half to drill low beyond Pressman in the Stags goal to end a goal drought and pull level with Newcastle’s all time goal scorer, Jackie Milburn. That was a brilliant moment to witness to be fair.
Giles Coke came close to levelling things late on, but with Shay Given between the sticks, one of my goalkeeping heroes, it was never on the cards. The full time whistle was one of relief for Newcastle and one of pride for us.
In the ten years that passed for me, Stags stayed as the number one in my life, fell from grace and rose again. But what of the Stags side that day, I consulted the internet to attempt to find out….
Kevin Pressman – The Sheffield Wednesday legend joined Stags in the summer of 2005, linking up with his old team mate Carlton Palmer who was of course the man in charge at the beginning of the campaign. Owls Favourite ‘Big Kev’ joined after spells with Leeds and Coventry acting as cover and quickly established himself as Stags Number One with Jason White as his understudy.
I recall his display at St James’ Park to be one of his best in a Stags shirt, being extremely unfortunate to be beaten by that piece of Alan Shearer magic. I remember him as a very vocal shot stopper and, having attended every game that season, only recall him ever coming out of his box once – at Shrewbury away at Gay Meadow, Mark Stallard (who of coruse later went onto play and briefly co-manage us) was put through with a long ball over the top and left the back four stranded (the norm for that season!) – Pressman came racing out and slammed the ball into touch, whilst Stallard, sensisble, darted out of the way to avoid being booted with the ball!
Pressman left Stags at the end of that season and hung up his boots, although not for long as he turned out the following season for Northern Irish Side Portadown following a keeper crisis – he went onto win a player of the season award, aged 39 and his since moved into coaching, currently at Millwall working with their keepers after an ill-fated spell as Scunthorpe United assistant and a spell with Bradford.
Jake Buxton – Local Lad Jake had risen through the youth team and established himself in the side, either on the right side or in the middle of the back four. As we know, Jake went onto captain Mansfield during our darkest hour of relegation, moving on at the end of that season to join Nigel Clough at Burton Albion despite being on Paul Holland’s squad list for our conference debut season, had he got the job, according to Holland’s autobiography.
Buxton, despite being heavily criticised by most fans during our “season of death” went on to have a fairly successful career, winning promotion from the conference with Burton, as captain if memory serves me correct, before linking up with Clough for a second time at Championship Derby County and has since made over 130 appearances for the Rams where he still remains, albeit nursing an injury.
Alex-John Baptise – Like Buxton, Baptise was another local lad who regularly attracted the attention of higher division clubs, and numerous Soccer AM segments. Baptise left Stags after handing in a transfer request following our demise to the conference (I know, it’s like rats leaving a sinking ship!) and subsequently joined then Championship side Blackpool.
Baptise enjoyed life by the seaside and after breaking into the first team, established himself as a decent championship, and briefly, premier-league defender! That was weird watching a part of the worst back four ever (arguably) popped up on match of the day whilst we were roaming around the likes of Ebbsfleet!
Post Blackpool, ‘Bap’ has enjoyed spells as Bolton and Blackburn before joining Middlesbrough in the summer, suffering an injury in the early stages of a pre-season friendly against York City.
Rhys Day – Mansfield legend Rhys was in his first of two spells with Stags when we headed to St James Park. The much loved dominant welsh centre-back was well established in the Stags side and supporters hearts at this point, after Keith Curle had made Day’s loan switch from Manchester City permanent back in the summer of 2003.
Following the Newcastle game, where he earned praise for his talents from many including Shearer, Day remained with Stags until the end of the season where then Manager Peter Shirtliff failed to offer Day a new deal allowing him to join Conference side Aldershot Town.
Day did eventually return to the Stags, as one of David Holdsworths many loan signings from Oxford United during the 2010-11 season – making the switch permanent in the January window. Day shared the captains armband with now boss Adam Murray, predominately under the management of Duncan Russell. Sadly Day wouldn’t feature as much as supporters hoped, suffering numerous injury setbacks which forced him to retire with his final appearance being in his testimonial at the One Call Stadium, which brought back many of the players Day had played with throughout the years.
A momentary return from retirement came for Day as he joined Hyde, as player coach, in 2013, departing in the summer of 2015 after a handful of appearances to pursue a coaching career and supporting retiring sports man.
Gareth Jellyman – Curly haired Welsh left back Gareth joined in 2005 and stayed with the club until, yes you guessed it, our relegation in 2008. Highly rated by Billy Dearden during his tenure as boss, Jellyman has since become a journeyman of Non-League football and, perhaps more famously, the subject title of Soccer Saturday host Jeff Stelling’s book “Jellyman’s Thrown A Wobbley” which refers to the formers reporting of the left backs sending off against Oxford whilst at Stags.
Gus Uhlenbeek – Able to operate at Right Back or as a winger, Dutchman Gus who has two appearances for Alax to his name – joined the Stags under Palmer at the start of the 2005-06 campaign, departing on a Free to FC Halifax at the end of the same season.
Ten years on from playing 79 minutes at St James in the amber and blue, Gus is now back in Amsterdam, posting the occastional happy birthday message to ex-teams on twitter… he had a few during the years….
Stephen Dawson – Tough tackling midfielder Dawson was outstanding against Newcastle, although less said about his chance to level the game from 40 yards after Shay Given’s misplaced clearance the better! I always remember Dawson at being a constant performer for Stags in the centre of the park and since his departure in 2008, yes another one, he moved onto Bury, Leyton Orient, Barnsley and Rochdale before joining his current club Scunthorpe United. He’s been a transfer rumour for re-joining Stags, where he made his professional debut, a few times but nothing has ever come of them.
Giles Coke – One of a few names I’ve had printed on the back of my Stags tops down the years (the others for reference being Neil Mackenzie and most recently Brian Jensen, well BEAST), Giles was a talented youngster ten years ago and alongside Dawson, had a decent game on the big stage.
After being snapped up by Carlton Palmer from Non-League Kingstonian, the playmaking midfielder has gone onto forge a decent career for himself with spells at Northampton, Motherwell, Sheffield Wednesday and now Ipswich.
SUBS Adam Birchall and Nathan Arnold were the only two to feature from the bench, Birchall now combines a playing career turning out regularly for Maidstone (Thanks to Martin Shaw for the heads up) whilst also works as a coach within the Arsenal set-up after hanging up his playing boots whilst Nathan Arnold, practically still in nappies at the time, is at Grimsby in the conference, although he could be wearing the amber and blue again, had Paul Cox not done a U-turn on offering him a contract following a trail at the start of the 2013-14 campaign.
Of those who warmed the bench as pure spectators, goalkeeper Jason White became an unwilling villain as number one during the relegation season, he’s now at AFC Mansfield. Islandic defender John Olav Hjelde put of a move back to Norway to stay with Stags until the end of the 2005-06 season, departing and retiring a year later. And as for midfielder Frazer McLachlan, he was last seen eating turkey at Carlton Palmer’s Christmas Dinner Table (this may not be entirely 100% accurate).
On New Year’s Eve people often make a list of resolutions, whether that be to stop smoking, cut down on the booze or get fit – these resolutions give the people who make them a sense of optimism and hope. Alright if we’re being honest, 99% of our resolutions are broken probably before the twelfth chime of Big Ben – but sometimes those resolutions are stuck too…
Here I am, attempting to stick to mine – It’s just a dam shame that as I sit down to blog for the first time in what seems like an eternity about Football and in particular Stags, I’m sat having to reflect on a defeat.
In my opinion, we’ve made real progress under Adam Murray (since he’s had the chance to mould his own squad in the summer) and that has shown with a patch of good form, some positive results and prior to the festive/new year fixtures – a healthy position in the league table within touching distance of the play-offs.
What comes with that teetering league position is a sense of optimism and that age old question of “can we do it?” If I were to give a direct answer, I’d say yes providing we make the right additions, but having reflected on the last few games (that I’ve seen – I’m not going to be hypercritical and talk about games I’ve not been at) I’d say that our early season form has lulled us all into a false sense of security and that without Murray making the right additions, we will again be an average mid-table side.
From the get-go I’ve been supportive of Murray as Manager (and for the record will continue to be), however I believe at this stage of the season, we will see if he has the mentality to see the job through – the answer to this for me will lay in the transfer market.
I don’t think there is a question of “Is the backing from the chairman?” He’s stated on a number of occasions across a number of platforms that if Murray wants a player, the money will be there. When Mal Benning’s fine form was cut short, straight away Murray swooped for Blair Adams from Notts County – I can’t help but wonder why the same action wasn’t taken when skipper Nicky Hunt picked up his injury.
OK if you were Murray, you could argue that adequate cover was NOT available in the Benning situation it WAS with Hunt – Collins being the obvious choice along with Rose and Marsden, however it seems clear to me that Murray has very little intention on playing Marsden this season which leaves two. Collins for me performs much better in the middle whilst Rose is not a natural right back and admits so himself.
I like Rose and I can see why Murray fancies him as a Right Back; however his positional inexperience as a Right Back is something which should be nurtured in the reserves and not in senior first team action when you are going for a play-off push. We’ve been conceding early, and from the right hand side, and with that we’ve made it so difficult to turn things around – especially with Green isolated on his own up top.
We’ll come to that another time. Rustiness (and the fact I’m half watching LiarLiar on ITV2) is leading me astray. What I want to focus on is three things which, if improved and built upon, can reignite that sense of dying hope about a play-off push.
The first is something I flirted with above – the reserves. The fact Mansfield opted out of having a regular reserve team this season is a tragedy. The powers that be will argue about the finance and costing of competing in the reserve league, but does that really outweigh the importance of having regular competitive football against similar opposition for players on the fringes of the first team that are crying out for game time. The likes of Nathan Thomas, Adi Yusseff, Chris Beardsley and Jamie McGuire – all players than can positively affect the first team and provide that pivotal boost, but all players being made to wait for Nike Academy to agree to another friendly run out to get some game time.
Tactical tweaks (such as developing Rose as a right back) and injury recoveries (Benning, Hunt, Beardsley et el) are again something the reserve team is made for, yet without it tactical tweaks are having to happen at senior level (where at this stage of the season, the mistakes which WILL happen as part of the process, prove costly) and players returning to fitness are perhaps a good 3-4 weeks behind where they would be with a reserve team in place.
Secondly, and I’m disappointed to be writing this about a team with Murray at the helm – commitment, desire and urgency. Today against Accrington from the very first whistle, it was obvious that we weren’t up for the fight. We wasted valuable time, especially chasing the game, with throw-ins and set-plays. Accrington had fire in their belly and we allowed them to dictate the game, Josh Windass was outstanding for the visitors box to box and dragged us all over the place whilst Terry Gornell completely changed the game for Stanley from the bench, teeing up Billy Kee and netting himself. His running was powerful; he closed play down and limited our options of getting forward – who have we got that is capable of that at the moment?
Those types of players, a box to box midfielder and a determined “get up your nose” front man was the difference today – if we want to pursue a playoff charge, then we need these characters.
Thirdly, and I won’t harp on about it too long, is the isolation of Green. He played well today on his birthday, the Green of old – latching on to little reverse passes and directional through balls, but that’s not a regular occurrence – it would be if he had support. We tried it against York with a 4-4-2 starting Westcarr alongside Green, only for Murray to moan to the press afterwards saying “we gave it a go but it didn’t work” – we tried it for about ten minutes before reverting to type, hardly time to find a rhythm really, also – why not Beardsley (a strong physical target man ala Rhead who Green himself has a burning desire to play with again) or Yusseff?
Anyway, there’s no point me angrily typing rhetorical question after rhetorical question – the proof will be in the pudding. I don’t think I sit here typing this out of anger/ disappointment from one negative result though either, I type in hope.
That’s it for now, come on Mansfield give me some positives to keep the resolution from joining the long list of broken ones and reach that potential you have within.
Until next time, whenever that may be!
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