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.
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