Craig Priest rounds up the latest news from the past week at the One Call Stadium...
Well it’s been a relatively quiet week at the One Call Stadium this week which I guess is what you’d expect from time to time during close season. With one player coming in and just one going out as we expected for a while, this week has been more about ‘what if’ and rumours.
Kicking the week off was another signing, Paul Cox added Kidderminster striker Nick Wright to his squad on Monday afternoon. As with all the signings so far, Chris Clements, Jamie Tolley and Luke Jones to recap, the gaffer has brought in some real quality, adding to an area that in truth, we we’re a bit short on without Matt Green – something which painfully shone in the play-off second leg with York City. Ross Dyer is without doubt an excellent player in the squad and I’m a big admirer of his, the work rate he puts in often goes without the credit due, he can play as a target man and he can play with the ball to feet and in fairness, can score some quality goals. However if I were to answer how you’d get the best out of Ross, it’d have to be as a target man and as an advanced playmaker so to speak. I’ve been editing the goals of the season video for the website this week with the help of Martin Shaw, the amount of goals Ross creates with his play is 75-80% of Matt Green’s final tally. The addition of 24 year old Wright is a perfect one in terms of how we play, he gets into key areas, puts himself about and is a natural born goal scorer, if him and Green can hit it off we could get at least 50 goals between them – add to that the goal input from Dyer, Rhead, Hutchinson and other areas of the pitch, going forward we will be a difficult side to face.
One man’s name I mention there seems to split a few opinions, Ben Hutchinson in my opinion can prove quality and deliver the goods in the same way Matt Green has. I first watched Ben play in a mid-season friendly with Eastwood where he scored two absolute belters – it wasn’t this that impressed me if I’m being honest, it was his all round play, his movement in and around the box, his control, his vision and unselfishness and his work ethic. Put the lad on a football pitch, give him regular games and keep his confidence and demeanour in a controlled state and you’ve got an excellent player, the reserve team will be key to revitalising Hutchinson in the same way Paul Cox rebuilt Green into the machine we now see.
Speaking of the Reserve set up and the influence that could have, Paul Cox mentioned earlier in the week that four Youth Teamers would be offered senior contracts; whilst they are yet to be signed I would imagine this to be done by the next time I post a weekly update. The four young guns were all key to the pursuit of the youth league title last season will presumably go into the aforementioned reserve set up and continue their development. As youth team correspondent for the club I’ve watched these boys play and can say that we are taking on four talented players with the potential to play at a good standard – I look forward to seeing the names confirmed and will obviously write more about them in due course – as with everything this week really, it’s news but it’s not news!
Along with the young quartet being offered deals, Cox mentioned in an interview that assistant Micky Moore and player-coach Andy Todd have been or are in discussions regarding a new contract, a subject I covered in my chad article this week both in print and online.
The Stags boss eluded to a packed pre-season campaign potentially having two games in one day, sending a reserve side somewhere. I think the reserves will see a lot of competitive football next season and won’t just be used in the reserve league, I think they’ll be given a shot at a cup run with the FA Trophy changing it’s schedule this week. The final will take place earlier than usual, with the two teams lucky enough to grace Wembley fighting it out for glory on Sunday 24th March. Whilst the FA have brought the first round forward to 24th November the tournaments format has not changed which means the possibilities of replays and subsequent rearranged games having to be fitted in at a crunch part of the season. It will be no problem for us with our evident big squad size and reserve set up, however for other teams who have lower budgets and a small squad, football will come thick and fast and potentially have a dampening effect on all. If the tournament was to change and follow in the structure of the Johnston’s Paint Trophy and scrap replays with matches drawn after 90minutes going straight to penalties, the change in dates wouldn’t be a problem. Because of the potential clogging of fixtures I think our ‘Reserves’ could well be the team to try and better our Trophy run of 2010-11 – maybe more on that another time.
Also this week I see Paul Cox has backed the proposal for a ‘three up, three down’ system in between the conference and the football league. Recently discussed at the conference AGM I know the conference chairman is keen to actually make this happen which is good news, not only does it make League Two more of a fight for the struggling clubs in the final month or so, it gives hope to clubs in the conference which is the hardest league to get out of. You look at last season as a prime example, Fleetwood were class and deservedly sealed the title which in turn made other sides work harder but because of the limited promotion space neither Wrexham or ourselves had a shot of automatic and ultimately both lost out in the play-off semi finals. Will Wrexham have enough to give it another go and reach that high points total, who knows.
Finally the week ended with the news we’d been expecting for sometime as today, Luke O’Neill completed his move to championship outfit Burnley for an undisclosed fee, rumoured to be around £200K.
Luke, who won your votes by a mile for ‘Mansfield Matters player of the season’, was always destined to play at a higher level and would probably have moved on even had we won the play-offs and been a League side next season. Always putting a shift in with an attacking and defensive quality in equal measure, it’s no doubt he’ll be a huge loss and Paul Cox will be very lucky if he adds a player of the same calibre, that said I’ve every faith he can and we already have plenty of options in there at right back with Ritchie Sutton, Luke Jones and John Thompson all able to play there, the latter a league two winning captain with Notts County playing 80% of the season at right back.
Before I sign off this week, let me just point you in the direction of a post I posted midweek, an excellent range of Stags programmes are on offer by a fan, with the collection ranging from the 50’s to the present day, click here for more details.
That’s it for this week, I’m off to watch the England game now! Have a great weekend everyone and remember that Mansfield Matters is on Facebook and Twitter throughout the week, the conversation need never end.
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