It’s not surprising to say that after six games in all competitions, the majority of us are feeling a little disheartened and questioning if Mansfield Town FC will actually live up to their close-season billing of Champions.
On paper, signing after signing has come boasting promotion experience and success but on the pitch several niggling mistakes and errors have left us, in my opinion at least five points – maybe six points, short of where we should be.
Today however I’ve been slapped with a realisation of something, just because something is written on paper or said, such as “Mansfield Town will win league two as Champions” – doesn’t mean it’s going to happen in reality on the basis that someone has said it will.
You may laugh at this – I’m currently sat in the passenger seat of my car in the heart of the Yorkshire Dales, having just walked a mile underground for around 90 minutes through a cave. What relevance does this serve I hear you ask, well bare with me and I’ll tell you.
There was once a time when the majority of land was all field’s – one day in 1923 an explorer called Christopher Long was walking along the road I currently sit at the side of, and noticed water trickling from the hill side. To cut a long story short – he was filled with intrigue and found an opening to what was (and still is) a cave.
With candles strapped to his helmet, he crawled on his hands and knees through the tightest of gaps and discovered the beauty which lied within – basically, simply by being brave and giving it a go – he discovered a whole new world.
Walking through what are now known as “white scar caves” and listening to the tour guide tell the story, it got me thinking about the Stags and our ambitions this season. John and Carolyn Radford we’re fed up of just seeing blank green land with a seemingly never changing landscape, and so appointed a noble explorer, whose past exhibitions had led him onto great things.
The noble explorer Evans saw the opening to the cave and assembled a crack team of fellow explorers, some hungry to succeed and learn, others wily and experienced ready to lead the way.
Christopher Long, the man who made that maiden journey through the opening of the cave, actually only got so far – but before you say he was a failure, let’s put some perspective too it. His actions had sparked a trend, an interest if you like and in 1971, a group of local cavers decided to see if they could get further and again through determination, bravery and effort – they reaped the rewards.
Twisting through the caves, I stand at 5 foot 11 inches tall and had to crouch to get beneath the rock face and follow the path and the journey – but those explorers never had that path, or the health and safety hard hats, or the over head lights.
The explorers would go through practically in the darkness, wading through deep water, clambering up steep inclines, dropping down through narrow gaps – taking bumps, bangs and injury along the way.
Doesn’t that remind you of a football season? Those early crawls for the explorers which have opened up so much for us in the here and now must have been painful, they’re bound to have got things wrong and had to come out, regroup and start again.
Our first six games in all competitions have seen errors, indecision and it’s fair to say a few bumps and bruises from those who should know better, we’ve now assembled our team of explorers and tested the water, knowing what needs to be put right to clear a better path and find a way through.
It’s imperative now, as we head for Carlisle tomorrow, that the errors and misdemeanours are over shadowed by those glimpses of quality we have shown – because whilst we sit here and ponder all the lows, there have been some highs – some potential breakthroughs too, it’s all about now coming together as squeezing through the gaps our predecessors thought impossible to pass, because if anything today – I’ve learned that a little curiosity is never a bad thing.
Over the last 24 hours the transfer window has slammed shut, defender George Taft has been shipped out to Cambridge on loan whilst attack minded midfielder Calum Butcher has joined from Milwall – another promotion winning explorer whose tackled tougher terrains.
I expect that more will go out, obviously players can sign for a conference side or below – so expect two, maybe three to make exits into the division below for some game time, as perhaps we did hire too many cooks for the kitchen during the summer recruitment process. Additions can be made too remember if a player is a free agent, there were a number of players who terminated deals with their clubs yesterday – now becoming a free agent un shackled by the transfer window, who could be picked up by Evans.
The players know that despite late additions and departures – they must make a statement at Carlisle, a team who will be itching to put last seasons fall apart behind them, and push for League One themselves.
Defender David Murfin said “"We want to lay down a marker and show other teams what we're about. Going to these places are the places, you want to go and lay that marker down and it makes the other teams look up and notice that we're serious and it's not all talk and we want to do well this season.”
Murfin continued "It's going to be a really tough place to go to but we've prepared and we're going to prepare right and proper and make sure we go there and get a result. The food's right and all the preparation is spot on and it's probably as 'high up' as I've ever been involved in.”
"As a player, we're being looked after and there can be no complaints for us. It's up to us now as players, especially for away games when we've stayed over, that we start putting in the right performances.”
It will be a tough season where no doubt players will become frustrated at a lack of game time, but it’s all about staying professional and as we nearly saw last season – anything is possible, so long as you have the gumption and desire to explore.
Match that with hard work, determination and a never say die attitude and deep within, after all the narrow bends, all the steep climbs and those momentary heart sinking drops – you will find something magical at the end.
For Mansfield Town it could be the league two title and promotion – for Christopher Long and the explorers that followed him, it was white scar cave – where deep within, the scientific movement of the water which runs through like a blood through the veins of a person, have shaped many a rock face.
One is of a witch who conspired against said explorers – let’s say that every opponent we come up against from here on in is a witch trying to crush our dreams. The explorers battled through to reap rich rewards – and so must we!
The first destination on our new found journey is Carlisle – after some initial wobbles and set-backs, it’s time to come together and head for the light at the end of the tunnel, we can do it – as the lesson of Christopher Long has taught me today.
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