The new league two season is now a matter of two sleeps away, as Steve Evans’ super Stags head to Crewe Alexandra on Saturday to start what Evans’ has branded “A train journey” – ironically against The Railway Men.
Crewe, managed by ex-Stag Dave Artell, have been quiet over the transfer window making just the five additions to date, four of which have been on free transfers – an average mid-table finish is predicted, but mystic meg doesn’t win you football matches, so one thing we must avoid [throughout the season] is the arrogance that comes with being the bookmakers favourites to win League Two.
Steve Evans says he will name is Captain for the forthcoming season tomorrow – speaking in this morning’s press conference Evans said “I have decided [who will be captain] but we'll tell the players tomorrow morning before we train. There's three or four protagonists for that role, it's not just one. Zander (Diamond) has captained us of course and Rhys (Bennett) has captained us and so has Ando (Paul Anderson), but we'll tell the players first.”
"[The captain's] role is to be your person in the dressing room and on the pitch, but it doesn't necessarily have to mean he's going to play every game. People have this myth that if you name a captain, he gets a shirt every game and it's nonsense.”
"You have to pick a team to win a game and that's why you have a captain and we'll probably announce a captain and two vice captains on the basis that one of those three will play unless there's injuries or suspensions.”
Personally out of the three hinted [which presumably means one will be captain, the others vice captain(s)] I’d like to see Paul Anderson given the armband, he has an experienced head on his shoulders, and having played fairly consistently throughout his career – he’ll be key in carrying us through sticky periods of the season.
Former Northampton team mate Zander Diamond obviously has bags of experience as captain, having skippered the cobblers – but for me, it’s the position which edges it with Anderson playing a wide midfield role, he’ll be in constant ear shot of Evans, not that that’s ever a problem! But in terms of getting arounf to ever player and controlling the game, Anderson from what I’ve seen is a better fit.
However, I’d actually give the armband to Paul Digby – or at the very least would like to see him given one of the vice captain roles. Digby as I’ve said in previous posts, is a sublime addition – he’ll play the interceptor role, get under players skin and generally keep the train well maintained and controlled.
Yes he’s only a young player at 22 years old but he’s already shown his talent, moving from the central defence role he’d become accustomed too, into holding-deep midfield. We talk openly in the first Mansfield Matters Podcast about Digby and the comparison with Jack Thomas – there’s a year and a month in age difference between the two, Digby the elder, with Jack actually having made more senior appearances, yet the gulf in quality is miles apart. Jack is a great lad and we all really want to see him given a chance, but Digby has that extra spark about him, and I think by making him captain – he’d go onto really flourish.
It was nine out and five in for Artell at Crewe, whilst 13 new faces have arrived at Stags – I really hope they’ve bonded and that whatever system and line-up Evans opts for, it works – looking back over pre-season, we need to be wary of counter-attacks and defending high-up the pitch, Crewe have some pacey players and if they catch us like Nottingham Forest did, we could be in trouble.
The Alex have some really dangerous and experienced front-men, Chris Porter has bags of experience and will spearhead the attack after joining from Colchester on a free, and with the exception of a three game loan spell with Chesterfield, wherever he’s been – he’s got goals.
Porter with Chris Dagnall is a dangerous combination, another player with goals wherever he’s been at a decent level, whilst with Jordan Bowery is bound to be looking for a goal against us, given the Nottingham born strikers link with the old enemy.
This week in the Podcast, we’ve all picked our sides as part of our Prediction League – here’s the side I’d go with at Crewe on Saturday
The former Exeter shot stopper just edges it over Evans’ first close season signing Conrad Logan – they are both excellent keepers and my only criticism with both has been coming to claim a cross or a set-play.
Oljenik did this more at Alfreton last weekend and was more vocal than Logan, if I were a defender, I’d be a little more confident that the 30 year old Austrian would come out like an express train if needed.
Another tough choice here as Hayden White offers a little more on the overlap going forward, but Bennett, who was Mr ever present last season can play either wide or central and do so comfortably, doing this allows us to drop into a back three and allow Benning/Hunt to push higher and then the attack minded midfielder [Mellis] to explore more without leaving too many holes.
An easy choice for me, he’s vocal and can play either left or right side – he’ll also offer something from attacking set-plays
Solid and no-nonsense – I have my reservations over his pace but we have players to cover and with the Evans has set out to play in pre-season thus far, I don’t think that will be too much of an issue
Just, and only just! Mal is a terrific talent and one of the best left backs we’ve had in my opinion. He can get forward and has pace to track back and isn’t sacred of a challenge – he’s upped his game since the arrival of Hunt who is a very similar player.
The former Nottingham Forest man can play down either flank or in the middle, he’s got a good delivery and holds play well allowing others to move around him – a reliable choice to chip away at defenders
The first name on my team sheet, playing the interceptor role. His talent for his age is ridiculous
After THAT goal at Alfreton, there’s no way he won’t get in the starting line-up! The former and now reformed Chelsea youngster has impressed with his flare and movement, and lets face it, the skill for the goal last weekend was insane hence why he’ll get the nod over Byrom, who is unlucky to miss out but will be key in games and period the Steve Evans express needs to take stock and dictate play.
A solid player who can turn on the style when needed, he’s an eye for a pass and creates chances
Watch this space, Danny Rose will score goals – let’s not forget Mansfield actually paid for his services from Bury at the start of last season and whilst he didn’t hit the ground running under Murray – under Evans he really blossomed, well now it’s time for the Rose to bloom.
Out of the pairings with Rose, the ex-Peterborough man has looked the strongest to partner Rose, plus he knows where the net is!
The Steve Evans train makes it maiden journey on Saturday, calling at Crewe – it looks like they’ll be a healthy following too as the Stags look to derail the railway men and reach their destination – League One.
Every champion was once a contender who simply refused to give up – COME ON YOU STAGS!
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