“You have to have that excitement about pre-season” said Steve Evans in this morning’s press conference – for me, he’s not wrong!
I know there are a few who look at pre-season and think ‘meh, the games mean little’ and whilst that’s true on paper (A draw against Middlesbrough and a win at Gainsborough won’t win us league two) pre-season still brings a certain excitement; it wets the pallet for what’s to come.
This season there does seem to be an extra bit of energy surrounding the club, some would say it’s a pressure pot what with some bookies backing us as champions – but I think it’s natural evolvement from what we once were, to excitement for what we can (and hopefully will) go onto be.
Personally I love pre-season, after countless Saturday’s being dragged around by the dog or watching rubbish box sets, it gives me something to look forward too – I’m itching to get to the One Call Stadium and watch some football again – here are my top three reasons why pre-season is a buzz.
1 | Watching the new players & trying to guess who is who
Every close season, especially at this level, new signings are a given – and we’re not talking one or two new faces, we’re talking at least eight, if not more!
Steve Evans has signed 13 new faces at the time of writing (including the permanent addition of Hayden White who was on loan last season and Will Atkinson, back after nearly a decade away) so Saturday will see plenty of “is that Lee Angol or Jacob Mellis” and “was that Diamond or Digby” type comments – I love it when I can hear mates arguing of who it is, especially when the teams are wearing last seasons kits with random numbers on!
Whilst I doubt that’ll be a problem this time around with the squad numbers out (although not confirmed, but duh – in Malta they wore the new kits with names and numbers on the back which also corresponded to the training shorts numbers… YES I’VE BEEN THAT BORED!) It’s always fun to try and match names, faces, boot types and beards!
A few pre-seasons back, you may remember Mansfield Matters did commentary on ALL pre-season matches, either on here or for StagsPlayer as was – in those days, you’d have four players wearing the same number because of kit sizes, which very rarely matched with the team sheet, in fact there was one instance where the team sheet we were given [Hucknall away I believe] where the team sheet was entirely wrong!
Also, we won’t have any this year – but it’s always fun when you have a trialist (or seven) playing named as A.Trialist (often a world beater but NEVER gets a contract) – sometimes as a commentator I would know who they were but just couldn’t say! I always thought my way of disguising their name was top level, but a few years back, I think it was Hyde United, had an entire team of trialists and refered to them as left and right wing politicians on twitter. Fair play
2 | Meeting up with the ‘football family’ again
Football is a beautiful game but what makes it a love, is the people you share it with – those who you refer to as ‘Football Family’. Sometimes you’re friends away from the ground, but mostly you don’t even know the person’s name who sits in front of you… but as soon as he or she turns up, you’ll natter away like you’ve known each other
They’re the type of people who make the match day experience what it is, and (and let’s be honest here) justify our long distance trip on a Tuesday night to the stupidest places – it’s almost like you say to yourself “well if they’re going, I should”
3 | Challenges
Pre-season for me used to be full of challenges, especially when trying to provide commentary at some of the chosen non-league venues. But really what I mean is, for the players it offers a different challenge, the likes of Forest Green and Barnet for example aren’t likely to offer the same pace, intensity and skill than you get in games against higher opposition.
The management learn a lot about player’s character, different shapes and systems and of course fitness in these games.
Also, and again let’s be honest, it gives us as supports a chance to watch players who are bigger names and a bit more attractive football – especially in previous seasons, who’d have thought for example that Leicester would go onto become Premier League champions when we faced them a few pre-seasons ago?
Personally I just can’t wait for Saturday to come around, to see the freshly grown and cut hallowed turf of the One
Call Stadium, to hear the turnstiles click, to smell the Bovril wafting through the afternoon air along with the fresh print of the program. I can’t wait to catch up with that fella three rows down and argue over who is wearing white boots, Murfin? Byrom? Or is MacDonald whose had a haircut.
Trivial matters of course, but ones that do matter after all – why? Well, that’s just the beauty of football I guess, the warm up to the thrills we dream, we hope, we pray… lay ahead for Mansfield Town.
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