Craig Priest writes…
After a week’s holiday with my lovely partner Em and her family, I thought I’d sit down and have a quick ten minutes sharing some of my views on the signings and general activity at our beloved Stags since I departed for sandier surroundings.
When I last wrote, Paul Cox had made just the one addition in midfielder Jamie McGuire as he looked to adopt a less rash approach than last summer, where in my opinion our rash dealings left us with an unmanageable group.
Cox has now taken his signing count up to five and whilst I may be concerned that certain areas of the pitch are getting too much attention, how many midfielders does one side need, I am happy that these captures all appear to be the right ones to fit our blend of football.
Full back Paul Black was the first to follow Fleetwood’s McGuire to the One Call Stadium’s arrivals desk, the 23 year old seemed a somewhat unheard of name due to his injuries and inability to play first team football last term, however he does come with good pedigree having played over 60 games for Oldham Athletic in League One and a handful of games for Tranmere at the same level. Think back to last pre-season, it’s another solid coupe which has reminisce to the Beevers deal, people questioned why he stepped down a level or two and his performances eventually warranted why.
With Luke Jones now at Stevenage, one thing I wrote about last time was the importance of carefully picking a replacement for him, Paul Cox certainly continued to scour the market and whilst continuing his search, added midfielder Keiran Murtagh to the squad for next term. I’ll hold my hands up here and say I wasn’t too impressed by this addition as I felt we needed players to come in that had played league two football last term – Murtagh had been playing conference football with Macclesfield.
The 24 year old centre midfielder has had previous league experience though, having played over 50 times for Yeovil Town in league one until his 2010 move to League Two side Wycombe, where he played a handful of games before being loaned out. I had my reservations about the re-signing of Anthony Howell, he proved me wrong – I had my doubts over Stevenson, Clements and others at times but they’ve proved me wrong, I’ll never make my mind up on a player before seeing them kick a ball about.
It seemed like midfield was the area Cox wanted to add to most and as we sat at the side of a boating lake, we did ponder when the former Eastwood boss would bring a defender into port, a quick check of the phone soon confirmed that experienced defender John McCombe had arrived on a free transfer – a great bit of business.
Tall standing a six foot two, the 28 year old is a born winner and is ideal to become part of a promotion winning defence having achieved the same with Port Vale in League Two last term, chalking up 37 appearances – taking his total to over 200 with the valiants. Described as a no-nonsense defender that is a threat in both boxes, let’s hope he can form a solid partnership with another at the heart of our defence next term.
Another addition to the back line made yesterday night is a familiar face in Martin Riley, the fans favourite back at the club having won the FA Trophy with Wrexham but having lost in the play-off final with the reds. We all know of Riley’s ability and surprisingly weren’t too angry at him last summer for not replying to Paul Cox’s contract offer, will his popularity put him straight back in the line-up? For me he’ll have to do a lot of work in pre-season to out rank John Dempster whose contribution to our title win should not be forgotten.
No doubt they’ll be more transfer dealings coming soon, not that there’s any need to rush things, we’ve a good pre-season programme shaping up to have a look at a few players ready for the new season. The sales of season tickets seem to be booming too, with over 1,300 sold at last count whilst the rather quiet story of Stags to train at Rainworth MW’s ground whilst the One Call Stadium development, well develops, can only be described as a good thing for all parties – that community feeling keeps spreading like the sun keeps shining, long may it last!
Before I sign off, I’d thought I’d update you on the coverage for next season – I’ve sent some emails requesting additional information this morning but as I’ve only just got back from my Holiday, there’s no more news at this stage! Stick with us.
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