STAGS PLAYERS FACE THE FANS
STAGS PLAYERS FACE THE FANS
MANSFIELD Town's first team squad faced the music last night when they surprised everyone by attending a 'meet the fans' session along with the management staff and chairman Keith Haslam.
The packed event at Field Mill, organised by TEAM Mansfield and the Stags Supporters Association, was originally scheduled to just feature questions and answers with player-manager Keith Curle and Haslam.
But, in the wake of Saturday's 5-1 home humiliation by Peterborough, Curle decided to show a united front before the mass of fans - it was standing room only eventually - some of whom admitted they had walked away before the end of the Posh game.
"I thought it was important the players came here tonight and faced the supporters," said Curle, who also brought along all his backroom staff.
"I know how much Saturday meant to the fans - it meant a lot to us as well.
"We are here to show unity at this football club. I did not want anyone hiding behind the manager.
"It's not just about the 11 that started the game or the 16 selected. It is about the whole squad which is why they are here tonight - to make sure you know it hurt us all.
"Everyone here has to stand up and be counted and we will go out on Saturday and give a performance more attuned to Mansfield Town Football Club.
"Last Saturday was a massive wake-up call and losing 5-1 means we can't hide behind a 1-0 defeat and mask what went wrong. They let themselves, the fans and the staff down. Now we have to go out against Port Vale and win."
Curle admitted he should have started the Peterborough game himself.
"With hindsight, yes, I should have started. I would have given them the confidence and calming influence they needed.
"No one lacked heart. What they lacked was direction on the field. It is still a very young team and I have to take the blame. I should have played and I will certainly be playing this Saturday."
When accused of forcing the side to play route one football on Saturday, Curle countered: "That was not the case.
"Any of these players would tell you that I did not instruct them to lump the ball forward if there was a pass on. Players do have options what to do when they have the ball and too many of them took too many wrong options on Saturday.
"They get exactly the same instructions on how to play every game."
Curle was also under fire for his team selection and was asked if he was not picking Bobby Hassell, Neil MacKenzie and Liam Lawernce on a regular basis because their 'faces did not fit' with him and he wanted them 'out the club.'
"That is not the case at all," he said. "One thing I am is honest with my players and the players I did not want at this football club are no longer here.
"It is part and parcel of being manager to select a team I think is right for that particular occasion.
"To think I have made the right team selection when we win and the wrong one when we lose would be a naive attitude. In football terms I will live or die by my decisions."
The players largely sat quietly listening to the critisism, some of it personal. One who did have a reply was current skipper Iyseden Christie.
When one fan said he should not be captain as he didn't shout at the other players enough he countered: "David Beckham doesn't shout either, what's your point?"
As the squad came under increasingly heavy fire from the floor, assistant manager John Gannon countered: "I am a little disappointed with this reaction.
"This meeting has fallen on a bad week after Saturday. But, don't forget we have taken 25 points from 20 games since we took charge which is a reasonable total from where we picked the situation up.
"We have only conceded 29 goals in those games which is a reasonable total and we have had some massive positives.
"In December a lot of you would have taken this where we are now.
"Our strength is on the wide. Teams come here and fear our wide players and what we can do if we can get the ball to them,
"All formations have strengths, whichever we play. Don't get bogged down with formations and tactics. Get the ball wide, cross it and score. Goals come from crosses."
Chairman Haslam talked at length about the proposed training ground, the frustration of not being able to develop Bishop Street and the prospect of executive boxes, a sports cafe, a supporters' bar and more corporate facilities in the West Stand for the start of next season.
He said he was delighted with attendances which were up 40 per cent last season - and are on course to better that this season - and felt there was no reason why Mansfield could not emulate the achievements of Barnsley which was a similiar-sized town.
On shirt sponsorship, he revealed VK Vodka Kick had already put a deal on the table to renew when their current deal runs out this summer. But the club were waiting to see if a better offer came in before signing anything.
Perhaps the biggest cheer of the night was reserved for the supporter who accused many in the room of just being negative and pointed out that, in Stags' final six games, they had three games at home with struggling clubs plus trips to Blackpool and Tranmere, both of whom they hammered at Field Mill, and Bristol City, who they managed to score four times against in defeat.
He told people to be positive and get behind the side which drew applause from the manager and players.
Stags reserves travel to Lincoln City this afternoon (2pm).
But the side is unlikely to include Colin Larkin who is still suffering with his hamstring problems and will be going to the national rehabilitation centre at Lilleshall on Monday in an effort to sort it out once and for all.
However, Scott Sellars, who is back in the club but short on fitness after illness, could play some part as he battled to be back to help out in the run-in.
Latest | April 2003