STAGS PREPARE FOR `WOODEN` SPOON BATTLE
SECOND-TO-BOTTOM Stags and bottom side Northampton do battle to avoid the Second Division 'wooden spoon' at Field Mill tomorrow (3pm).
And, despite their relegation, Mansfield Town player-manager Keith Curle is demanding his troops go out there and play like they are starting the new season.
"This will not be treated like an end of season game," he said. "As far as I am concerned the new season starts on Saturday and I want players to go out there and show their intentions.
"I want to lay the foundations for next season right now and there is a lot of work to be done.
"I want them to give us a send-off and show supporters they want to be back in the Second Division as soon as possible. I want a performance worthy ofa Second Division side.
"And we certainly don't want to finish bottom as the table does not lie and, over a full season, if you finish bottom you were the worst team in that division."
Next week would normally see the players going on summer breaks. But not this year.
Stags will stay in training until the end of May during which time Curle will be working on individuals' goals for the new season.
"I want to set a lot of the physical foundations in place and players need to grow up quickly," he said.
"I will be working out programmes for players to improve their build, strength and power. Some players need building up, others are overweight.
"We will sort it all out and then they can take five or six weeks off to reflect on it. It will stand us in good stead."
Curle will not be releasing his retained list until after the third weekend in May which is when he will be talking to players concerned.
Iyseden Christie has been given the all-clear by a doctor this week after recent dizzy spells and will be in Saturday's squad. But fellow striker Colin Larkin is back at the National Rehabilitation Centre at Lilleshall after his problematic hamstring went yet again last weekend.
CURLE HOLDS BACK ON THE HOLIDAYS
Evening Post, 02 May 2003
At many clubs, those not involved in relegation scraps and play-off pushes, the chief concern for a lot of players will be which beach they spend most of the summer lying on.
The hard work for the majority will be completed by 5pm tomorrow but if the young Stags think they are going to be among them, they are wrong. Manager Keith Curle was adamant today that the 2003-04 season starts now and that means training will go on for a while yet.
Players need to be told in two weeks whether the club will be dispensing with their services and Curle intends for them to be in training until then.
The reason? He believes they need to be better physically prepared for the quest to get out of Division Three.
He said: "I don't have to inform the players what will be happening next season until the third weekend in May and that will be when they hear.
"There are plenty of rumours going round at the moment but the players will be the first to know what is going on.
"There are going to be great physical requirements needed for next season and other changes are going to be put in place.
"Then, they will be given five or six weeks off to reflect on what has gone on this season."
Curle is likely to miss out on a return to action in tomorrow's clash of the bottom two as he is still suffering with a groin problem that kept him out of the last three Stags matches.
In his absence, youngsters Alex-John Baptiste and Jake Buxton are expected to continue after a couple of impressive performances at the heart of the Stags defence.
Curle wants his side to build themselves up and will be designing weights programmes for each player to complete over the summer.
"I want the players to improve on their strength and power for next season.
"There are players who need to put on weight, some who need to take it off, but it all boils down to having the foundations for success which need developing.
"These two weeks will give us a good opportunity to do that because it is impossible to do when you are playing every Saturday and Tuesday.
"We can get those physical requirements in place and it is something we don't have to wait until the start of pre-season training.
"But it is going to be tough on them and I doubt whether any of the players will have had a harder pre-season than this one coming up."
Curle is anxious that his team does not want to finish bottom of the table and they could guarantee that by beating the Cobblers.
He also wants to reward the supporters for sticking by the Stags this season.
Mansfield have to go back to the 2-1 victory over Swindon Town on March 15 for their last win, and that was eight games ago.
Curle said: "We really want to give them a send-off and demonstrate to them that we are a team that was worthy of its place in the Second Division.
"It's all ifs and buts at the end of the day and league tables do not lie. If we do finish bottom then we cannot argue that we weren't the worst team in the league, just as the best team has won it.
"We have gone down because the football foundation at the club was not right when we came and there are parts of it that are not right now.
"If they aren't right, when it comes to the crunch, you find yourselves conceding goals when you shouldn't.
"I don't think there were a lot of people at the club when I came who thought we were going to stay up but people started to believe it after we got three wins on the bounce and that applies to the players as well as the supporters.
"But we need to be more focused and it is just as important between Monday and Friday as it is on a Saturday afternoon and that will be one of the things that mean people stay or go."
Iyseden Christie, who missed Tuesday's 3-1 defeat at Tranmere because of dizzy spells will be in contention for a place in the squad but Colin Larkin is suffering with his hamstring and will not play.
He has returned to Lilleshall and is not expected to return for three weeks.
Curle said: "At Blackpool, we saw a brief glimpse of the Colin Larkin we know but it is now important to get him right for the new season."
MANSFIELD (probable): Pilkington, Hassell, John-Baptiste, Buxton, Clarke, Lawrence, Curtis, Disley, Williamson, Christie, White. Subs: Welch, Gadsby, Corden, Mitchell, MacKenzie.
Latest | May 2003