CHAD LATEST ON LAWRENCE
Stags block latest Millers bid for Lawrence
ROTHERHAM United have been told they won't get Liam Lawrence on the cheap.
The Millers came back in for Stags' star winger last Friday but found their latest bid, less than the £175,000 offered last month, again blocked.
Speculation over Lawrence reached fever pitch in Mansfield at the weekend as manager Keith Curle left the winger out of the side which lost 3-1 at Leyton Orient as he didn't consider him 'fit' to play.
Lawrence is one of five players suspended for this Saturday's home clash with Southend United (3pm) but should be back in the frame for Tuesday's trip to Scunthorpe United (7.30pm).
However, it will be up to Curle to decide if his top scorer is back in the right frame of mind to face the Iron.
The word coming out of South Yorkshire is that they still expect to get their man before the end of this week.
And I understand Lawrence is keen to join the First Division strugglers with his new agent, former Manchester United and Aston Villa star Colin Gibson, trying to pull the right strings to engineer the move.
But the 21-year-old is under contract at Field Mill until this summer and Stags chairman Keith Haslam said: "Liam will not be leaving us unless the deal is right for him and for the football club."
Lawrence admitted: "I want to play football at a higher level as soon as I possibly can.
"But until that happens I am 100 per cent a Mansfield Town player.
"I just want to play football at the moment. It felt weird being left out last weekend when I really wanted to play. But I am not stupid and I know my form has dipped recently."
Stags were last told Rotherham would be back in touch last Friday. As Chad went to press last night, Stags had heard nothing.
"We have already turned down bids of £150,000 and £175,000 from Rotherham, said the chairman. "They came back to us on Friday and made another bid which was less than their previous one.
"They believe his value is diminishing as he is out of contract here this summer. But Liam, when he is on top of his game, is instrumental in Mansfield Town doing well and our goal this season is promotion.
"He is a good player who I believe can play at a higher level. Keith and myself had Liam in to talk to him, but he said he wants to play at the highest level he can and is eager to do so as soon as possible.
"Since all this blew up Liam's focus has not been spot on and it has shown in his form. But he is a young lad and it's understandable.
"Liam is under contract to us until the summer and then, as he is under 24, if he refuses our offer of a new contract, we would be entitled to compensation from another club if he felt his future lay elsewhere.
"We have brought him on as a player through our Centre of Excellence and youth team so that's only right and proper. Until then we have control over where he goes.
"Often these situations are just stirred up by agents. But the cynical view is that the only way agents earn their money is by getting their player a move and it's not neccessarily always the best move for that player."
He added: "There was a lot of speculation last weekend and I am sick of hearing it. The truth is Liam was not fit to play.
"I am not saying he wasn't physically fit. But mentally he was not fit to play.
"I am not saying that is intentional. Liam is still Mansfield Town through and through. Maybe it's as little as five or 10 per cent of his focus missing. You have to be 100 per cent focused on the job to deliver and I think Liam would probably agree."
Haslam pointed to the situations at Fulham and Charlton where players' heads have also been turned by bigger clubs chasing them.
"This is the same as higher profile situations in the Premiership like where Louis Saha wants to go to Manchester United," he said.
"Alan Curbishly rested Scott Parker at Charlton last weekend after all the speculation over his future and no one is questioning him. He didn't feel Parker would be focused on the game.
"What Liam has to do is get back in the side and get back to doing what brought all the interest in him in the first place."
Haslam denied there had been any major bust-up between Curle and Lawrence, another of the weekend whispers as the Field Rumour Mill went into overdrive.
"Everything is fine," he said. "Of course there are fall-outs and friction between players and managers at every club.
"Even married couples argue and make up. But there is no big problem here betweeen Keith and Liam.
"We are not being selfish or unfair as we want to see our players progress and play at a higher level - preferably with us. If not then it would be lovely to see half our team in the First Division as products of Mansfield Town Football Club.
"That gives a belief to the young talent of the area that they can come here and progress through Mansfield Town"
Haslam confirmed, again contrary to the rumours, that no other club had been in touch over Lawrence.
Stags boss Curle did not want to discuss the situation in any detail, saying only: "In my opinion Liam was not fit to play last weekend. I don't feel I need to justify myself
"If Rotherham want to make a bid for him, Ronnie Moore knows my number. He is an experienced manager who probably knows how to force these things. But I am under no pressure to sell Liam Lawrence and I don't conduct my business through the media.
"What's really annoying is that we played a game last weekend and no one is talking about that."
Of greater concern to Curle than the Lawrence situation at the moment is his diminished squad for Saturday's clash with second-to-bottom Southend.
Although Luke Dimech is available again after a one-match ban, Jamie Clarke is still suspended. And Lawrence, Tom Curtis, Lee Williamson and Bobby Hassell all serve one-game bans this Saturday, while Tony Vaughan is still struggling with ankle and rib injuries.
Although Curle is happy he still has enough in his squad to see them through against the Shrimpers, he has been hard at work this week looking to add to the squad and wouldn't rule out a new face for the weekend.
Although he wouldn't name names, he did confirm that Leicester City striker Trevor Benjamin was one he enquired about last week only to find he had been pipped by Brighton who had rung 90 minutes earlier!
"It isn't easy trying to tempt players from higher divisions to come here and try to kickstart their careers again," he said.
"I have made a lot of phone calls and am waiting for a lot of replies so we will have to see what happens."
Stags won 3-0 at Southend back in August and the Shrimpers have not improved much since then.
"I watched them against Scarborough and they were forced to play direct football by the work rate and closing down of the Scarborough players," he said.
"I don't think I saw the best of Southend but I know we need to get about them and make it an uncomfortable afternoon for them.
"We are now four points behind the automatic spots. But we have 20 games to pull back four points which is an achievable target.
"It's not like there's one game left. There is still a long way to go."
Stags then travel to Scunthorpe on Tuesday with the Iron wanting revenge for that 5-0 hiding at Field Mill in August in the very next game after winning at Southend.
Latest | January 2004