PARTY`S OVER - IT`S BACK TO WORK
PARTY'S OVER - IT'S BACK TO WORK
Evening Post, 25 May 2004
Liam Lawrence says the serious preparation starts today for the Stags' biggest game in their recent history.
The players are ready to work hard after a weekend of unwinding following their gruelling two-leg play-off semi-final with Northampton.
Manager Keith Curle gave his squad three days off after the penalty shoot-out victory which set up the showdown with Huddersfield on Monday.
He told his players to go away and enjoy themselves - and after reporting back yesterday, they were treated to a light training session.
But today they return to full training and Lawrence says the celebrations of the weekend are now behind them and the focus is on the Millennium Stadium.
"The gaffer came in and said go and enjoy yourselves - but be sensible," said the 22-year-old. "Everyone was on a high after we beat Northampton and we relaxed and celebrated it over the weekend.
"It was good to have a few days off but we have all still been together having fun. Now that is behind us and the serious work starts again.
"It is a massive game for us and the biggest of my career. We have just under a week to prepare and all our focus is on that match."
Lawrence, the club's top scorer this season with 22 goals, has never been to the Millennium Stadium.
And he is even more excited after watching on television as his heroes, Manchester United, won the FA Cup there on Saturday.
He added: "I said to Rhys Day 'just think, in a week we are going to be doing what they are doing'.
"I just kept looking at the pitch and thinking I just cannot wait to play on there.
"It will be a fantastic atmosphere. There could be around 50,000 people watching and it will be incredible.
"Everybody says what a fantastic stadium it is and I just cannot wait to walk out onto the pitch. But we have to make sure we do the business."
Keith Curle will take training with everyone except Iyseden Christie, who is out with a broken foot, fit to play.
And his aim is to ensure the preparations run smoothly and that all the players are fully focused on the match with Huddersfield.
Curle said: "The players were back in yesterday but it was quite relaxed and today the football preparation starts.
"It was a chance to get them back in and get them used to the idea that we are going to the Millennium Stadium for the play-off final.
"The break has been an opportunity to take it all in and reflect. Now we have to focus on what is a massive game on Monday.
"Everything that has happened beforehand is out of the window. It's one day and there can only be one winner.
"It is a big week for the football club, the town, the supporters and the players. It is great to be involved and you can feel the excitement.
"We have got to go there and enjoy it and be a part of it but at the same time we have got a job to do."
Curle has been involved in some important matches in his career, including playing for England in Euro 92. But he refuses to compare the importance of this match to those big moments of his playing days.
"It is completely different. Me and (assistant) John Gannon have good playing careers behind us," he said.
"Now we are starting a new career and this is a definite high point. I hope it is the first of many."
Stags follow in Fergie's footsteps
They may not be Manchester United, but Mansfield hope to follow in the Red Devils' footsteps and win in Cardiff.
And Keith Curle's men are booked into the same hotel where United prepared for their FA Cup final victory over Millwall.
The Stags will stay at the Vale Hotel, golf and spa resort just outside Cardiff the night before the game.
They will travel down on Sunday morning before a light training session ahead of the biggest game in the club's recent history.
But they will train at Field Mill today and tomorrow, working with the ball, and be allowed the day off on Thursday.
On Friday and Saturday the players will train again at Field Mill.
Curle said: "From then on the preparations will start for the day and they will be as normal as possible."
I'M GOING... COME HOLS OR HIGH WATER
Evening Post, BY STEVIE RODEN, 26 May 2004
Some football fans will go to any lengths to see their beloved heroes play - but Stuart Negus is going further than most.
The 41-year-old is so determined to be at the Millennium Stadium to watch Mansfield Town in the play-off final that he is flying back from his holiday in Spain.
Within hours of the Stags reaching the Division Three showdown last Thursday, the life-long fan was on the internet to book a flight back from his ten-day holiday.
He will jet out to Alicante tomorrow with his family and friends - and fly back on his own on Sunday.
The civil servant will arrive at Bristol airport on Sunday night and stay in a hotel before picking up a hire car the next day to travel to Cardiff.
After watching his heroes battle it out against Huddersfield for a place in Division Two, he will fly back to Spain at 6am on Tuesday to rejoin his wife Lisa for the rest of the break.
"It works out that I will be away for 36 hours, but I could not miss the game," said Stuart, who is a season ticket holder at Field Mill.
"I booked the flights straight away before I had chance to start thinking about it.
"But my wife has been fine about it. To be honest I expected a bit of earache but she has been great.
"Lisa will not be left on her own because there are a few of us going out to Spain.
"But she says it is better that I go back and enjoy it rather than staying in Spain and being miserable because I am missing the game. I would be like a cat on hot bricks."
Stuart, of Mansfield Woodhouse, has paid about £250 for the flights, hotel and car hire.
He went to the last major final Mansfield played when they won the Freight Rover Trophy at Wembley in 1987.
But he was ill on the day and has no real recollection of the game, so has no regrets about shelling out to make sure he is in Cardiff on Bank Holiday Monday.
"I can hardly remember anything of that day because I was not very well," said Stuart. "That is why I do not want to miss out this time.
"It will be hectic when I travel back but it will be well worth it.
"I think the game could go either way but we can do it. I would be gutted if we lose, but life goes on and I have been a Stags fan long enough to learn to live with disappointment.
"But when I get back to Spain I will just relax and unwind, hopefully in the knowledge we have won promotion."
LOCAL LAD HOPING FOR A BIG CHANCE
Evening Post,BY STEVIE RODEN, 26 May 2004
Jake Buxton used to dream of playing at Field Mill for the Stags as he grew up turning out for the likes of Sutton St Joseph's and Teversal.
Now the 19-year-old from Sutton-in-Ashfield is living his dream and relishing the prospect of visiting the Millennium Stadium.
After making his first-team debut last season, Buxton is getting used to the fact he is now a professional footballer.
This season he has been even more successful after seizing his chances when injuries and suspensions kicked in among the squad.
Although everybody is now fit, he is an integral part of the squad and hopes to make the 16 on Monday.
The former Ashfield Comprehensive pupil is as excited as anybody about the game at the Millennium Stadium.
"Everybody has got a chance of being involved because there is still a long way to go until the final," said Buxton. "Everybody is fighting for a place in training.
"I am going down and I am proud to be involved. It is great for a local lad to be part of it.
"It is a big achievement and to get a place on the bench or in the side would be brilliant.
"It is going to be a great occasion for everyone because the whole town is buzzing and everyone seems to be going.
"This week we are just going to focus in training and prepare in the best way possible. But come Monday, it will be a great feeling inside the Millennium Stadium and we know we can get the result."
Buxton made four appearances last season and has played 11 games this campaign at both right and left-back. He was outstanding after coming on as a first-half substitute in the FA Cup third-round clash with First Division Burnley.
It came after a successful loan spell at Unibond Premier side Alfreton Town and he then enjoyed a run of games in the Stags team and some impressive performances.
And he is happy with how his season has gone: "It was nice to get a good run and I will keep working hard.
"To get my first goal at Leyton Orient was a great feeling and a big achievement for me.
"It is great being a local lad - people are interested and always ask how you are getting on. I love it."
Fans planning to take the train to Cardiff are being warned to reserve seats - or risk not getting on board due to Bank Holiday travellers.
Drivers of coaches, mini-buses and light vans can apply to park in the 400-space car park in Lloyd George Avenue, Cardiff, but need to apply for free passes on 029 20822141 or 029 20822145.
Latest | May 2004