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Archived News from May 2004

29th May 2004 20:48

Evening Post, 29 May 2004

Keith Curle today revealed his pride at leading Mansfield Town out at the Millennium Stadium and said: "Let's finish the job."

The Stags boss admits to feeling fortunate to have the chance to manage a side for such a massive occasion so early in his career.

But he says he is focused on steering Mansfield to victory in play-off final - and to a place in Division Two.

And he has told his players to be confident, as they prepare to face bookies' favourites Huddersfield Town.

"I haven't been at the club that long, but in my 18 months I have seen a lot of the players grow up," he said.

"I know a lot of managers who have been in the game a long time and they have not had the opportunity to lead a team out in a big game like this.

"But that's what I came into the game for.

"I want to be successful and help the football club to progress at the same time.

"I'm excited about the game and I suppose that is a bit of an understatement. Focused is probably a better word for it.

"But we are going there to do a job and all 26 professionals have to be prepared to do that."

Curle says it will only be natural for some nerves before the kick-off against the Terriers.

But he recognises he will need to show all his experience of big games at Manchester City, Wolves and three games for England, to help guide his team through.

He says his players can be inspired - beyond Monday - by the way his career progressed after he started in the Football League basement with Bristol Rovers.

"I had a great career after starting off as an average Fourth Division player and went on to play for England, so my players have to know it can be done," he said.

"Hard work will beat talent if talent doesn't work hard.

"When you go into these sorts of games there will be a lot of nerves, but I want them to be confident.

"You expect them to be nervous but you have to give them enough information to go out and do their job without blinding them with too much.

"You cannot dampen their enthusiasm but sometimes you have to keep a lid on it.

"My job is to make sure they know what it is all about and to go out and simply enjoy it.

"I don't believe the psychology of them beating us or us beating them comes into it at all.

"I prefer to look forward.

"I will do my work at 2.45 on Monday and put a lot of preparations in place, so it will be down to me to do my talking at half-time and beforehand."

The Stags booked their place at the Millennium Stadium with a win on penalties over Northampton in the semi-final.
Evening Post, 29 May 2004

Liam Lawrence is Mansfield's top goalscorer with 22 and proved a real handful at the McAlpine the last time around when he netted with a superb finish.

The 22-year-old has been the Stags' main man all season and will provide a constant danger down the right-hand side with his crosses and endless running. He is bound to be firing on all cylinders with this likely to be his last match in a Stags shirt and he will be hoping to give Lloyd a torrid time.

But the Huddersfield left-back has played more than 30 games this season and will be pumped up for this match.

He may only be 5ft 7ins, but the pint-pot defender is a tough competitor.

He came through the academy and now the 20-year-old will be looking to prove himself on the big stage.

A tough battle, but Lawrence should hold the advantage.
Evening Post, 29 May 2004

Stags striker Junior Mendes will draw on the experience of playing in front of a packed Celtic Park to help fire Mansfield to play-off glory.

The 27-year-old has played for St Mirren and Dunfermline against Celtic in front of 60,000 fans in the SPL.

And Mendes believes the electric atmosphere inside the ground of the Scottish champions will stand him in good stead for the Millennium Stadium.

Now the striker is hoping to share the experience with his colleagues to help them overcome Huddersfield in Cardiff on Monday.

"Playing at Celtic Park was an awesome experience," said Mendes.

"The atmosphere within the ground is fiery and intense.

"I have been there when it has been packed and it is absolutely fantastic.

"But I think it will stand me in good stead going into the play-off final. It will help me to handle the pressure of the big game.

"It is important that we all handle the occasion. We have got to enjoy it rather than letting it get the better of us."

The memories of his outings against Celtic will always live with Mendes. But he hopes his experience will assist all Mansfield's players on Monday.

He said: "It is vitally important that we relax. There will be nerves but after the first few minutes they should go and you have to concentrate on the football, not the crowd.

"It is nothing to fear - it is just a matter of staying relaxed, but at the same time putting in a performance.

"You cannot let it get to you, you have to enjoy the game and the crowd.

"If you get too pent up and aggressive you waste energy and by 70 minutes you start to cramp up. You cannot let that happen."

Keith Curle is likely to start with Mendes up front. But the question remains whether he will play him as a lone striker or partner him with Colin Larkin.

Either way Mendes is looking forward to the final.

He said: "I just cannot wait. I'm full of anticipation to play at such a big venue in front of a massive crowd.

"We are all ready to go and as with anybody within this squad, we are full of confidence going into the match.

"It is one of those things. We do not want to lose because we have come this far and everybody will be trying really hard.

"But I think the play-offs are a great idea and I am really excited about the whole occasion.

"It is a great way to go up and we do not want to lose."

And Mendes does not think the game being shown live on television will affect the players.

"That will not be a problem because we have all done that a couple of times already this season," said Mendes.

"So that is one less pressure on us going into the match."


Latest | May 2004