CHAD LATEST: McNIVEN/BECKETT
McNiven tumour shock for Stags
MANSFIELD Town defender Scott McNiven faced an anxious wait yesterday after an operation to remove a testicle.
The news of 26-year-old McNiven's condition was a bombshell to the club during a week that has seen them target Stockport striker Luke Beckett for a second time.
But McNiven asked the manager and players to keep it quiet about his illness until after Saturday's home clash with Macclesfield Town.
McNiven, who had been suffering some discomfort, saw a doctor last week who found a tumour and the operation took place on Monday.
The whole club will now be keeping their fingers crossed for McNiven as they prepare for Saturday's FA Cup first round visit of Colchester United.
With strikers Joe O'Neill and Guy Ipoua returning to Preston and Doncaster respectively, Rhys Day ill and injured and on-loan Craig Woodman unavailable, Stags only have 13 players available for Saturday, including reserve keeper Jason White.
But that 'crisis' pales into insignificance alongside the McNiven situation.
"All our thoughts are with Scott and we wish him a speedy recovery," said manager Keith Curle.
"We are waiting the results of the biopsy to see if the tumour is malignant and how far it may have spread.
"Most people are well aware of the implications if it has.
"It is a very difficult time for him and his family and Scott showed tremendous character to want to play against Macclesfield on Saturday.
"I just can't praise him enough as a professional footballer and as a person. He didn't want this to come out until after the game so everyone's minds were focused on the football and not him."
It is a dreaful blow to club and player with McNiven having quickly won a host of admirers with the way he has quickly and effortlessly slotted into the right back berth vacated by Field Mill favourite Bobby Hassell.
With all this going on, Curle and assistant John Gannon still have to try to get in a new striker to halt a barren run of one goal in five games, none of which have been won.
"We know we need a striker and we have a list of 35-40 of them.
"Luke Beckett was top of that list and we have made a decent offer in writing to Stockport which was rejected.
"Stockport tell us there are other clubs interested like Barnsley, Sheffield United, Leeds United and Hull City.
"That doesn't surprise me because of his scoring record in the lower divisions.
"We will continue to monitor the situation but people are well aware that we are not going to enter a bidding war.
"It is up to Luke if he wants to come here and play for me and John Gannon and for Mansfield Town Football Club.
"It will end up being down to how much people are prepared to pay."
Stags wanted Beckett (26) in 2000 when he left Chester but were pipped by arch-rivals Chesterfield.
However, Curle pointed out there were others on the list and said; "John and myself are up and down the motorways every afternoon and evening tirelessly searching for the gem we need.
"But the price has to be right. We do have some money but we are not going waste supporters' hard-earned cash on a panic buy. It has to be the right person."
After releasing striker Chris Tate last week, who is sidelined for another two months with injury, O'Neill and Ipoua also left the club this week.
O'Neill had few chances to impress earlier in the season due to the form of Colin Larkin and Derek Asamoah.
Ipoua, meanwhile, failed to reproduce the electric form he showed on his debut against Notts County.
However, neither found the net for Mansfield.
"Joe and Guy are both decent players and we wish them all the best with their careers," said Curle.
"They both have something but obviously they didn't score the goals we neeeded so the search goes on."
Stags have won just once in eight League outings and Saturday's 1-0 home defeat by Macclesfield saw them drop to 12th place, still only two points off the play-off zone.
"Statistics can be made to show anything," said Curle.
"But we are still only one win off the play-offs. We are judged at the end of the season and. by then. we will be in the right place.
"You can't hide the fact that our first half display was unacceptable.
"We needed to be solid and reliable in midfield and get the ball out to wide areas. But we didn't move it quickly enough from the back.
"But if I was a manager bringing my side to Mansfield at the moment I would tell them to play negative, unattractive football and make the home supporters hostile to make it intimidating for the home players.
"That's exactly what Macclesfield did on Saturday. Dress it up how you like but they played 3-6-1, got men behind the ball and a draw ould have been a great result for them.
"As it was they stole a goal as well and got all three points. They did their jobs well.
"We need our home supporters to really stick with us and make this a fortress with an atmosphere in which home players can express themselves and perform."
Without success on the transfer front this week, Curle will have just 11 outfield players available for the visit of League One side Colchester United in Saturday's FA Cup opener at Field Mill (3pm).
With O'Neill and Ipoua gone, McNiven out indefinitely and Bristol City not wanting on-loan Craig Woodman to be cup-tied, Rhys Day, struggling to recover from an ankle injury, is now missing training with an illness.
All this is far from ideal preparation for the Stags whose legendary dressing room team spirit will be tested to the full.
Colchester, who dew 2-2 at Bradford on Saturday, are 15th in the table, five points off the play-offs.
Away from home they have won two and drawn four of their nine outings to date.
Manager Phil Parkinson's side reached the fifth round last year and will provide a stiff test for the Stags.
"I love this competition - always have," said Curle.
"The FA Cup always has its thrills and spills and I do not believe Colchester will come here and try to defend.
"They like to play 4-4-2, have some very good players, and we will have to match them.
"We need our fans behind us and I need my players to perform."
Latest | November 2004