Break is perfect tonic
CHAD, 1 Dec 04
A 10-DAY break from action is the best possible tonic beleaguered Mansfield Town could have right now.
After last week's FA Cup exit, Stags have a blank Saturday which gives caretaker boss Carlton Palmer three extra days before Tuesday's trip to Darlington (7.30pm).
And he is asking supporters to show a little patience while he tries to get the club back into winning ways.
Saturday's 1-0 home disappointment against Leyton Orient left Stags without a win in nine games and without a League goal in 404 minutes of football.
And, with the off-the-field wrangling over manager keith Curle's suspension looking set to run longer than The Mousetrap, Palmer has at last got some valuable breathing space to try to sort things out.
"It is very welcome and will give me a chance to get more organised," he said.
"Since I stepped in here the games have come thick and fast and we have had a threadbare squad to face them with.
"But, apart from Colchester away, I think we have deserved more from the games than we have got and we are definitely making progress on the field.
"I have someone coming in this week - a friend of mine who I have worked with for many years - to assess the players' fitness levels.
"On Saturday we will have a team-bonding day where we will take the players out go-karting and a spot of lunch and we will then train on Sunday morning.
"We have to all get together as these are difficult times for us all.
"In the four matches I have been in charge I cannot fault the commitment and effort.
"We cannot afford to feel sorry for ourselves. We just have to break this bad sequence of results.
"If we keep working hard and stay focused we will find, like Everton on Sunday, that we will get the breaks.
"It may take a scrappy goal and we will get a scrappy 1-0 win. But that will do us fine.
"It is tough at the moment but the harder things become, the more I get going."
Palmer - and chairman Keith Haslam - came under fire from home fans before, during and after the Orient defeat.
Fans are unhappy with the current situation behind the scenes and recent results, and Palmer's decision to allow terrace favourite Neil MacKenzie to go out on three months loan to rivals Macclesfield Town provided further ammunition for some.
But a bullish Palmer replied "Fans just need to be patient. The club needs to be reshaped.
"Six or seven players with good ability were allowed to leave the football club and they haven't been replaced. That is a simple fact.
"I knew Liam Lawrence would leave in the summer. But I wasn't the one who let good players like Bobby Hassell, Craig Disley and Lee Williamson leave the club.
"I need to bring better players in and it won't change in 90 minutes, though we didn't deserve to get beaten by Orient.
He added: "I'm treating it as if it's my job and getting on with it. Nobody knows what's around the corner.
"Every day is a breath of fresh air. I've got three kids, I'm fortunate enough to have had a very successful career at the highest level during which I've taken whatever criticism people wanted to throw at me.
"I've had it throughout my career and I've proved them wrong in everything I've done.
"This situation is not my doing. The chairman has asked me to come in. I'm his friend and I've got his back.
"Keith Haslam writes the cheques at this football club and has brought this club a long way - fans should remember that.
"Unless they are prepared to put their names on the cheques then they should get behind him.
"All he's asking people to do is to be a little bit patient and trust him. He could have walked away but he wants this club to do well. He does his best for Mansfield Town and will continue to do so.
"I do not have to be here - I could be relaxing in my villa in Portugal.
"I am only doing this because I love football and to help out a friend - I am not getting paid for it.
"It is not a good situation here at the moment and it is not helping. It needs resolving quickly.
"It is not easy doing the job on a caretaker basis. But I am 38 now and nothing has been easy in my life but I have always come out on top."
He added: "But we need the fans to get behind the team. They must realise the squad that was here was just not good enough.
"I brought in two quality players in Richie Barker and Paul Warne on Friday and tried to bring in a third which meant we had just an hour to train. We also have key players missing and once we have everyone back I have great optimism.
"Supporters want to see a win. But, when I came in here and saw what squad we had, I couldn't see a way forward for us to get a win.
"I have not really had time to look at the players here and show them how I want them to play. I certainly want them to be able to express themselves.
"I was delighted with Adam Murray and Tom Curtis on Saturday. I also thought we defended well and the two new lads up front worked so hard in the first half they had little left in the second half.
"They had to work too hard defending and needed help from other players.
"But I believe we deserved a point, our overall performance was better and we know the areas we need to improve."
Answering his critics for allowing Neil MacKenzie out on loan, he said: "I know fans like Neil MacKenzie. But statistics do not lie and, as an attacking midfielder, he has scored just seven goals in 86 games and we have only won 24 of them.
"You cannot play him in a 4-4-2 formation which is what I want to play. I am getting criticised for letting him go, yet the deal with Macclesfield was actually set up by Keith Curle before I came here.
"I've told the players to get their heads up. The results are not going for us at the moment, but on Saturday we played against a good, well-organised side and more than held our own.
"I thought we were the better side in the first half and the second half was fairly even. We certainly didn't deserve to lose it."
Palmer has dismissed terrace rumours that leading scorer Colin Larkin was set to move to Kidderminster as 'a load of rubbish'.
But the Stags'leading score will be missing for at least two or three weeks after being rushed into hospital with appendicitis last Friday.
Cancer victim Scott McNiven could be back at the club within a couple of months.
McNiven has begun a course of treatment for testicular cancer and Palmer said; "I spoke to Scott and gave him all our best wishes.
"Everything else just pales into insignificance when compared to his situation.
"But I understand that, if the treatment goes well, he could be back with us in a couple of months which would be great."
Carlton Palmer will be speaking to Premiership managers this week to discuss the possibility of bringing in young talent on season-long loan deals.
"We have a very inexperienced bench at the moment and I want to get some young Premiership players in as cover.
"We can't afford a big bench here but, with our League not able to do loans as and when we want to next season, I have to plan ahead.
"We need a squad of 24-25 players to get us out this league or we will get murdered. We need to get all positions properly covered."
Welsh central defender Rhys Day has had an operation on his injured ankle and will be sidelined for another two months.
Mansfield Town remain hopeful of signing West Brom right winger Simon Brown in time to face Darlington.
Caretaker-manager Carlton Palmer had hoped to sign the promising youngster in time to face Leyton Orient last Saturday but accused West Brom of 'playing Russian Roulette' with Stags over a fee and the deadline for him to sign in time to play.
However, Palmer continued talks on Tuesday and said the deal was not dead and that he was hopeful it would still go through.
Brown had been a substitute for the Baggies in the Premiership two seasons back without coming on. He went on loan to Kidderminster at the end of last season, scoring his first League goals and returned to Aggborough this season, again on loan.
Brown has been training with the Stags this week.
Former Stags manager Stuart Watkiss was yesterday unveiled as the new manager at Kidderminster.
He has left Barnsley, where he was Academy manager, to sign an 18-month deal.
CHAD, 1 Dec 04
Stags stars to leave?
TWO more of Mansfield Town's current squad may be leaving the club.
Alex Neil (left) and Luke Dimech (above) have been told they are not in caretaker manager Carlton Palmer's long-term plans, should ge get the job on a full-time basis, although Dimech may yet get the chance to prove him wrong.
But Neil looks set to follow Neil MacKenzie out the door.
"I have circulated Alex's name as being available," said Palmer.
"On Saturday we didn't get much from the two lads who were playing wide, although Wayne Corden gets the benefit of the doubt as he was struggling with an injury.
"But Alex and Wayne both had to come inside and that narrowed the pitch for us for the second half.
"I have to prioritise and if Alex is not in my side, I cannot afford to have someone earning the wages he earns just sitting on my bench.
"Luke is different and will defnitely play at Darlington next week with Dave Artell suspended.
"But he doesn't feel comfortable at left back or right back and we already have three good centre halves here in Artell, Rhys Day and Alex John-Baptiste.
"I could really do with a centre half-cum-right back. But, in this game, who is to say what will happen?
"I thought Luke played very well on Saturday and if he keeps playing well he will stay in the team, for sure."
Latest | December 2004