BAPTISTE `WANTS TO STAY` , PALMER FUTURE ON HOLD
Mansfield Town are still searching for a left back.
But caretaker-manager Carlton Palmer admitted: "All credit to Jake Buxton, he has been filling the role superbly.
"I am delighted with him and he is to be offered a new and improved contract. But I want him to play at right back.
"We are still trying very hard to get someone in at left back, but it's not been easy."
STAGS CAPTAIN 'WANTS TO STAY'
by MARK ROACH
Evening Post, 05 January 2005
Stags defender Alex John-Baptiste has been attracting interest from Premiership clubs - but his agent says he wants to stay at Field Mill.
"There are Premiership and Championship clubs watching Alex but there have been no firm offers," said Mark Hall, who also represents defender Jake Buxton.
"Alex just wants to play for Mansfield. He is 18 and is proud to be captain of his home-town club."
Hall was chief scout and Centre of Excellence director at Field Mill last season.
"There has been so much going on behind the scenes and I've told Alex he needs to represent his club in the right way.
"He is 100% behind the club and wants promotion with Mansfield this season.
"We don't want speculation linking him with other clubs.
"He's ambitious and he won't rule anything out, but he's got two years left on his contract and he's got a busy period coming up.
Hall hinted a move to a bigger club could be on the cards in future.
"If something comes up, we'll have a look at it. When the time is right, the time will be right," he said. "But Alex was born in Mansfield and has been at the club since he was 12. The club has been good to him and he wants to repay that."
Hall says John-Baptiste prefers centre-back, but is willing to play in other positions.
"If you ask Alex to do a job he'll do it, but he's a natural defender," he said. "He's got a great spring and good pace.
"He was surprised when he was given the captaincy but has taken it in his stride.
"He wants to show people he can handle the responsibility - and I'm trying to make sure he gets looked after.
"It's been a traumatic time at the club, but Alex is happy with Mansfield and wants to focus on his football."
John-Baptiste believes he has improved as a player since caretaker-manager Carlton Palmer gave him the captaincy.
"It's a fantastic responsibility and I'm honoured to be captain," he said.
"I just try to do the best I can in every game. I put pressure on myself, I don't want to let any of the lads down. Centre-half is a really important position. One slip can result in a goal.
"I think I've been playing well, but we need to keep picking up results."
The defender paid tribute to centre-back partner Luke Dimech, who has responded well after being told by Palmer he can leave.
"He's played really well. He's been fantastic for us. We cover each other and his pace is terrific," added John-Baptiste.
"Hopefully, he's changed the manager's mind because he's a really good player."
Palmer's future remains on hold
A LARGELY happy Christmas and New Year at Field Mill has seen revitalised Stags boost their play-off ambitions.
Monday's superb 1-0 win which knocked Scunthorpe off the top of the table pushed Mansfield into 14th place, just four points off the play-off spots with a game in hand on half the teams queuing above them.
That will be their next game on Tuesday – after an eight-day break – when Cambridge United are the visitors to Field Mill for the rearranged Boxing Day fixture (11th January, 7.45pm).
But the long-term future of Carlton Palmer remains on hold in the meantime.
Before the busy festive period, Palmer warned his squad it was make or break time for their season.
He said they could either make a play-offs push or write this season off and start preparing for next.
The response was excellent and Palmer is now expected to have talks with chairman Keith Haslam about taking the manager's position permanently as soon as Haslam returns home from a two-week holiday.
Hopefully by then an appeal against his sacking by previous manager Keith Curle will also be dealt with.
"Keith has chosen to appeal and it will be dealt with in a proper manner by an independent person next week," said Mr Haslam.
"After that he could go to a tribunal if my decision is upheld.
"But, hopefully, it will all be sorted while I am away.
"I am pleased with Carlton's results - we have just won three out of four and were very unlucky at Northampton
"It was interesting to hear Scunthorpe moaning they had four players missing when they had to play us.
"We have been carrying an injury list of about seven for two months now which puts a lot of things into perspective.
"They have been flying high and these are their first injuries.
"It just shows the resolve within our squad at the moment to keep getting results."
Certainly, Palmer has high hopes that Stags might yet be battling for a return to Cardiff's Millennium Stadium.
"The play-offs are a realistic target and I am delighted with the boys," said Palmer after Monday's nailbiting win, which produced a fourth clean sheet in five games.
"That's 10 points out of the last 15 and they were fantastic against Scunthorpe.
"I have no problem carrying on as we are until the chairman gets back from his holidays.
"We go back a long way and we will sit down and sort everything out on his return.
"Obviously Keith Curle's appeal has thrown a spanner in the works about getting the situation sorted any quicker anyway."
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