Buoyant Stags look confident
CHAD, 12 July 2005
CONFIDENCE is running high at Field Mill as players and staff look forward to the start of the new season with renewed optimism following a flurry of transfer activity over the past few weeks.
The Stags squad looks hungrier and fitter than ever, and as they lined up for this season's team photo it was easy to see the competition for places that has been missing in the recent past.
The only real concern remains the need for a new goalkeeper to battle it out with youngster Jason White for the number one jersey, and the club are remaining tight-lipped concerning any potential deals to tackle that problem.
But as Saturday's friendly against Championship side Derby County fast approaches the players are champing at the bit to get going after weeks of hard graft in pre-season training.
Centre back Rhys Day said he wanted to see the side challenging towards the top of table as they look to win promotion into League One.
"I can't wait," he told Chad. "It's nice to have a break but when pre-season starts you just want to get out there and start again.
"We need to be positive. If that's what we want then we've got to believe we can do it. We've got 22 quality players and if we get injuries then we've got another quality player waiting to come in.
"Back home in Wales I've been running around the hills. I had four months out halfway through last season and my fitness levels dropped off a bit so I knew I had to work and that's what I've done.
"At the beginning of every season you start with a clean slate and this one is no different."
And he said he was looking forward to working with Des Walker, the former England and Nottingham Forest hero, if the veteran defender decides to stay with the club.
"He's an absolute legend," he added. "It would be great to play alongside him. I could learn a lot from him and it would be great if he did stay.
"I want to get back into the international make-up. I know if I play well in this team I can play at international level."
Derby are expected to bring a full-strength squad to Field Mill this weekend including famous faces such as Grzegorz Rasiak and Inigo Idiakez.
And the Mansfield players are keen to test themselves against their more illustrious opponents who finished fourth in the Championship last season before losing out to Preston in the play-off semi-finals.
But the Rams will also be looking for a good showing after a summer of discontent following the controversial departure of former boss George Burley and the appointment of Bolton assistant manager Phil Brown as his replacement.
Richie Barker, who will be leading the side out for the first three games of the season, in the absence of the suspended Alex John-Baptiste, said the players were raring to go.
"The lads have done really well and are looking very fit," he added. "We've put the work in during the summer and the last few weeks have been hard work but everybody has got through.
"The team has changed a lot from last year. We didn't have a lot of strength in depth up front but that has all turned around now.
"We've got to be looking at 60 goals from the three centre forwards, if we play three forwards, and we've got to be looking at promotion if we get that.
"There's a great team spirit and everybody is looking forward to getting started. We've got four or five new players and everybody is fitting in well.
"Hopefully we can get on with it and let the football do the talking. We just want to put everything that happened over the past year behind us and just give it a good go.
"Hopefully the fans will get behind is and pack this stadium out and we can carry on where we left off last term. We've got a lot stronger squad, a younger squad, they are fit and hopefully everybody can play their part and get us promotion."
In another boost to the club it was announced at the launch of this season's new home and away kits on Monday that Mansfield firm Perry Electrical Ltd have extended their sponsorship deal for a further two years.
"It's fantastic," the company's Managing Director Andrew Perry told Chad. "We've been in discussion for three or four months. We knew the previous two years were running out but we've had a good response over the last two years and the company has been growing.
"We've become more national with the coverage from our shirt sponsorship. Although I realised that working closely with a professional football club would be good for business I was amazed at the expansion over the two year period.
"We are backing Mansfield Town 100 per cent. We have around 40 to 50 staff and a lot of them are big Mansfield Town fans. I would just like to thank the chairman for having the foresight to back a local company keeping employment in the local economy."
Stags' Chairman Keith Haslam echoed his comments and was equally positive about the forthcoming season.
"I think it's been very good for Perry's to be involved with the football club and we're very pleased to extend the sponsorship," he added.
"There is a lot of new faces at the club and it has been a very busy few weeks. I think there are only four players on last year's team photo who are on this season's so there has been quite a turnaround in the year, but everybody is happy and looking forward to the four good games coming up in pre-season to test the players."
* Stags central defender Dave Artell looks to have finally secured his release to join former boss Keith Curle at Chester City.
Artell was the subject of a tug of war last week when it seemed Chester had signed him before Stags had agreed the fee offered.
Chester were subsequently reported to the Football league for their 'illegal approach'.
However Stags today confirmed a deal had been agreed between the clubs and Artell had been released.
No comment was made on the League complaint situation.
But there could be a welcome return for former Stags striker Chris Beardsley who is set to re-sign this week.
Stags chairman Keith Haslam said they are on the verge of ironing out a deal with the Harriers, who were relegated to the Conference last season.
Beardsley (21) left Mansfield last summer for Doncaster Rovers before moving on to Kidderminster where he scored five goals in a struggling side from 15 starts and 10 appearances as substitute.
The 6ft striker has been a target of Stags player-manager Carlton Palmer since the end of last season, but Palmer would not pay the fee former Stags boss Stuart Watkiss was asking.
However Mr Haslam said: "We have agreed a deal in principle and I am just waiting for their chairman to come back to me.
"If all goes well, I hope Chris will join us tomorrow."
Beardsley would provide cover for strike trio Richie Barker, Adam Birchall, and Matthew Tipton.
But the move has sparked a furious backlash from former Stags manager Stuart Watkiss, who is now in charge at the Harriers.
"I would have appreciated a bit more honesty," he fumed.
"They approached him on the quiet and Chris never told me, but if that's the way they want to do things then maybe they deserve each other."
Curle back in town!
CHAD, 12 July 2005
FORMER Mansfield Town manager Keith Curle brings his Chester City side to Rainworth tomorrow with a promise to treat the Central Midlands League outfit with the same huge respect that he has for Wrens manager Rudy Funk.
The match at Kirklington Road - which has the added boost of being refereed by high-profile Premiership official Uriah Rennie, with Euro 2004 linesman Glenn Turner as one of his assistants - could hardly be a greater contrast with that which Chester will have faced against Stoke City last night.
But Curle promised that the Rainworth game will be every bit as important to his side as any other in his pre-season build-up, as he seeks to instil his own brand of professionalism and his own way of doing things into his new charges at the Deva Stadium.
The match has been arranged as a result of the strong friendship between the two managers, and Curle predicts that his counterpart will transform Rainworth and return the success which used to be a by-word at the club.
Welfare expect a sizeable following of Stags fans, many of whom still hold Curle in high regard, to attend the match, which is likely to feature former Field Mill favourites Scott McNiven, Tom Curtis and Luke Dimech, as well as Dave Artell now that the contractual wranglings between Mansfield and Chester are sorted out.
Nevertheless, Curle insisted that Chester City are not 'Mansfield Town OB'.
He said: "When I came here we had 29 professionals, of which I released 20.
"The league table does not lie, and finishing fifth from the bottom last season tells me that side was not capable of a top six place.
"So I've identified a few players to remain for me to build a team around, to get them to play in the way I want them to play, and to conduct themselves in the way I want the club to be conducted.
"I know the character and level of professionalism of the players I have brought in from Mansfield, and I also know that they can do well in a side in the top half dozen in the league.
"But they are not the only players to be brought in, because I'm building a squad of around 18 to 20.
"I've got six first team pre-season matches, including Rainworth, and all the squad will play a role in those six matches as we build up to 6th August.
"Your success is measured by where you finish in the league, and I take pleasure in the fact that the mentality at Mansfield Town changed under the guidance of myself and John Gannon - I believe we changed the level of organisation and professionalism within the club and it showed in the results."
Curle stressed that he bears no grudges against the Stags or chairman Keith Haslam, despite the circumstances surrounding his departure.
"The goodwill of the fans is totally reciprocated," he said. "And regardless of anything else, Keith Haslam gave me my first opportunity in management, for which I was and am grateful.
"I did my best for him and for the club, we got to the play-off final trying to play attractive football, and I tried my best to make Mansfield Town something for the chairman to be proud of.
"And I've got some fantastic memories, so I look back on my time there, and do I have any ill feeling? No.
"You move on. Managers lose their jobs all the time. The circumstances of my departure will be dealt with through the appropriate channels, and it's not for me to get involved.
"The League Managers' Association have a legal team, they know the procedures and would not have backed me if they did not think I have a case.
"I know I did a good job at Mansfield Town. I don't want any reward, but my name was tarnished by the charges levelled against me and all I want to do is to clear my name.
"I'm looking forward to coming to Rainworth - they've had some fantastic successes in the past, but as Rudy keeps telling me, not as much as they are going to have. They have the opportunity now to take another step forward and I wish them all the luck in the world."
The Wrens boss, meanwhile, is under no illusions about his side pulling off a shock result.
But he said: "The Chester game has given us a real motivation. It's a chance in a million for players at Central Midlands level to play against League players with a famous Premiership referee, and all they have to do is to enjoy it and work hard. Our fitness is unbelievable, and I can't wait."
* The match at Kirklington Road kicks off at 7.30pm and admission is £3, with £1 concessions.
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