PALMER THROWS DOWN GAUNTLET
Palmer throws down the gauntlet
CHAD, 02 August 2005
STAGS boss Carlton Palmer has thrown down the gauntlet to the rest of the division with his cherished 4-3-3 formation.
Palmer insists he now has the players to make it work ahead of Saturday's League Two opener back at his old club Stockport County (3pm).
And he says he will stick with it and let others worry about how to combat it.
"It is a good formation - no arguments," he said. "Chelsea used it to win the Premiership, Everton used it to get into Europe and Bolton have done well using it for the last three seasons.
"In effect, Arsenal and Manchester United have also used it - look at when United had Giggs, Hughes and Kanchelskis.
"I am not saying we would never go 4-4-2 - obviously injuries may dictate that. But we now have the right players to go 4-3-3.
"We did use it at times lasts eason but in a more defensive way because of the players we had available.
"I know we didn't play particularly well in the first half against Rotherham on Saturday. But one bad 45 minutes in an otherwise excellent pre-season won't change my mind.
"I am sticking with it. Why change it after all the hard work we've done. The players understand the system and it will cause teams problems.
"We have thrown down the gauntlet to the rest of the league. We have said loud and clear that this is how we are going to play.
"We know teams will try to show us the inside. But we have the ability to get round the outside with our pace and young midfielders who can get there. And we have the ability to change it and bring on more pace as the game wears on."
Palmer has already told the players who will be in the starting XI on Saturday, though it will stay under wraps until Saturday morning.
"There were some very disappointed players here this morning when they realised they won't be in the side at Stockport," said Palmer. "But that is a good thing. I made no apologies to those left out.
"When I picked the side last year there were some people who seemed more interested in what they might do with their weekend if they weren't playing," he said. "But now we have disappointment which is a very good sign.
"I will keep the squad under wraps under Saturday as that gives us a an edge. I am not saying if I will start myself or not. But you can be sure I am part of the squad.
"Peter Shirtliff and I have had a long chat and over the weekend and we are both 100 per cent in agreement over the side which we think can beat Stockport."
Palmer's players will find training easing up a little this week after playing their pre-season games tired following double sessions the previous days.
"Pre-season has gone even better than we expected," said Palmer. "We have played against two Championship sides and two League Ones sides and given good accounts of ourselves.
"On Saturday, even though we looked very tired in the first half, we found ourselves 3-1 down agains the best side we'd played all pre-season and still dug in to draw level and not get beaten.
"Now we will ease up a little to make sure they have their legs back for Saturday.
"In the first week we play Saturday, Tuesday, Saturday and there won't be any fitter team in the division than us."
Palmer knows he could be in line for some stick from his old fans at Edgeley Park on Saturday where he spent two seasons as player-manager.
But he said: "I can't wait.
"Despite what some people write and what some people say, I had a great time there and, since I left, there have been another two managers there.
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"Most of the people that worked there when I was there have moved on so there won't be too many familiar faces.
"Winning or losing at Stockport won't decide our season. But we need to make a good start in the first 10 games.
"I know some clubs come in with a late run. But a good first 10 games can really set your season up. I don't think any side is going to run away with it this season.
"We have a young side and they will make mistakes. But give them a chance and get behind us.
"I am delighted with them and they are ready to go. From the word go, when they trained during May and then came back in so fit, they have worked really hard."
Matthew Tipton was left out of the side to face Rotherham, but a 75-minute outing at Matlock Town on Monday night has topped up his fitness for the weekend.
"Matthew has been a little behind on fitness," said Palmer. "So we decided to leave him out on Saturday and get some proper running into him.
"He finished last season late after being in the Play-offs with Macclesfield and then he had a break. We were training three days a week through May.
"So, although he has his base fitness, we needed to help him get nearer match fitness and he will be up for selection on Saturday."
Experienced striker Richie Barker will be the new captain this season with Alex John-Baptiste his assistant.
Defenders John-Baptiste (suspension), Des Walker (hamstring) and Kyle Jacobs (cartilage operation) will miss the big kick-off.
And it it really is all-change as, with John-Baptiste suspended for the first three games, only Rhys Day is in contention from the 16 players who began last year's opener against Bristol Rovers.
Stags are expecting a large following for at relegated Stockport.
Admission is on the turnstile, priced £19 adults, £12 concessions and £7 U16.
Relegated Stockport's unbeaten pre-season was wrecked when they were thumped 5-0 at home by Bradford City on Saturday.
Manager Chris Turner's summer additions include defender Ludovic Dje, midfielders Matthew Hamshaw, Ross Greenwood, Danny Boshell and Michel Wolski and strikers Tesfaye Bramble and Jermaine Easter.
Tuesday's first visitors to Field Mill, Rushden and Diamonds (7.45pm), maintained their unbeaten pre-season on Saturday with a 2-0 win over neighbours Kettering.
However, Barry Hunter's preparations have been hit by a broken leg for star midfielder Andy Burgess who is facing up to two months out.
The 23-year-old sustained the injury during last week's pre-season friendly against Leicester City.
Their new faces include strikers Greg Pearson and Daniel Chillingworth, midfielders Neil McCafferty and Dave Savage, keeper Andy Woodman, and on-loan England U20 keeper Jamie Young.
Diamonds take on Darlington at home in their first game on Saturday.
Mansfield Town Ladies take on Sheffield Wednesday Ladies at Forest Town Welfare tonight (Wednesday, 7.30pm) in a pre-season friendly.
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