SHIRTLIFF HOPES FOR NEW DEAL FOR BARKER
New deal for Barker?
CHAD, 02 August 2006
STAGS are hoping to tie up a new deal with skipper Richie Barker ahead of Saturday's big kick-off at Shrewsbury Town (3pm).
It would be a big boost to the club to secure a new deal with their 23-goal top scorer whose current contract finishes at the end of this season.
Barker's hopes of a new deal had been on a backburner as manager Peter Shirtliff tried to bring in new players to strengthen his squad over the summer.
But Barker (31) said: "I hope things can be sorted out by the end of this week.
"My agent has spoken to the chairman numerous times over the past four or five months and I expect it will be sorted out one way or the other before Saturday. By then we will know which way we are going.
"I am not exactly sure what length the new deal would be but I want to stay here as long as possible so I hope that means another couple of years after this one.
"What the chairman feels about that I am not exactly sure but I hope he comes round to the idea.
"I understand it has been a busy summer here with players coming and going and, as I am already under contract, I understand I am not top of the list.
"But I have worked hard and had a good pre-season in which I have scored goals."
Mansfield boss Peter Shirtliff confirmed: "We are in negotiations with Richie about a new contract and hope we can conclude it before the end of the week.
"It could be for one extra year or two. Richie is a good player and our captain. He is very professional and a good example which rubs off on the other players.
"It has not been desperate to sort out as he is under contract for another year but I want to get in a situation where Richie feels comfortable and happy."
With no injury problems, Stags begin their season at Shrewsbury on Saturday and home to Milton Keynes Dons at Field Mill on Tuesday (7.45pm).
And Barker said getting away to a flying start was a priority.
"It is so important to get a good start as teams have proved before that they can ride on the crest of a wave iof they can go unbeten for a while or win three or four of the first five games. It breeds confidence and players play much better.
"We certainly showed at home last season that we can mix it with any side.
"But it's important that away we start to pick up points - the odd win and grind out a few draws - if we are going to be successful. Saturday would be a great time to start doing that."
Jake Buxton and Jason White are added to a full strength squad after a successful and unbeaten pre-season programme.
Manager Shirtliff said; "We have done well pre-season, the players have worked hard and our preparation has been good.
"I am looking forward to the league and I am sure the players are. But, although pre-season has gone well, you are never sure how you will do until it kicks off.
"I am fortunate that my players have all done well in pre-season which gievs me a bit of a headache over selection for Saturday, though it's a nice problem to have.
"Hopefully they will all stay fit and healthy this week so I hve a full squad to pick from.
"Season tickets have been going well and there seems to be a positive vibe about the place.
"I am looking for a good performance on Saturday but we will need to be string at Shrewbsury and at our maximum to get a result as they have brought players in and look as if they could be a strong side this season."
Shirtliff has decided not to offer a contract to former Manchester City defender Paul Collins and said: "I still need to strengthen certain areas of the team as I feel we need cover still in one or two places. But I am in no desperate rush."
Injured pair Jake Buxton (foot) and Jason White (knee operation) are in Saturday's squad and Shirtliff said: "Jake's problem is ongoing but manageable and Jason is fine again but won't start in goal as he has not played in any pre-season games."
However, youngster Chris Wood, who has suffered lengthy injury problems througout his short career, has had a knee operation which will sideline him for two months.
Saturday is likely to be Stags' last ever trip to Gay Meadow as the Shrews are scheduled to move to a new ground next season.
They have let players like Mark Stallard and Colin McMenamin leave the club over the summer but have just brought in experienced former Bradford City striker Andy Cooke who should make a big impact at this level.
The Dons of Milton Keynes then open the home programme on Tuesday night.
Now managed by the colourful Martin Allen, they have brought in players of the calibre of former Celtic and Sheffield Wednesday midfielder Jon-Paul McGovern as they bid to bounce back at the first attempt from last season's relegation.
A decent result at Shrewsbury could produce a good home gate for this one as about 1,000 season tickets have already been sold.
Stags will send a team to Clipstone Welfare for a friendly on Wednesday, 9th August (7.30pm), admission £2.50 adults and £1 U15s and senior citizens.