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Archived News from August 2002

6th August 2002 20:57

Evening Post, 06 August 2002

Mansfield Town manager Stuart Watkiss was delighted with his players' performance against Alaves, despite their 3-0 defeat.

Two goals from Ruben Navarro and one from Norwegian defender Dann Eggen gave the Spanish La Liga outfit the victory.

But Watkiss said lessons learned by his squad should stand them in good stead as they start their Division Two campaign on Saturday at home to Plymouth Argyle.

"It was a great workout and a great lesson and I am really pleased with my lot.

"The quality of Alaves' long passing in particular was unbelievable. I thought Forest were outstanding when they came here but Alaves took it to another level.

Two of the goals came after Stags' set-pieces broke down.

"We are not pleased with the goals we conceded but I would rather they did it last night than on Saturday," said Watkiss.

"As long as they learn from that and don't do it again, then it is not wasted."

Watkiss has already decided on his line-up for the clash with the Pilgrims, although he is waiting for fitness reports on a couple of players.

Liam Lawrence, Bobby Hassell and Allen Tankard would all come into consideration if they recover from injuries.

"I know the formation I am going to play and I know the starting line-up," added Watkiss.

"It is not going to be easy because Plymouth are a strong team. They are not going to be able to show the quality Alaves did but it is going to be equally as tough."

One player who will almost certainly be in the squad will be Iyseden Christie, who was set to sign a one-year deal with the Stags today.

It comes as further good news after Neil Mackenzie completed his moved from Blackpool yesterday.

Watkiss said: "Iyseden is a potential matchwinner. He makes you pull your hair out sometimes but you can almost guarantee he will give defenders a hard time."

Evening Post, 06 August 2002
Mansfield 0 v 3 Alaves

As far as I am concerned, Cruyff is the second-most important name in football, after Pele.

The mere mention of it conjures pictures of the greatest cog in the Total Football machine, a prince whether in the red and white of Ajax or the orange of Holland.

Johan Cruyff ran rings round the best defenders the world had to offer in the 1970s, on 40 fags a day, and he even had a trick named after him.

Johan was a footballing genius, whose performances in the 1974 World Cup are still raved about by my dad whenever he has had one pint too many.

And he was a player I saw once, at White Hart Lane, in the European Cup Winners Cup in 1982, for Feyenoord against Spurs, in the same team as a teenager called Ruud Gullit.

He may have been a bit over the hill and I might have only been nine but it was a pleasure just to be in the same ground.

I have always felt sorry for his son Jordi because, despite playing for both Barcelona and Manchester United, he will never be able to live up to the levels scaled by his old man.

But I cringed for him last night when, upon being substituted at Field Mill for his current club Alaves in a pre-season friendly, he was referred to as Jordi CRUFF.

Reputations don't seem to count for much in north Notts.

Welcome to Mansfield, youth!

This particular faux pas was, however, not characteristic of the welcome afforded to the Spanish team who ply their trade in La Liga and lost in the final of the UEFA Cup last year in a nine-goal epic against Liverpool.

Around the ground, their arrival was greeted by a different sort of expectation among the locals.

Pre-season friendlies with Forest and Derby have sparked hopes that the Stags might upset the odds and turn over one of their more illustrious local rivals.

But, last night, everybody had turned with a different hope. They wanted to be entertained by a team from the Continent and see how Stuart Watkiss's young charges fared against them.

Two minutes in and the Spaniards scored with a header from Ruben Navarro, who would add a second.

The goal was greeted by polite applause from the West Stand, a courtesy its denizens did not afford Jack Lester when he notched for Forest the Saturday before last.

The result didn't really matter and we all got an idea of the true value of pre-season friendlies.

All the fans wanted to see was the locals put up a good show against a team who have Barcelona not Barnsley playing in their league; Atletico Bilbao rather than Oldham Athletic.

And they were not disappointed as both Neil Mackenzie, finally captured on a two-year contract from Blackpool, and Colin Larkin had impressive home debuts, while Iyseden Christie, who is due to sign a one-year deal today, showed the commitment that will make him a Stags hero once more.

Alaves had a zip about them that no visitors will show again at Field Mill this season - unless Stags get Arsenal or Manchester United in a cup - but they didn't play Mansfield off the park. Larkin had a couple of good efforts and Craig Disley hit a post. Kevin Pilkington made important saves.

The education provided by the fixture will be of no harm to the Mansfield players and it was a treat for those who turned up to see it.

A mistake from Stuart Reddington presented Ruben Navarro with a second and Norwegian international Dann Eggen nodded a third from a corner but there was little complaint.

Lessons had been learned and will hopefully be put into action straight from the big kick-off against Plymouth on Saturday.

Alaves now travel to Middlesbrough tomorrow and Birmingham City on Saturday to face teams, with respect to the Stags, who, on paper, should be able to run them a bit closer.

But to be asked to stage a friendly with such a team should be regarded as a great honour by everyone at the club.

European football at Field Mill was an undoubted success. It was a great night, hopefully to be followed by more games like this in seasons to come.

It seemed so enjoyable for everyone involved that I'm sure Jordi is looking forward to telling his dad all about it. Because Johan never got to play at the Mill, did he?

MANSFIELD: Pilkington, Gadsby, Moore, Reddington, Jervis, Sellars (Corden, 45), Williamson, Disley, MacKenzie, Larkin (Wiken, 61), A White (Christie, 58). Subs not used: J White, Scott, Clarke, Bacon.

ALAVES: Pablo, Begona, Eggen, Karmona, Geli (E Alonso, 62), Mara, Navarro (I Alonso, 74), Cruyff (Llorens, 72), Helguera, Turiel (Astudillo, 62), Ochoa. Sub not used: Ruben.

REFEREE: Frazer Stretton (West Bridgford)


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