PREVIEWS AND TEAM NEWS
WATKISS GOES BACK TO THE PLACE HE LOVES
Grimsby Evening Telegraph, 17 February 2007
Stuart Watkiss carried no grudges when he returned to Mansfield Town today despite being sacked as manager by the Stags back in 2002.
Grimsby Town's assistant manager spent six years at Field Mill in a number roles both on and off the pitch and has nothing but fond memories from his time there.Watkiss is one of only seven managers to have won promotion with Mansfield and was one of the key cogs in the production line of young talent which spawned the likes of Liam Lawrence (now Stoke) and Lee Williamson (now Watford).
Today's game is not the first time Watkiss has been back to Field Mill since being dismissed but it will nevertheless be a nostalgic return.
He said: "It's a big game for me personally.
"I spent about six years there as a player, youth coach, assistant manager and then manager and they were great times.
"When I left in December 2002 I was genuinely devastated.
"That word is used a lot but it was because I love the place, not just the football club but the town and the supporters.
"It was a sad day but obviously that's part and parcel of life in football.
"I have got massive respect for the whole club. My affection and feelings for the club are massive and that will never change.
"When I was there I would not have swapped my job for any other job in football."
Current Stags manager Billy Dearden was boss when Watkiss was first youth team coach and later assistant manager at Field Mill.
Now number two to a manager from the same mould, Alan Buckley, Watkiss is delighted to see Dearden back in charge at Mansfield and expected today's game to be made all the more exciting by his return.
Watkiss added: "He is a wily old campaigner. He knows the game inside-out, he knows his players and it is no surprise that they have picked up points since he went back.
"They are on an upward spiral with him in charge.
"I was there when they destroyed Torquay a week after Torquay had destroyed us and on the night they were excellent.
"They are decent and they have become a lot more attacking and positive since Billy has gone back."
CAN CONLON STEP INTO SHOES OF LEGEND STANT?
Evening Post, 16 February 2007
There can be few higher compliments for a Mansfield striker than being compared to Phil Stant.
So when some supporters were hailing him as the modern-day equivalent of the Stags legend after three goals in his first three games, Barry Conlon must have been delighted.
But what came next did much to undo the good work of his sensational start - and shows that the Irishman is akin to Stant in more than goals and a no-nonsense approach.
Conlon fell for the oldest trick in the book at Chester, provoked into lashing out at City defender Phil Bolland, which led to his sending off.
Those who can recall the Stags' promotion winning season of 1991-1992 may well remember that Stant suffered a similar moment of ignominy on his Field Mill debut when he saw red in a League Cup game against Blackpool.
What Conlon must now hope is that the similarities in their Stags careers don't end there. Stant went on to score 26 goals come the end of the season and, while that target is far out of reach for the Irish-born player, a similar strike rate between now and May would be welcomed by manager Billy Dearden.
Certainly Conlon is keen to get back into first-team action after kicking his heels for nigh on three weeks.
"It has been especially frustrating to be suspended after the start I made," said the 28-year-old.
"It was difficult last week because of the snow and the fact that we were limited to what we could do training-wise.
"You can cope with that during the week if you are getting out on the field on a Saturday but it is hard to take when you are watching from the stands.
"I'm champing at the bit to get back out onto the pitch and I'm looking forward to being involved with the squad tomorrow."
Although Conlon showed he has the credentials to be a real force at Field Mill on his arrival, he knows an immediate recall is by no means a foregone conclusion.
Former Barnsley team-mate Michael Boulding has taken his place while he has been out and would have scored twice in three games had his shot that struck the bar at Stockport been a couple of inches lower.
Conlon said: "I think the team have done well without me apart from the Stockport game where they were unlucky not to get a result. I don't expect to walk straight back in because the front lads have shown they can play well together.
"I have played with Michael before and Gritts (Martin Gritton) is a similar type of player to myself.
"We have created a lot of chances and they were particularly good in the game against Torquay, so I'm not expecting anything."
Conlon knows he let his team-mates down at Chester and is keen to make up for lost time.
"I felt bad after the lads had to play 80 minutes with ten men," he said. "I know it is important to be in the right shape and be ready if I do get the chance to get back into the team.
"After the sending off I am looking to start from scratch and help the team get some good results.
"If I can get back to the form I was in before and get a few goals between now and the end of the season then I will be happy."
Gritton to upset Grimsby?
CHAD website, 15 February 2007
MARTIN Gritton will not be a popular figure at home if he scores in a Mansfield win against visiting Grimsby Town tomorrow.
For the on-loan Lincoln striker is a former Grimsby Town player, still lives in Grimsby and lives with one of their current first team squad.
"I don't think I will be very welcome there is I score on Saturday - but I won't let that put me off," he smiled.
"Nick Hegarty lodges with me and I have played against him twice already this season as I have already faced Grimsby twice so it has been interesting.
"With all the travelling I don't see much of him just now and he has not been getting in their side much recently.
"I did manage a hat-trick against Torquay, another of my old clubs, but I've not scored against Grimsby yet.
"I enjoyed my time there but couldn't get a regular game and ended up moving to Lincoln.
"But I did make some good friends there and I still live there."
Gritton, who has scored five goals in seven games for Mansfield, added: "At Grimsby I would go two or three games without getting a look at goal but since I came here we seem to create a lot more opportunies.
"At Grimsby, under Russell Slade, were were a very solid unit and won a lot of games 1-0, not particularly good to watch, but it got us good results.
"But that way of playing doesn't really suit me.
"Here we create a lot of chances and if we could be a bit more resolute defensively as a unit then we can start picking up more results.
"It will be nice to have Barry Conlon back in the squad on Saturday and I just hope I am selected as someone will have to miss out and Michael Boulding has done well since he came in."
Conlon straight back in side?
CHAD website, 15 February 2007
BARRY Conlon looks set to make an immediate return to the Mansfield Town side as they face Grimsby Town at Field Mill on Saturday (3pm).
Conlon has just completed a three match suspension for his red card at Chester before which he had scored three in his first three games.
But he shook off some of the rust during a reserve outing on Tuesday and manager Billy Dearden said: "Barry is biting at the bit to get playing again and he will be in the squad.
"It is odds on he will probably go straight back into the team as everyone knows we have missed him.
"Barry and Martin Gritton had set up a good partnership until Barry was a bit silly at Chester. Thankfully Martin continued to score goals and now I am hoping they just continue where they left off."
Michael Boulding is the one likely to step down from his front role to accommodate Conlon.
But Boulding could vie with Nathan Arnold for a place on the wing if Simon Brown fails to shake off a groin strain that he is still having treatment for.
Gritton (hip) and Jason White (ball in face) are both training again after starting the week on the treatment table. But Callum Lloyd will miss out with a thigh strain he aggravated in the reserve friendly on Tuesday.
After seven straight defeats, scoring just once, Grimsby have just won two on the bounce and scored 10 goals in the process.
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