PREVIEWS AND TEAM NEWS FOR BRENTFORD
TALL ORDER BUT BIG MAC OUT TO RISE TO CHALLENGE
Evening Post, 11 August 2007
John McAliskey expects to do a lot of growing up at Field Mill.
The striker, willed away from Huddersfield this summer, knows it's time to turn potential into something tangible after failing to establish himself at his hometown club.
But he believes his move to Mansfield will not only see him grow on the field, but off it as well.
When Billy Dearden talked him into leaving the club he'd been with since the age of nine - it forced McAliskey to break out of the comfort zone.
Not only did the 22-year-old walk away from a club he considered home, but he was also forced to stand on his own two feet for the first time, when setting up home in Mansfield.
"I'm living on my own now so that's a big difference," he said. "I won't have my mum fending for me. I'm 22 so I should start growing up.
"I think when you start depending on yourself and have to sort your own bills and stuff, you have more responsibility. I think that will help me."
McAliskey is having to start cooking for himself. Something he is not accustomed to.
But he's already developed a speciality - chicken and pasta - and Dearden need not worry about his new striker being tempted to gorge on fast food.
"I can't remember the last time I went to McDonalds," he said. "The only place I go is Pizza Hut after the cinema, but that's not very often, either.
"I don't mind cooking. I cooked for my mum a few times at home, but apart from that I've not really done it."
Even with his new-found freedom McAliskey insists he's hardly living it up.
"It's a lot of boredom at the moment," he said. "My girlfriend will be moving down soon so I won't be as bored.
"I play my X-Box all the time and I've just become a member of the video shop so I've got a lot of DVDs out as well."
The transition should be a lot easier once the season is underway and McAliskey was expected to make his full debut at promotion favourites Brentford this afternoon.
The newly-relegated side are expected to bounce straight back up to League One after appointing Terry Butcher as manager and making a host of signings this summer.
Dearden so far has only managed three - McAliskey, Martin McIntosh and Lee Bell - leaving his squad looking severely thin on the ground and making it crucial that each of his new signings proves a success.
McAliskey admits the presence of his former Huddersfield team-mate McIntosh helped persuade him it was the right move.
But it is clear that he knew the time was right to try to build his career elsewhere after so long on the fringes at the McAlpine Stadium.
He managed only 16 starts after progressing through the youth team ranks - but an impressive eight goals is a sign of his potential.
What's more, there is more than meets the eye with McAliskey.
Despite his powerful 6ft 4in frame, it is his talent with the ball at his feet that made him stand out at Huddersfield.
And despite admitting it was a wrench to tear himself away from the club he loves, he is ready to prove his ability when finally getting regular first team football at Mansfield.
"I'd been at Huddersfield since I was nine so I didn't know any different," he said. "I think it will do me good to get away, meet new people and play for a different team.
"When I found out Tosh was here, it made it easier to move because I know him from Huddersfield.
"It's not easy going and meeting a lot of new players.
"But I've got to know the lads and they are a good bunch.''
Fairly or not, McAliskey will face natural comparisons with Ritchie Barker who left Mansfield in January after just over two years of tremendous success at the club.
But his young replacement says he is ready for the pressure of providing the goals.
And he has already got supporters buzzing with his strike in the 2-0 pre-season win against Premiership Derby.
"But pre-season is pre-season and my main target is to score at Brentford," he said.
Should he do that and Mansfield win, he'll be on his way to becoming a Stags hero.
Baptiste: Dearden is spot on
Evening Post, 10/08/2007
If you can keep your head while all around you are losing theirs - then you've probably severely misjudged the situation.
The same cannot be said of Billy Dearden, who, during a summer when he looked certain to lose his prized asset, kept a steady hand throughout.
At times the Mansfield manager appeared to have ice in his veins when the future of Alex John-Baptiste remained very much in the balance.
The highly-rated 21-year-old seemed destined to severe ties with the Field Mill club this summer as Crewe, in particular, cast admiring glances in his direction.
Norwich and Hartlepool also expressed an interest and with Baptiste out of contract, his days at Mansfield seemed to be numbered.
That could well have spelt disaster for Dearden, having already lost the talismanic Ritchie Barker in January, while Giles Coke and Jon Olav-Hjelde were the most notable departures in the summer.
Had Baptiste followed them through the exit door, then the sense of gloom that has shrouded the club in recent years, would only have intensified.
Having played more than 150 games at such a tender age, he remains a source of empathy and hope for beleaguered supporters.
Ahead of an anticipated season of struggle, Dearden could hardly afford to lose one of his most trusted soldiers - a player he credits with holding his defence together when Mansfield began to spiral towards the end of last season.
And after convincing him to commit his future to the club, Dearden is convinced he was right not to pressure Baptiste into making a decision.
"That was one where I just left him," said Dearden. "It was down to his agent trying to get him a move, which is what agents do when their players are out of con- tract.
"I knew he'd get a few bids, but I don't think he wanted to go.
"I know he spoke to clubs, but he's a home bird."
Dearden is not naive enough to think a new three-year deal will end speculation about the player's future.
"Hopefully the deal will keep him here for three years," he said. "But if he carries on playing like he did towards the end of last season, you never know if he will progress with us or someone else.
"We'd like it to be with Mansfield, but if someone comes in with a silly offer, you never know."
Baptiste will certainly be crucial to Mansfield's hopes of mounting a play-off challenge this season, which kicks off at Brentford tomorrow.
And with such a young squad, Dearden admits he looks at the versatile defender as one of his more senior players - despite the fact that he's barely out of his teens.
"He was one of our better players last season," said Dearden.
"When we had young lads in because of all our injuries, he was the one holding the back four together.
"People don't realise he's only 21 - but he's played something like 160 games.
"I don't think there are many like him in the league. He's got experience, even though age-wise, he hasn't.
"Games-wise though, he's one of our senior players."
It may not have been the summer most Stags fans were hoping for, but one thing is for sure - they will certainly feel more confident about tomorrow's trip to Brentford with Baptiste, rather than without.
'I can fill richie barker's boots'
Evening Post, 10/08/2007
John McAliskey insists he has no concerns about filling Richie Barker's boots at Mansfield.
The summer signing from Huddersfield will have a lot of weight on his shoulders to produce the goals to keep Stags in League Two this season.
But the 22-year-old immediately asked for the number nine shirt upon his arrival.
Manager Billy Dearden opted to give that to Michael Boulding with McAliskey wearing 15 - but the forward is certain he can become a hero at Field Mill.
He said: "I wanted the number nine when I came here and the lads were saying, 'That's Richie Barker's number.'
"I hear he did well here, but I don't think about who's worn the shirt before because you get a lot of players who do well at clubs.
"I don't think about other people - it's up to me to perform.
"I have my own targets and I know if I play well or not - I don't need people to tell me."
Barker scored 48 goals in 106 appearances for Mansfield in just over two years at the club.
Injured trio back in training but tonsilitis claims two victims
CHAD website, 08Aug2007
By John Lomas
THERE is better news on Mansfield Town's injured trio of players ahead of Saturday's season curtain raiser at Brentford.
But with defenders Alex John-Baptiste and Ashley Kitchen confined to their homes with tonsilitis, Stags are trying to make sure the illness does not get any further around the dressing room.
Injured trio Martin McIntosh, Michael Boulding and Dan Martin all trained yesterday without any immediate reaction and will train again today.
McIntosh's dead leg and Boulding's tight hamstring had eased while Martin, expected to be out the longest with a calf strain, appeared to have recovered ahead of schedule.
"Although Dan hadn't been training with us, he had been training with our physio, Paul Madin," said manager Bily Dearden.
"But yesterday he was back with us and did everything we did and more which was pleasing.
"I am now hopeful all three of them will be fine for Saturday.
"As far as Alex and Ashley are concerned, they have been told to stay away from the club after they were diagnosed as having tonsilitis. We don't want anything like that around.
"No one else has shown any symptoms up to now.
"It really will be a last minute decision on those two."
DEARDEN: PLAYERS WELL-PREPARED FOR NEW SEASON
Evening Post, 09 August 2007
Billy Dearden insists Mansfield Town will be ready for the start despite their pre-season schedule being cut short.
Stags go into Saturday's season opener at Brentford having played just five warm-up games after their clash with Leicester was called off after heavy rain.
But Dearden is certain his players will be raring to go after a 2-1 win against Matlock on Monday.
He said: The players have had three or four games each and that's enough." But he admitted he would like more players to choose from in the squad.
Stags sweating on fitness of four
CHAD website, 07Aug2007, By John Lomas
MANSFIELD Town are sweating on the fitness of four players as they head for Brentford for the season's opening Coca-Cola League Two fixture on Saturday (3pm).
With Jon D'Laryea (ankle) and Simon Brown (ankle) both already sidelined, Stags this week had Dan Martin (calf strain), Martin McIntosh (dead leg), Michael Boulding (tight hamstring) and Alex John-Baptiste (throat infection) battling to be fit.
A tough-looking Carling Cup first round opener at League One Oldham Athletic follows on Tuesday (7.45pm).
Martin, McIntosh and Boulding picked up their knocks in Saturday's disappointing 4-0 home friendly defeat by Huddersfield Town and manager Billy Dearden said: "We could do without it, but it's the same for everyone at this time of season.
"I think Dan Martin's injury is a reccurrence of the one he picked up at Belper. He has the least chance of playing at Brentford though Oldham is a possibility as it gives him four more days to recover.
"Martin has a dead leg on his thigh after a challenge by Danny Cadamarteri and Micky's hamstring is tight, but we are hopeful they will make it."
Dearden conceded it was a very tough opening pair of fixtures.
"Brentford haven't won a game pre-season but they have had tough games against clubs like Southampton and Reading," he said.
"But they are always a hard team to beat. Whenever I have been down there, it is always a difficult place to go and get a result.
"They have a new manager in Terry Butcher, who I know quite well, and almost a completely new team from last season.
"We will go down there and, like every other team on the first day of the new season, we will be full of confidence.
"To then have to go to Oldham on Tuesday, there aren't many more as difficult as that for the first two games of a season.
"Sometimes, though it is good to go to these places right at the start of the season when people don't know too much about you.
"We are looking forward to them and if we set off as we can we can set ourselves up for a good game against Lincoln City in our first home game the Saturday after."
Despite his injury problems, Dearden said it was unlikely he would be adding to his squad before Saturday unless anything unexpected cropped up.
Brentford have 10 new players in the building following their relegation last season - seven permanent signings and three young on-loan Championship players. But they do have problems of their own for Saturday.
Both Karleigh Osborne and Lee Thorpe are suspended following red cards at the end of last season while new signing Craig Pead from Walsall will miss out with injury.
SSA The Official Supporters Club of Mansfield Town still have a handful of seats remaining on their coaches for Stags' first two games to Brentford and Oldham over the next week. Ring SSA on 07967 689597 for more details.
The kick-off for Stags' much-anticipated home game with local rivals Chesterfield on Saturday, 15th September has been moved a second time. On police advice the game will now begin at noon.
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