ANDY PERRY: HOW STAGS HAVE TURNED IT AROUND
Perry: How Stags have turned it around
Evening Post, December 21, 2009
LAST Christmas was a far from peaceful occasion for Mansfield Town's Andy Perry, but he can expect the 2009 festivities to prove far more relaxing.
Twelve months ago the Stags chairman spent as much time on the telephone and in meetings as he did in front of a log fire with a glass of sherry.
Indeed, it was Christmas Eve when David Holdsworth emerged from talks revealing he had been offered the vacant manager's post, after the sacking of Billy McEwan in mid-December.
Just a few days later, after the former Sheffield United and Birmingham player had tied up a few loose ends with previous club Ilkeston Town, he was appointed as Mansfield boss before the home game with eventual champions Burton Albion.
Perry admits he had one or two sleepless nights last winter – and not because he was excited about what Santa would bring.
But now, with the hindsight of how events have transpired, he is adamant the decision made by himself and his board has been vindicated.
It is easy to see why. Mansfield started the year 18th in the Blue Square Premier, two points above the drop zone. They are now fourth and in the play-off places.
"Apart from buying the club, which was obviously a huge thing, then getting the right manager is probably the next most important thing," said Perry.
"The responsibility to get it right is immense. You are trying to do the right thing for the club and the town and that one decision is key.
"You do lie in bed wondering what the fans are going to make of the appointment and it is very easy to go for a name they might recognise.
"There was a lot of talk about Richie Barker as a fans' favourite, but we had to look through that.
"People would probably have recognised Dean Holdsworth more than brother David at the time.
"But we were doing the interviews and there was a feeling after ten minutes that he had all the things we wanted rolled into one.
"I think David coming on board has been an important step for the club. When we first took over we didn't know the difference between each manager and whether they would be suitable.
"But you come to realise you want someone with the right ethics and a realisation of how a club should be run.
"The first time I was involved a little bit at board level I saw how Keith Curle worked and the organisation he brought and you assume that's what all managers do.
"But I have learned now that there are different types. We have tried to get the balance between having a good man manager and a coach – and I think in David we have that."
Perry's unswerving faith in his appointment has led him, in April, to agree a contract with Holdsworth until the summer of 2013. The initial agreement ran until 2011.
He believes the close bond they have – unified by their desire to return Mansfield to the Football League – is a massive plus.
Perry said: "I think we do get on personally very well – and I think that's important.
"I don't overstep the mark with regard to the football side. We do talk about the games and if he asks me my opinion then I will give it, but that's as far as it goes.
"At the same time he understands where I am coming from when talking about off-the-field matters.
"If a home game is called off that can affect your planning and whether you can afford for the team to stay overnight or whether they have to travel on the day.
"There is a very good working relationship and the trust has grown."
Perry has quickly come to recognise some of the qualities that have made Holdsworth a success in his short managerial career so far.
Before Ilkeston, the 41-year-old picked up valuable knowledge coaching in Scotland with Gretna.
"David's working within a budget is excellent. He totally understands the importance of it and sticking to it," said Perry.
"Like any manager, he is always pushing for a bit more, pushing a piece of paper in front of me, but I would be worried if he wasn't.
"He is showing the ambition and progression you like to see, but he can also see things from a financial point of view.
The chairman also admires the way Holdsworth is able to deal individually with his squad of players.
Perry said: "When we had an issue with injuries and there was a bit of pressure to go into the market, he managed the situation.
"The problem for us is you can't always account for injured players. You just can't afford to cover your cover.
"At that point David showed what a good man manager he is. He played some players out of position because of the size of the squad but the results have still been good.
"And he has also treated the players in their best interests. Maybe in a busy period he might have only asked one or two of the older players to train twice a week.
"Some of the youngsters who are not involved, who need the work may have trained four times in that same week."
More than 30 players – some who have now moved on – have been signed by Holdsworth in less than a year.
It contrasts greatly with predecessor McEwan, who largely stuck with the squad he assembled at the start of 2008-2009.
But Perry insists that has been by choice rather than a greater backing for one over the other.
"With Billy McEwan there was money still there to be spent but he was waiting for January all the time," he said.
"I have been to dinners like those for Ron Atkinson and David O'Leary where they have said if you have got a budget as a manager, then you should always spend it.
"If you don't and rely on kids, then you are on the road to the sack, which is what happened. For Billy, January never came.
"When David started he signed a lot of players straight away and not many left immediately, which tells its own story about what was in the pot."
Of those who have joined the Field Mill staff, Perry believes three of Holdsworth signings have shone like beacons.
He said: "I think the best signings have been Alan Marriott, Scott Garner and Louis Briscoe, who I believe has got a lot of talent and will come through.
"It's the spine of the team that's important and that has by and large been very strong.
"I don't think David has always been entirely comfortable with the midfield, but you can't argue about anywhere else.
"He brought back Rob Duffy who was given a chance under Billy McEwan but then not signed on. Rob's now leading scorer.
"But I think the nature of the man dictates that things have been built from the back. You wouldn't expect anything less from someone who has captained two Premiership sides."
Not surprisingly, Perry is pleased with the overall progress of Mansfield and Holdsworth.
He cites an excellent league home record as evidence the club is on the right track after several seasons of disappointment.
"I think the way things have gone overall this year have been very satisfying," said Perry. "We took over in a rush six months prior to that and we went into it hell for leather.
"It's amazing when you look back now, but at the time we didn't realise what we were up against. If we'd have known we might well not have done it, but sometimes you have to take a gamble. We did and now we have come out the other side.
"If you look back over the last 12 months at home then we have done very well at home.
"There can't be many seasons when we have only lost one league game at Field Mill in a calendar year – that's if we don't lose to Cambridge (on December 28) of course!
"Even the loss we did suffer (against Stevenage) was when we had been down to ten men and had been leading.
"And with the squad as is it now compared to what it was at the end of 2008, I think there has been a definite, gradual progression."
Few Stags supporters who remember past troubles would disagree with that.
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