EVENING POST SEASON PREVIEWS
Mansfield fans should be optimistic, but not expectant for 2010-11
Evening Post website, 4 Aug 2010
SHOULD David Holdsworth find himself without a manager's job at any point in the future, he could always turn his hand to plate- spinning in the circus.
Working at Mansfield Town has ensured he has become accustomed with the challenges of multi-tasking – and quickly.
Whether it be taking training, scouting new talent, meeting potential signings, arranging pre-season friendlies, watching future opponents or overseeing his players' fitness regimes, the busy boss has hardly had time to stop and think.
But if anyone is equipped to deal with the undeniable strain and pressures that brings, it's the affable Londoner.
Holdsworth was known for his cool, calm and considered approach as a player – and he has strived to carry that into his management.
Not everything has run smoothly at Field Mill this summer. An apparent streamlining of his budget, the loss of top scorer Jake Speight and the resignation of chairman Andy Perry are just some of the things he has had to contend with.
But Holdsworth has refused to be flustered and instead got on with his job quietly and, he hopes, effectively.
The Stags gaffer has spent so many hours on the phone this summer in a bid to add to his squad that he probably has a bill equivalent to calling Australia a dozen times a day.
Some targets – Fleetwood striker signing Magno Vieira among them – have fallen by the wayside due to financial demands.
Others may have been put off a move to Mansfield by their unwillingness to travel excessively to play their football.
Yet Holdsworth has not given up working his way through the PFA list of free agents because of those setbacks.
And that has bore fruit in the shape of nine signings to date where the emphasis has largely been on experience and know-how, rather than raw talent.
At 35, Mansfield-born Steve Foster has been there and done it, winning a League One Championship medal at Scunthorpe and also enjoying successful spells at the likes of Doncaster, Darlington and Bristol Rovers.
If the central defender can stay fit and has not lost too much of his speed, he could prove to be an inspirational signing.
Kevin Sandwith, 32, from last season's play-off winners Oxford, is another who has been around the block and should help to fill what was a problematic left-back berth last season.
Central defender Chris Smith, 28, has plenty of games under his belt and was entrusted with the captaincy at Tamworth last season.
Winger Adam Smith, 25, has impressed in pre-season with his direct running and ability to deliver the ball into the box.
After making just one senior appearance for Sheffield United, the tenacious Tyrone Thompson, 28, has won promotion from the Blue Square Bet Premier at Torquay and has also figured for the likes of Halifax, Crawley and Scarborough.
Keigan Parker is the same age as Thompson and could prove to be an astute acquisition.
Having played most of his football at League One and Championship level, as well as in the Scottish Premier, the striker has an undoubted pedigree.
If his fitness and attitude are right and the service into him adequate, he could ensure Speight's £25,000 sale to Bradford City is not one supporters will have cause to regret.
At 23, Mark Preece and Paul Stonehouse – who should also help instil balance on the left – are the youngest of Holdsworth's senior signings.
But they are far from novices, both notching over 100 starts for former club Forest Green.
The only player drafted in who could rightly be dubbed inexperienced is 18-year-old Niall O'Rafferty, the former youth team forward who has signed his first pro contract.
He certainly looks a genuine prospect for the future.
Holdsworth's need to strengthen has derived from a whole host of players being jettisoned at the end of last season and in the weeks and months since.
Not all those players will be directly replaced as Mansfield look to trim the size of their squad – and their wage bill.
But Holdsworth believes the extra versatility of those now at Field Mill can compensate for the fall in numbers. There will also be the loan market to call on.
As always, though, the key to Mansfield's success or otherwise will be how the new players and those already on the books – Alan Marriott, Gary Silk, Matt Somner, Gary Mills, Louis Briscoe and Ryan Williams among them – fuse as a unit.
As has been proved at the highest level in this summer's World Cup, talented individuals do not necessarily make an effective team.
There is much to be said for organisation and togetherness which, especially at this level, can often hold sway.
As for their prospects of winning promotion, it has to be said the Stags are very much up against it.
Competition for a place in the top five has never been hotter.
Stags boss Holdsworth rings the changes again but knows he has to work within his means
Evening Post website, 4 Aug 2010
IT'S rare for a summer at Field Mill to pass by quietly, as boss David Holdsworth knows only too well.
Last summer, the Stags boss was something of a whirling dervish, scouring the country for players he believed would re-invigorate the Stags in the post-Billy McEwan era.
The former Sheffield United and Birmingham City man assembled a sizeable squad as the number of new faces reached double figures.
This year, despite a raft of players being released at the end of 2009-10, the parade of signings has not been quite so lengthy.
That does not mean to say Holdsworth has been sitting back, kicking his heels. Far from it.
He has been forced to work extremely hard with a tight budget to put together a side he believes can compete in this coming season's Blue Square Bet Premier.
Yet Mansfield Town has still been a hive of activity, even with no open chequebook.
Chairman of two years Andy Perry has stepped down, to be replaced by another co-owner Andy Saunders.
The Stags have also lost leading striker Jake Speight after the board decided to sell him to Bradford City for £25,000.
But, even taking into account the testing circumstances, Holdsworth is still buzzing with anticipation at the prospect of a new season.
"I think it's been extremely hard over the last few months, but the most important thing is that the structure at the club is right," he said.
"There have been changes made due to the climate we find ourselves in. Finances dictate where you can go.
"But the signings we have made have been carefully chosen and I'm very pleased with them.
"It is not easy, but I can adapt to it – and so can the club.
"As far as I'm concerned, it is business as usual after the departure of Mr Perry – my focus is on the football.
"Mr Perry and I had a very good working relationship and certainly I wish him and his family all the best for the future.
"But the club has to refocus and adapt, which are the key things.
"When I signed to join Mansfield, I signed for Andy Perry, Andy Saunders and Steve Middleton.
"One may have gone, but the other two are in place and they have been joined by Steve Hymas.
"There may be further developments, who knows, but I will work within my contract to bring success to the club.
"There has been a change for reasons that will remain private, but those men that remain know how I work and I have a good relationship with them."
Mansfield had the luxury of leaving players with regular Conference experience on the sidelines for stretches of last season.
That is a luxury they are unlikely to have to the same degree this time, but Holdsworth is happy to be in charge of a tighter group.
He said: "It's a smaller squad, but I have no problem with that.
"We don't have a reserve side, so we don't want too many players going out on loan or not getting games.
"I think the smaller squad is similar to what exists at some of the other clubs in our division.
"The versatility is something that we can always use to our advantage. It's an important aspect of the game to be able to play in different formations.
"Your Louis Briscoes and Adam Smiths will be people who we can use in different ways depending on how we line up.
"Something like 16 or 17 players have left since the end of last season, but those who have come in are of very good quality."
Some of Mansfield's young players have already shown in pre-season friendlies they may be able to make the step up to senior level.
Holdsworth insists those individuals are likely to get more of an opportunity this term.
"People like Tom Naylor and Lee Gregory will be given a chance because, with the funds that we have, we can't afford to have players on top salaries sitting in the stands," he said.
"Tom and Lee are both aware of the professional standards and they fit in with that, no problem.
"They know what is required and they have trained very well. Neither are entirely ready, we can't put too much on their shoulders too soon.
"But they are both very capable lads if they get the call."
With the kick-off against Forest Green on August 14 fast approaching, Mansfield have recently added Tyrone Thompson, Keigan Parker, Ashley Cain and most recently, experienced striker Paul Connor, from Lincoln, to their ranks.
The biggest challenge for Mansfield is to integrate the quartet into the club's way of working.
Holdsworth said: "One of the difficulties when you are not in a financial position to bring players in early is that you have less time to bed them in.
"You have to hang on and that can mean certain players only have a couple of weeks to get used to the way their new club plays.
"No matter how good the player is, it is going to take time to develop an understanding.
"As a manager, you just have to cross your fingers and hope that comes sooner rather than later."
Although Mansfield offered new and improved terms to Speight, he made it clear he wanted to move on to pastures new.
That was a significant setback for Holdsworth, who had plucked the 17-goal striker from the relative obscurity of Droylsden.
"The situation with Jake Speight was a tough one to handle as a manager," he said.
"You bring someone out of the lower leagues and develop them as a player. You help him through some problems with injuries and then you help to get the best out if him but then, unfortunately, he leaves.
"All managers feel aggrieved at some stage and, after that hard work, that was obviously a disappointing one for me."
Mansfield have notched up some encouraging pre-season performances and Holdsworth believes solving weaknesses on the left side of his team has helped achieve that.
He said: "In pre-season we have had compliments from Sheffield United and Barnsley about the structure of the side, which has looked very good.
"We know they were only friendlies, but it's good to hear things like that from Championship clubs.
"There have been two really big signings for me in the shape of Paul Stonehouse and Kevin Sandwith, because the left-hand side was where we were conceding the most goals.
"That pair can help to solve the issue down that side. It's imperative if you are going to do well that you don't have an area that is weak."
The summer months has seen Holdsworth appoint an assistant manager for the first time in the shape of Duncan Russell.
The Stags boss has been delighted with the work of the former Blackburn, Walsall, MK Dons and Macclesfield man.
Holdsworth said: "Russ has been excellent and the boys have taken to his approach.
"He's a disciplinarian like myself and he expects high standards. The boys understand he will do things to a high level.
"I know I can trust Russ to take the lads out on the training ground and his experience is invaluable.
"Russ is a commanding influence and I enjoy working with him."
Mansfield possessed an excellent scoring record last season, but no side in the top half of the table leaked more goals.
"The second half of last season was a disappointment. We were scoring goals for fun at first," added Holdsworth.
"But then we started to let in sloppy goals and some of the players have to take responsibility for that.
"I'm hoping the extra maturity of the players we have added – such as your Steve Fosters, Chris Smiths and Kevin Sandwiths – can help the younger defenders.
"Even so the likes of Stonehouse and (Mark) Preece have already made three figures in terms of appearances, so they know what this league is all about.
"We finished four points off sixth place in the end last season – and that was after having six points taken off us when Chester pulled out.
"There were certain games that we drew when we shouldn't – both the players and I know that.
"We were also having to play square pegs in round holes because of people being out.
"Certainly we can aim for a similar position, but it is an extremely tough league where a lot of clubs are trying to make their mark.
"The two teams who have come down (Grimsby and Darlington) have the finance and can attract the crowds. They have the parachute payments too.
"And there are plenty of other clubs who will be having a go as well."
Still, Mansfield will still believe they can be up there – even if, as seems to be the norm, there has been relatively little calm before the storm of a new campaign.
Army experiences have served Stags assistant well
Evening Post website, 4 Aug 2010
AS a former member of the Army, Duncan Russell is hoping to help Mansfield Town first team run with military precision in 2010-11.
Although formerly on the books of Andover and Yeovil Town as a player, it is in the services where the Stags' new reserve team manager really earned his stripes.
In serving for 22 years, he played to a very high standard, the Army team taking on the likes of Wimbledon reserves, Jersey and Guernsey and other representative sides.
It is the environment in which ex-Stags striker Phil Stant flourished, as well as the likes of Guy Whittingham. who went on to play for Portsmouth and Aston Villa.
But Russell has been just as successful, if not more so, in various off-the-field roles since hanging up his boots.
He was a senior army coach and also took charge of the combined services team which included players capable of playing at Conference level.
Russell went on to manage at Havant Town – his only time as a club number one – before establishing a terrific reputation as a physio and fitness coach.
He has worked at a host of Football League clubs, including Blackburn, Wolves, Derby, Walsall, MK Dons and Macclesfield.
Now, after joining the Stags, he is striving to add to promotions at Molineux, the Bescot Stadium and Stadium:mk.
"Mansfield's a very ambitious club. The manager, chairman and players all want to do well," said Russell.
"When you look at the club and how it is run, it should not be in the Blue Square, it should be in the Football League.
"It is very well organised and close knit. At Premier League clubs, it seems like they have thousands of staff to do everything.
"But here they all muck in and double up with their jobs and I like the fact they are prepared to do that.
"It is similar to when I was with Paul Ince when he first started out at Macclesfield.
"I know David Holdsworth is very ambitious, has a great approach to the game and strikes up a good rapport with his players.
"He has played at a good level himself and I like the way he works.
"He also knows how I operate and I think we are both looking forward to working together in the coming season.
"I have worked at a good level of football throughout the divisions, but I started out at senior level in the Conference, so I know what type of thing to expect."
It was a chance meeting that brought the new management team together.
Holdsworth was out at Chatsworth House doing a feature for the Mansfield programme, while Russell was on a day trip to the Duke of Devonshire's estate.
Both men got more than they bargained for in the Derbyshire countryside and led to the pair rekindling a working relationship established a decade before.
Russell said: "I was working at Walsall when David was still a player and worked with him at Milton Keynes Dons when he was coaching the defenders.
"David then got the job at Ilkeston, while I followed Paul Ince to Blackburn Rovers.
"But when Paul left I decided not to continue there under the new manager so I left.
"I had been out of the game for a while when I bumped into him at Chatsworth. We got talking and it all went from there."
Russell arrives at Mansfield at a time when they have just closed their Centre of Excellence for youngsters aged nine to 16.
Instead, the club are looking at joining forces with the local youth league to ensure the best of the town's talent does not slip through the net.
With the youth team to be taken on by a new manager following the departure of Gareth Holmes to Burton Albion, Russell is still hopeful the club can produce the next generation of Alex John-Baptistes.
But he knows there is never a guarantee, whatever structure is in place.
"It is a case of having to work with it," said Russell. "The board have made a decision and it's not for me to say whether it's the right one.
"Everyone would like to have lots of money to pump into a youth system, but if you haven't go the money it makes it very difficult.
"The trouble is that you can pour the cash in and only get one player come through to the senior team from each crop – or none at all.
"It is very much a hit and miss thing and you never know when you are going to strike it lucky.
"Tom Huddlestone was as big as he was now at 14 at Derby but he looked a little bit clumsy. However, he developed and made it through.
"Then you get other kids who shine from day one but don't make it through. It's hard to predict how things will turn out."
Russell has a wealth of experience under his belt and hopes to use that to good effect at Field Mill.
He said: "I have got my UEFA A licence which I did ten to 12 years ago now. I have run courses in the services and for the FA.
"I have always tried to do things professionally and give players respect and hopefully I then get theirs.
"A lot of my work is with the ball, so hopefully the players will enjoy it.
"I'm not a mad disciplinarian but I do believe in good discipline. Players should always be punctual and professional – after all they are being paid to do it.
"I also have experience on the sports science side of things, which I have utilised at all the clubs I have been at."
Russell has been encouraged by what he has seen since first encountering the Mansfield squad.
"I have been quite impressed with the players, especially with their fitness and physique," he said.
"The good thing these days is that players want to look good, in good shape, that's the vogue.
"The players have been in and out over the summer. They have had to put in so many sessions and they have had a training programme to keep themselves in shape.
"You have to do it now. Gone are the days when you come back and start from scratch in pre-season.
"I remember one year when I was in the Army and Southampton came to train with us and they expected us to get them fit in the space of a week! Of course, it doesn't happen like that.
"They look pretty hungry as well, which is perhaps because they are so keen to get back into the Football League.
"I will try to motivate the players as best I can but they seem like they will be pretty determined to succeed."
It is not just the players who has been working hard – Russell has also been swotting up to ensure he is not caught out.
He said: "One thing I did come to realise quickly was that I didn't know enough about players at this level.
"But when I knew I might be coming in I went to watch as many games as I could at the end of last season and I have also been doing my research on websites to familiarise myself."
In a few months time, Russell is sure to know both his own players and Mansfield's opposition like the back of his hand. With, he hopes, the Stags as play-off contenders.
Sandwith keen to prove his worth at Stags
Evening Post website, 4 Aug 2010
KEVIN Sandwith did not know quite how to feel when his team clinched promotion back to the Football League.
As part of last season's Oxford United squad, he was delighted the club had achieved their pre-season goal with play-off final victory over York City.
But, at the same time, the left-back's emotions were tinged with disappointment after missing out on the chance to play at Wembley.
Sandwith, 32, was desperate to appear at the home of English football – and his hopes were raised when he had a late-season run in the side, having been far from a regular before that.
But the Workington-born player was given just two minutes as a substitute in the away leg of Oxford's semi-final with Rushden.
He also lost out to Anthony Tonkin in the second leg and the subsequent 3-1 win over the Minstermen under the famous arch.
Sandwith does not want such bittersweet moments again. If Mansfield are to win promotion, he wants to play a central role rather than be a peripheral figure.
"I made 20-odd appearances for Oxford over the course of the season," he said. "I had been in the side for the last few games.
"But I was left out for the play-off semi-finals and final. It was a disappointment not to get on and play at Wembley.
"Even so, the celebrations with the rest of the players are something I will remember for a long time.
"Hopefully, that is something we can replicate again this season at Mansfield.
"Everything has been good so far. Training has been hard but at the same time enjoyable.
"Every club is different with their pre-season and this is one of the hardest I've had. But all the lads have come together well.
"We had some decent results in pre-season, beating two Championships sides (Sheffield United and Barnsley) and keeping clean sheets in the process.
"Of course, pre-season results don't count for anything and we are well aware of that.
"But at the same time it's always good to get some wins early on and get some confidence under the belt."
Mansfield is Sandwith's tenth port of call after coming through the ranks at Carlisle United.
Having turned out for Telford United, Doncaster Rovers, Halifax Town, Lincoln City, Macclesfield Town, Chester City and Weymouth, he can boast plenty of experience at Football League and Blue Square Bet Premier level.
And having been around so may different clubs, it is hardly surprising that some familiar faces have greeted his arrival at Field Mill.
Sandwith said: "I played with Mazza (Alan Marriott) at Lincoln, Fozzie (Steve Foster) at Doncaster and Willo (Ryan Williams) at Weymouth.
"It is good to already know some of the lads you are going to be playing with.
"But we still have to gel as a team and a squad if we are going to do well, which is what we have been trying to do in pre-season.
"We have a few new players who are going to make up the back four and we are hoping to improve the defensive record.
"But it is not just about the back four, but the midfield and forwards as well working hard to close the opposition down."
Relegated Grimsby and Darlington are just two of a clutch of clubs bidding to be in the play-off frame as a minimum come the end of the season.
Last season's runners-up Luton, big-spending Crawley, Cambridge, Wrexham, York, Rushden, AFC Wimbledon and newcomers Newport County and Fleetwood Town all have ambitious plans too.
Sandwith believes it is becoming increasingly difficult to get back into English football's elite 92.
"The standard in the Blue Square now with two sides coming down from the league every season seems to get better and better, which makes it harder and harder to get out of," he said.
"Grimsby are a big club and will be strong this season, Luton have kept much of their squad together that almost did it last season and then there are other teams like Crawley throwing the money about.
"The play-offs have not been around that long in this league and it was tough to win it when just one went up.
"It is still really hard now, though, because there has been an increase in quality. At least if you are in the top five come the end of the season, you have a chance.
"If you can make that, then you never know what is going to happen."
Parker vows to make success of time with Mansfield Town
Evening Post website, 7 Aug 2010
HE'S scored against Celtic and Rangers in the Scottish Premier League. He's scored in a victory at Wembley. Keigan Parker clearly has a taste for the big occasion.
But the big question is can the striker produce the goods for Mansfield Town in the less glamorous surroundings of the Blue Square Bet Premier League?
In coming to Field Mill, Parker is playing at the lowest level he ever has in his senior career.
At non-league level, the 28-year-old former Scottish U21 international should have the class to make a serious impression having dropped down two divisions following his release by Oldham.
But balanced against that is two seasons of struggle at first Huddersfield and then the Latics, as well as two goalless loan spells at Hartlepool and Bury.
Speaking to Livingston-born Parker, it is clear he is determined to get back to his best after signing a one-year deal.
No one is more disappointed than the player himself that his career has stalled after starring in Blackpool's promotion from League One to the Championship in 2006-2007.
And he reckons Mansfield, under the management of David Holdsworth, is just the place to get back to top form – and among the goals.
"I came here because I wanted to get my career back on track and I believe that's what I can do," said Parker.
"I was playing in the Championship two or three years ago but things haven't really gone to plan since then.
"First, I wasn't offered a new contract at Blackpool.
"I moved on to what was a big club in Huddersfield but, just after I'd signed, they got a new manager and he wanted to bring in his own players.
"Then I went to Oldham as a striker but I played half of my games there out of position stuck on the right wing, which was disappointing.
"I have come here to do my best not just for myself, but for the club and in the coming weeks, I hope the fans will see what I'm all about.
"My strengths are getting in behind defenders and causing them problems, which can help me create goals for others as well as score them.
"Other players have stepped down and done well – and I want to do the same."
The Blue Square Bet Premier is well known for being one of the toughest of all leagues to play in.
That is unlikely to be any different this season with a host of former League clubs and the likes of well-backed Crawley, Fleetwood and Newport all vying for a place in the Football League.
But the diminutive Parker said: "I wouldn't have thought the physical side of things would be a problem for me.
"I spent a few years playing in the Scottish Premier League from when I was 16 – and that's one of the most physical leagues around.
"You get to know how to handle yourself and I'm sure this season will be no different to what I've seen before."
Stags are far from favourites to win promotion back to the elite 92 at what would be the third time of asking for them.
But Parker, who opened his Stags account with a penalty in the 3-1 friendly victory over Eastwood, has been encouraged by what he has seen from a new-look Stags squad trimmed from 2009-2010.
Mansfield play their final senior friendly of pre-season at Blue Square Bet North promotion hopefuls Alfreton Town today.
"We are under no illusions it is going to be hard this season with so many big clubs coming down to this level over the past six or seven years," said Parker.
"But we have played some decent stuff in pre-season against some good sides.
"The aim is to carry that into the start of the season proper, get a good start and then go from there."
Smith bids for second crack at Football League with Stags
Evening Post website, 4 Aug 2010
CHRIS Smith is living proof that being released by a Football League club is by no means the end of the road for a player.
A few years further down the line, his career has gathered fresh momentum and he is now hoping to get back to the elite 92 as part of a promotion-winning Mansfield Town team.
Derby-born Smith was one of a plethora of players on the books of Reading who never got the opportunity to prove themselves at first team level.
He didn't have much more luck at next club York City, where, after making 88 appearances over two-and-a-half seasons, the Minstermen were relegated out of the Football League and he was left club-less again.
From their, the only way was down into non-league – but Smith did not feel sorry for himself and sulk.
Instead, he took his 'medicine' in the lower leagues, playing for first Stafford Rangers and then Worcester City.
His next move was to Tamworth, where he captained the Lambs to the Blue Square North title in 2008-2009 before helping them consolidate at the higher level last season.
The 28-year-old was offered fresh terms to stay at the New Lamb in 2010-11 after his deal ran out at the end of the season.
He listened to what manager Gary Mills – the former Forest European Cup winner – had to say.
But, in the final reckoning, ambition outweighed his loyalty to the Staffordshire club and prompted a move north to Mansfield.
Smith is optimistic his journey can go full circle and back to the Football League.
"I had two years at Reading as a YT and two years as a professional," he said. "But there were 42 professionals on the books there when I left when Alan Pardew was in charge and I knew I was never going to get a chance.
"My name was circulated by my agent and that's when I moved on to York when they were still in the Football League.
"It was a better chance of first team football but they were relegated and so, even though I had signed an extension for a third year, they couldn't afford to stick to that contract.
"I played at Stafford for a year and then Worcester for three years, but there is no point just being happy where you are.
"As a footballer you should always want to progress, even if you do have to drop down before you can move back up.
"I have managed to do that in the last couple of years and now I am hoping to continue that here.
"It would be great to get back into the League and hopefully I can stay here and do that with Mansfield.
"In one way it was hard to leave Tamworth because I won a league championship there and Gary Mills along with Darron Gee helped me on and off the field and I have got nothing but good things to say about them.
"The deal they put to me wasn't really enough, but then when I knew Mansfield were interested, it was an easy decision."
Smith is already well aware of Mansfield's history and their ambitions to get back in the Football League.
"I was delighted with the interest from a side looking to get promoted," he said. "Mansfield are a big club in this league.
"There have the right foundations to be a league club and I'm sure it will be again one day.
"It was the ambition that attracted me and you have to have that ambition and drive to succeed as a player, I believe."
Smith, was known at Tamworth as being a tough, uncompromising player with a winning mentality.
It is those qualities that attracted David Holdsworth to pursue him to help stiffen a backline that leaked 60 goals last season – more than any other club that finished in the top half of the league table.
"I'm a centre half so I try to read the game well, win the ball and get stuck in," said Smith.
"I try to pass the ball out if I can but if the ball needs to go, then it goes. I like to lead from the front and organise.
"We had a decent defensive record at Tamworth and that's what I'm here to do.
"At Tamworth we had the philosophy that we defended as an 11 and I'm sure that will happen here.
"I take pride in keeping clean sheets and that's what I'm wanting plenty of.
"We had a run of ten games at Tamworth where we only conceded twice – before we lost 4-2 to Mansfield.
"You do have to build from the back, but it's also about defending from the front that helps you achieve that."
Smith's target will be to assist the Stags in conceding considerably less goals than the 52 Tamworth did last season.
If he can, then that dream return to League Two might just be in the offing.
Connor ready to put injury nightmare behind him at Mansfield Town
Evening Post website, 4 Aug 2010
PAUL Connor is determined to put his injury nightmare behind him by firing the goals to fuel a Mansfield Town play-off challenge.
The 31-year-old striker was sidelined for six months last season at Lincoln City with knee ligament damage.
Now back to full fitness, the man who cost four of his former clubs a combined £250,000 in transfer fees, has hit the ground running since signing a one-year deal at Field Mill.
He has netted four goals in his last two friendlies against Buxton and Hucknall, helping the Stags to 4-2 and 6-1 wins – and can't wait for the season to start for real.
"It's been a nice start for me. The most important thing is just to get back playing because last season was so frustrating," said Connor.
"I had the injury which kept me out for months and then I couldn't get back in the team after that.
"There was a change of manager as well, which didn't help and I have come here to enjoy playing again.
"If I'm enjoying my game then I know I can score goals.
"It's going to be tough this season, but, when the manager told me about the squad he was assembling, I was very excited and I think we can do well."
Meanwhile, boss David Holdsworth was set to run the rule over Luke Medley and Jordan Fairclough in a hastily-arranged friendly at Nuneaton last night.
Unless he signs any of his current trialists, Holdsworth is set to stick with what he has got for the new campaign.
He said: "We always want to add quality to the squad when we can.
"But I don't want to mess around with things too much now. I want a settled side as we go into the season."
Alan Marriott (stomach) is hoping to return to training today and put himself in the frame to play in Mansfield's final pre-season game at Alfreton on Saturday.
Lee Gregory (heel) is bidding to return later this week.
Evening Post website, 4 Aug 2010
Manager: David Holdsworth.
Ground: Field Mill.
Nickname: The Stags.
Last season: 9th.
Ins: Adam Smith (York), Chris Smith (Tamworth). Steve Foster (Blyth Spartans), Kevin Sandwith (Oxford), Paul Stonehouse (Forest Green), Mark Preece (Forest Green), Keigan Parker (Oldham), Tyrone Thompson (Torquay), Ashley Cain (Coventry), Paul Connor (Lincoln)
Outs: Jon Shaw (Gateshead), Luke Foster (Stevenage), Luke Jones (Forest Green), Paul Heckingbottom (Gateshead), Craig Armstrong (Forest Green), Jake Speight (Bradford City), Kyle Perry (Tamworth), Scott Garner (Grimsby), Michael Brough (Darlington), Andy Burgess (Chester), Jon Challinor, Scott Gardner, Ollie Hotchkiss, Blair Sturrock, Grant Ryan, Jason Bradley.
Betting odds: 22-1.
Prospects: Have finished ninth and 12th in the last two seasons and bid for further progression and a play-off place this time. Much could depend on their new players after another busy summer turnaround of staff.
Birtles: It's so tough for Mansfield Town to get out of the Conference
Evening Post website, 4 Aug 2010
MANSFIELD Town don't need me to tell them just how tough it is to get out of the Conference.
The very fact that this is their third season in the division is testimony to that.
But, with every passing year, it only becomes harder for them to escape.
And, with Darlington and Grimsby having gone down, it will certainly be a much tougher task this time around.
There are two sorts of teams that challenge for promotion at that level – those with the money to attract the best players; those that could maybe still have the quality to play in League One or Two and those who are well organised, hard-working and physically strong.
Mansfield, without doubt, have a stadium that is set up for League football, as well as the fan base to match.
But they no longer have the finances to fit themselves into the first category.
So it is down to David Holdworth to ensure that they are not short of that hard-working, unified spirit that might just give them a chance.
When you look at the teams who do come up from the fifth tier, they nearly always do well in League Two. In fact, many of them often win promotion again.
That is a sign of the quality you need to get out of that division.
Hopefully, Mansfield will prove that they have that level of ability in the coming months.
Burns: Mansfield are in for a season of struggle
Evening Post website, 4 Aug 2010
WHEN they first went down in 2008, I said it was important they wasted no time in getting back into the Football League.
But, Mansfield Town are now set to embark on a third campaign in the Conference.
They have failed to make the play-offs the last two years and now the parachute payments they received have ended.The task in hand is even harder. I fear for them when it comes to their chances of winning promotion.
There are teams out there with bigger budgets and the longer they stay in non-league, the harder it will be to attract the crowds.
They are working hard to try to generate income with concerts at Field Mill, including Westlife. I just hope it pays off for the club and generates the money needed to bolster the squad.
But with concerts and ground sharing with Glapwell, it will take its toll on the pitch, which not help later in the season.
It is going to be a tough season ahead for Mansfield. I would love to see them win the league or at least make the play-offs.
My worry – and I hope I am proved wrong – is this will be a season of disappointment for Stags fans.