NON-LEAGUE PAPER: COX BRINGS FUN BACK TO MANSFIELD
Cox Brings Fun Back To Mansfield
by Stuart Hammonds
NLP, 11 March 2012
MANSFIELD TOWN are going through a rebirthing so it's useful that manager Paul Cox knows all about babies – in both a footballing and a paternal sense.
There are few clubs at which the fans ever sing the name of the chairman, unless it's followed by the word 'Out'. I've heard it at Stevenage, when Phil Wallace's name has echoed around Broadhall Way a couple of times. But other than that, I'm struggling.
Until the 165 Stags who travelled to Cambridge on Tuesday chanted 'There's only one John Radford', in reverence to the lifelong fan buying back the freehold to Field Mill.
It has breathed new life into the 115-year-old club in that they now have the goal of regaining their League status to aim for. Manager Cox has already done that in terms of results – and he has previous.
Cast your mind back to late January last year, and Cox's then-club Eastwood Town dropped to fourth-bottom in BSB North when their game with Droylsden was postponed.
They soon embarked on a club record run of 19 games unbeaten to finish fourth, yet unable to enter the play-offs due to ground grading.
Cox's side lost just one of their final 26 matches. It was the kind of form Coronation Park regulars became accustomed to in his five years at the helm, rising from the foot of UniBond Division One to the verge of Non-League's top-flight.
Tuesday's win at the Abbey was Mansfield's fourth in a row since a 1-0 reversal at Newport on February 18, taking them into the play-off spots with 11 games to go. They travelled to Tamworth yesterday having lost just one of 11, winning seven of the last nine.
Former Notts County defender Cox, 40, is an engaging character. Ask him a question and he'll give you an epic answer, laced with honesty and common sense. In the era of the soundbite, his down-to-earth, candid persona is appreciated – like that of his opposite number on the night, Jez George, it should also be said.
As he stuck around in the Abbey press box after the post-match interviews, he explained that partner Natasha handing him eight-month-old daughter Ellie-May makes him switch off from the cut and thrust of a promotion push that seemed at one stage, like Eastwood's last year, to have gone off line.
“It changes you,doesn't it?” he said. “Before when I lost a game, I'd sulk and over-analyse things. Now I'm given the baby to look after and it gives you a sense of perspective. Football isn't pressure. It's a great job. You just have to remember that things can change so quickly.”
That's why he's making sure his players smile their way through the season.“I'm not trying to con anyone or anything like that,” says Cox.
“I've just told the lads to put smiles on their faces, work hard and embrace it.
“You can put a lot of pressure on yourself in this business, especially at this tail end of the season. What we're trying to do is enjoy it. In training, the lads fool around now and we put a smile on their faces.
“We are going into games and know we're working hard, maybe not playing as well as we can, but still embracing it and enjoying it – and grinding out results. These lads don't know when to lie down.”
Like ten days previously at home to Tamworth, those players had to come back from a goal behind to beat the U's 2-1.
Mansfield have some excellent footballers. When they get it down, Gary Roberts is up there with the top playmakers in the division.
Luke O'Neill is a fine prospect at right-back and with Louis Briscoe and Matt Green in attack, pace, direct running and goals are constant threats.
They were quite direct at Cambridge, and target man Ross Dyer won everything aimed at him in the air. He headed his sixth goal of the season and looked as if he had the hunger to progress, as his old Hednesford strike partner Tyrone Barnett has in sealing a £1.2m move from Crawley to Championship Peterborough just 18 months after I watched him score on his League debut for Macclesfield at Stevenage.
“I know he's had some stick this season, but he's 23 and he's got qualities a lot of people in football would like,” said Cox. “He's starting to learn his trade now in how to position himself and get across people, but he's a baby for the kind of player he is. The kid's got a bright future if he keeps learning as he does.”
So do Cox and his reborn Mansfield – especially now his possible football ground-hog day scenario has been removed
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