MATTY BLAIR SIGNS NEW CONTRACT/NO LOAN KEEPER
Blair is back on the books
mansfieldtown.net, 26th August 2015
Mansfield Town are pleased to announce that winger, Matty Blair, has signed a new contract at the club following his long-term injury lay-off.
The ex-Fleetwood Town man made just three appearances for the Stags last season before succumbing to a cruciate knee ligament injury against Carlisle United in January.
Read more at http://www.mansfieldtown.net/news/article/blair-is-back-on-the-books-2648113.aspx#azFMvioi4qepQAoZ.99
Blair has worked hard to regain his fitness over the last seven months and has now signed an incentive-based contract for the coming season.
The wing man is pleased with his rehab, and is now looking forward to getting involved with the first-team squad again: “It’s been a good process, obviously the injury was shocking at the time but the rehab so far has gone as well as I think it could’ve gone. So now it’s just the last month or so when hopefully I’ll be back in full swing.”
Remembering how his injury occurred, Blair thought he had ‘got away with it’ as after his knee was put back into place, he felt no pain.
“[We played] Carlisle away, [it was the] 65th minute or something and I jumped over a slide tackle and then all of a sudden, the twist and the landing at the same time popped my knee.
“It was unfortunate because it can happen to anyone, then it’s just the rehab now, getting back through it and working hard to get as strong as possible.
“I think the hard bit is getting in your head that, potentially, you’re going to be out for nine months. I was coming to a new club, wanting to help out and that’s the difficult bit.”
Part of Blair’s rehab has taken place at St George’s Park, the FA’s National Football Centre, and the ex-York City man is pleased with how he has progressed.
“Once I had the operation it was just teaching this new ligament how to work. It was literally like being a kid again and learning how to walk. I’ve had a lot of advice but I’ve always worked hard to get back to where I am now.
“I’ve had to keep myself quite calm about it. I’m pretty bad when it comes to looking after myself but I’ve kept myself grounded as much as I can and now we’re just getting to that final stage. This is the important part now where I can’t go too far, too fast.
“The next couple of weeks will be frustrating. I got involved in my first training session last week, I got involved in my first passing drill yesterday and everything is feeling good so ill be thinking ‘why can’t I get involved with the five-a-side?’ but I know I can’t because it’s contact stuff, so I just need to keep ticking boxes.”
After getting a taste of playing for the Stags last season, Blair is looking forward to pulling on the amber and blue again in the near future.
“It will be a big day for me. It’ll be one of those moments in life where you won’t forget it. After being out [injured] for seven months, to come back and even if it’s just three minutes at the end [of a game] to waste some time for us to win a game it’ll be a decent way to come back.”
Although this Saturday’s game against Blair’s former club, York City, is too early for his return, the winger will be supporting his team-mates from the stands.
“I’m going up to the game and I’ll see some people that I haven’t seen for a while and support the lads. The main priority now is winning for Mansfield so hopefully we’ll get the three points.
“It’s an old-fashioned ground, the fans are ‘on top of you’ and you’ve got to be on your game for the full 90 minutes," he added.
To hear more from Matty Blair, log on to Stags Player.
Murray ‘over the moon’ with Blair signing
mansfieldtown.net, 26th August 2015
Stags’ boss Adam Murray believes the signing of Matty Blair adds even more quality to his tight-knit squad.
The ex-York City winger put pen-to-paper on an incentive-based deal this morning, and Murray is pleased with how Blair’s recovery has progressed.
“We’re over the moon that he’s agreed to join us, and it’ll be a contract that suits us and the club. It is incentive and fitness based and we’ve got the option to extend it at the end of the season.
Read more at http://www.mansfieldtown.net/news/article/murray-over-the-moon-with-blair-signing-2648330.aspx#ELrpCT82ZLuq4fUK.99
“Matty’s had a serious injury but he’s worked very hard. He's had a couple of stints at St George’s Park which have been beneficial to him and we’re lucky in the fact that Matty is one of these lads that’s naturally fit, so his healing process is quicker than what we thought [it would be] and he’s looking strong.
“It’s a massive boost for the squad, he’s got another week at St George’s Park next week which they call a ‘return to play week’ where he’ll be pushed to his limits, physically, for fitness and then he’ll come back ready to go.”
Murray believes that the signing of Blair will only add to the competition which is already present in his squad.
“It’s a squad that’s packed with quality, even though it’s quite small. Everybody’s pushing each other, everybody has a chance of playing and Matty coming back into the picture gives us more competition, not just in the wide areas.
“He can play up front, he can play in the ’10’ role behind the striker and at Fleetwood he played in a midfield three as one of the attacking ones, so he gives us that versatility.”
Our boss is content with how his team have started the season, but wants to keep the players focussed on their long-term goal.
“We had a meeting with the lads yesterday and it’s about carrying on the belief of what we believe in and [what] we’re about.
“When we do get to the full package of what I believe we can bring to this league then we’re going to be a real force. We’ve seen bits and bobs through the games that we’ve had so far and when that comes together then I really believe that we can affect this league.
“We’re looking to the boys now to understand that we’ve got certain strengths in our team and we need to make sure that we set about games to enable those strengths to come out.”
The gaffer believes that everyone associated with the club is balanced and realistic in terms of their goals for the season, and hopes that continues in order to succeed this season.
“I do believe that there is a truly good balance around the football club at the minute, we want to succeed, and we want to break into that top seven. There’s a balance that we know that we’re a progressing team and I think people are seeing the bigger picture, and that makes me really happy.
“If we win on Saturday then we’ve hit our targets for the month so that puts us on course to be in the top seven.
“I’m not looking at anything else; I’m not looking at mid-table, I’m not looking about surviving, I want this team and this club to push forward this season and that’s going to take a lot of hard work and a lot of discipline.”
Just a few games into his first full season as a manager, Murray says he is 'learning everyday' and everybody around the club is in a positive frame of mind.
"I really am enjoying it. I'm working with a group of players who I think are extremely good, not just football-wise but they work so hard, they want to learn, everyday they’re pushing me for something new, which as a coach or a manager you can’t ask for anymore.
"Everything is positive; I look at the fans and they’re positive, the people behind-the-scenes can’t work any harder at the minute, everything is moving forward. I'm happy and I’m privileged to be working for Mansfield Town at the minute because I do believe it’s a club on the up."
To hear more from the gaffer, go to Stags Player.
Brother’s illness fight was Matty Blair’s inspiration for Mansfield Town comeback
chad.co.uk, by John Lomas, Wednesday 26 August 2015
Matty Blair said his brother’s successful battle against a brain tumour helped to inspire him to come back from a serious knee injury that threatened his career.
It has been a tough year in the Blair family as, while Matty tried to return from a serious knee injury sustained at Carlisle on 31st January, older brother Ross continued to battle against the odds against his tumour.
However, this month has seen great news for both brothers as Ross was told he was winning his battle and Blair this week signed a new contract with the Stags and is expected to play again by the end of next month.
“He’s doing really well,” he said on brother Ross. “He got diagnosed with a brain tumour in February 2014. Since then he has undergone chemo and radiotherapy and two or three weeks ago he had his MRI scan and consultant meeting to say the chemotherapy is containing what’s left of the tumour which is probably the best news we could get.
“So I think he will be scanned every couple of months now to make sure that is still the case, then hopefully it stays like that and he can live a long and happy life.”
He said seeing his brother’s struggle had helped him massively with his own problems.
“I had an operation I didn’t think anything of because I did think about him having his operation and he didn’t complain once,” he said.
“He still hasn’t complained once about anything. I might have complained a couple of times, being tired, miserable and moody which is why I have to thank my girlfriend and family.
“Him not complaining once about his situation has given great strength to the whole family and all his friends around him. Not seeing him down, miserable or crying or anything like that.
“Everyone can feel sorry for themselves, he’s just gone - ‘that’s life, get on with it, I’m a healthy lad and I will beat this’. That gives inspiration to everyone around him.”
Blair admitted it had still been a major struggle for him, but he was given very good advice by his girlfriend and father who, amazingly, had both recovered from the same knee injury as him.
“The injury was shocking news at the time but the rehab so far has gone as well as I think it could have gone. It’s just this last couple of weeks or month now when hopefully I can get back in full swing,” he said.
“I’d made the move (to Mansfield), I was excited and looking forward to getting involved and helping the team. Then Carlisle away, 65th minute or something, I jumped over the slide tackle and all of a sudden the twist and the landing at the same time just popped the knee. It could have happened to anyone.
“Now I am just working hard to get it as strong as possible again.
“I heard the pop and the physio came on and my knee was in bits, but he straightened it out and on the physio bed at Carlisle it felt fine.
“I didn’t feel any pain and I thought I’ve got away with it. Never having had a serious injury before I never expected it. I had the Sunday off and I went back in on the Monday and it felt fine again. I thought - have I just tweaked something and got away with it?
“My girlfriend has actually done the same injury and she looked at it and said there was nowhere near as much swelling as what she had, so I might be all right. So there was that hope that it was just a bit of a sore one and I was being a bit of wimp.
“But I went for a scan, got the results that Monday night, and they were the worst possible.”
He added: “The hard bit was getting it into your head that, potentially, you were going to be out for nine months. I was just coming to a new club and wanted to help out and that was the difficult bit.
“That was where family comes in, where the girlfriend comes in, that’s where your friends come in. It is understanding that your life is going to change for the next four or five months as I wasn’t allowed to drive, I wasn’t allowed to run, I could barely walk.
“Once I’d had the operation it was just teaching this new ligament how to work. So it’s like being a kid again, learning how to walk.
“I realised it was important for me to rest as much as not rush back. I had advice from my dad, who’d had the same injury, and obviously from everyone else. I have had a lot of help but I’ve worked hard to get to where I am now.
“I was told by St George’s Park, where you get three weeks, that my legs need to be ‘this strength’ which they never were when I did the injury. I never did any leg weights as such. I just did body weights.
“So I am doing them now and I have got to continue to do them now for the rest of my career to keep the leg strong. Hopefully my legs will be stronger then ever which will make me a better player or better performer all round.”
Blair admitted he had become very restless in his eagerness to kick a football again.
“You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone - it’s that cliché saying,” he said. “At times I just wanted to have a couple of shots, kick a ball. I’ve had to keep myself quite calm about it. I know I am pretty bad at looking after myself in regards to that anyway.
“But I’ve kept myself grounded as much as I can and now we have just got this final stage, it’s important I don’t get too excited and go too far too fast.
“This is the worst time now. This last two weeks and the next couple of weeks I will be getting a little frustrated as I got involved in my first training session last Friday, I was involved in a passing drill yesterday and everything is feeling good, so I will be thinking why can’t I get involved with the five-a-side. I know I can’t because it’s all contact stuff.
“It’s just keep ticking boxes and eventually I will be out on that pitch.
“I am listening to everybody. Obviously I have got two people in my life now that have done it. I listen to the physio, I listen to the medical staff, and I listen to the gaffer as well as he has obviously got my best interests at heart.
“Everyone at the football club are saying it’s great to see you back, great to see you sign, just take it easy and make sure you’re right before you play. I also have to listen to myself as well. If I don’t feel right, don’t force it. It will just come back gradually over time.”
Blair can’t wait for the day when he pulls on the Mansfield shirt again and runs out that tunnel.
“It will be a big day for me,” he said. “It will be one of those moments in life that you don’t forget.
“Being out for, hopefully, seven months and to come back and have, even if it’s three minutes at the end to waste a bit of time for us to get a win, it would be hopefully see a decent reception for me.”
He admitted this Saturday’s trip to his former club York City would have been the perfect one for him to come back for.
“That would have been a good one,” he said. “ I am going up to the game to see some people I haven’t seen for a while and support the lads as well, obviously the main priority now is winning for Mansfield, so hopefully we will get the three points.
“I got on really well at York. I love the ground as it’s an old fashioned ground. It’s very much like the fans are on top of you.
“You have got to be on your game for the whole 90 minutes every game as they don’t let up. It’s the mental side of the game more than just the physical when you go to York as the away changing rooms aren’t the nicest and it’s a cold tunnel walking down it.
“The luxury players, as such, won’t like it as much as the hard, physical ones that are there to get you three points and that’s what we need to do on Saturday.”
Blair was the villain when he scored the winning goal for York against Mansfield in the Conference Play-off semi-final in May 2012 and admits that game has fostered a great rivalry between the clubs that has endured almost like a local derby.
“From that game, that semi-final, there will always be that little bit of rivalry,” he said. “Being quite close geographically too is always handy. It’s only about an hour and half to York so it’s not too far.
“Being in the Conference together and now being in the League together, it’s like we’re better than you, you’re better than us sort of thing. So there is that little bit of rivalry. But that’s always healthy in football. It is important that the fans have got a bit of bragging rights come the end of the weekend.”
Blair said he was delighted to sign the new deal and grateful Mansfield had taken a chance on him.
“I hadn’t made any enquiries to any other football clubs or even Mansfield at the time,” he said.
“Adam Murray sat down with me at the end of last season and said it was fitness-based and we’ll see how your progress goes.
“Nothing has changed for me as, effectively, I won’t be fit until the end of September.
“Not many football clubs would take a player that isn’t fit, especially at the end of August when there are players you probably need now to impact your team.
“So not many clubs would have taken me on, so I’d have had to take a couple of months not getting paid to then be in a position of fitness to hopefully go and find a club.
“Our gaffer here has seen an increase in fitness and everything else and is happy. So obviously Mansfield thought it was the right time now to offer a deal which we both agreed and are both happy with and we go from there.”
Mansfield Town delighted to agree new deal for Matty Blair
chad.co.uk, by John Lomas, Wednesday 26 August 2015
Adam Murray was delighted to see Matty Blair sign his new contract this week with the wing ace agreeing to an incentive-based deal as he proves he is over his serious knee injury.
Blair wrecked his knee in only his second game after signing for the Stags at Carlisle on 31st January and has worked hard ever since to return.
Murray knows what a fully-fit Blair could bring to his squad and after agreeing a deal, he said: “We are over the moon with it.
“Obviously Matty has a had a very serious injury, but he’s worked very hard. He’s had a couple of stints at St George’s Park which have been really beneficial to him and we are probably lucky in the fact that Matty is one of those players who are naturally fit, so his healing process has been a little bit quicker than expected and he’s looking strong.
“We are getting a new and improved Matty Blair so that’s a massive boost to the squad. He is a couple of weeks away from being involved full-on back in the squad, so to speak.
“He’s got another week next week at St George’s which they call a ‘return to play week’ when he will go and be pushed to his limits physically for fitness and then come back ready to go.”
Murray added: “We are over the moon he has agreed to join us again. It will be a contract that suits him and the club, all incentive-based on him being fit and we have the option to extend it if the club wants to. So it’s a really good deal for both parties.
“Because he has been out, Matty is a clever lad and realistic to what he can get offered. We have done it to the end of the season on an incentive-based package, based on him being fit and performing.
“Then we have the option as a club to keep him for next season if we wish to and if Matty is performing. It’s a really good deal for Matty and a really good deal for the club.
“I think having someone like Matty Blair coming back in at the start of this season is a massive plus for us.”
Once upon a time, Blair’s cruciate knee ligament injury was one that spelled the end of their career for many players. But it would seem more and more are returning as the medical world improves its knowledge and treatments.
“It’s getting easier,” said Murray. “The technology and the work the physios do these days is incredible. What you do see is people coming back from this injury stronger.
“A few years ago it was looked upon as that was it, you were done. Things have moved on over the last five to 10 years.
“The pre-hab and re-hab to it now is very strong. So as long as we look after Matty and make sure we don’t over-push him, he’s coming back in a good state.
“When we signed him he was looked at as a marquee signing, an X-Factor signing. He is someone that will give us something different. He will give us that raw pace, but with an end product - his delivery into the box, his final pass, and he scores goals.
“So it’s something that will take the group up a notch again.”
Murray said Blair would provide some excellent competition in the squad - and not just for the wingers.
“We need it. It’s a squad that’s packed with quality even though it’s quite small. Everybody is pushing each other and everyone has a chance of playing at the moment.
“Matty coming back into the picture will give that bit more competition, not just in wide areas as he can play up front, he can play in the No.10 role off the striker or in the midfield three as one of the attacking ones. So he gives us that versatility as well.”
Mansfield Town to gamble on one keeper for now
chad.co.uk, by John Lomas
Mansfield Town boss Adam Murray has decided against bringing in a loan keeper to cover for Scott Shearer.
Shearer has missed the last three games due to a badly infected leg from what is believed to have been a virus contracted from an insect bite in the Capital One Cup game at Sheffield Wednesday.
But Brian Jensen has been superb in covering for Shearer, who is now recovering quickly, and will continue at York City on Saturday.
Murray had said he may bring in cover, but is now likely to gamble on having no keeper on the bench for a couple of games as Shearer is recovering so well.
“It’s a tricky one because we’ve got Brian and we are lucky that we’ve got some good kids coming through, though whether they are ready or not yet, that’s a big question,” said Murray.
“We spoke to Scott yesterday and he is a lot better and is probably not going to be as long as we expected.
“It is a bit of a gamble having no keeper on the bench, but to bring someone in and take the commitment of having them for a month when hopefully we will have Scott back before that, we are going to roll with it at the minute.
“Brian has been absolutely outstanding since he came in. First half on Saturday he had two saves to make from the set pieces. They were two very good set pieces and he pulled off two great saves which kept us in the game at that point. We have an excellent keeper in Brian so we are not overly worried.”
Who would Murray put in goal were Jensen to be injured?
“Me,” he smiled. “I am just going to stand in there and fill the goal.
“We have a couple of ideas. Obviously no one is going to go in there and be Bruce Grobbelaar. But we will deal with at the time.
“We have a couple of options if need be but, touch wood, if anything did happen, then we would have to dip into the loan market.
Has Murray briefed the players he has earmarked to go between the posts?
“Not in depth as you don’t want to put people’s minds on that,” he said. “ But it’s something you make people aware of in an emergency.”
There was good news too on skipper Nicky Hunt who was ill before and during Saturday’s clash with Oxford United, having to come off with dizziness and dehydration.
“There are no concerns over Hunty,” he said. “He’s come back in and trained very well yesterday. He is fine now, he had a bit of a virus over the weekend and Monday.”
Adam Murray: Mansfield will not make any new signings
Mansfield Town will not be making any more signings before the end of the current transfer window, according to manager Adam Murray.
The window closes on 1 September but Murray, who signed 15 players in pre-season, is now content with his side.
He told BBC Radio Nottingham: "We are happy with our squad. We are a small squad and pretty young, but we've got a lot of ability and belief.
"We are happy with the tight group and we will move forward like that."
The Stags sit 12th in League Two, four games with one win, two draws and a defeat so far.
"We are not going to take bodies on board just to come in and sit around, or force someone into the stands," continued Murray.
"We've had this here over the years too many times, where we've had seven or eight guys sitting in the stands.
"Financially it's stupid and as a team outfit you want the ethos that everybody believes they can play."
Adam Murray targets top seven finish for Mansfield Town ahead of York City trip
chad.co.uk, by John Lomas
Adam Murray is very happy with how his new-look side are coming on ahead of Saturday’s trip to York City and said he wasn’t looking anywhere other than a top seven finish this season.
Although the Stags have only won one of their first five games, Murray has seen enough to fill him with confidence they can have a good season.
“We honestly do believe we should have had eight or nine points so far which would have been a terrific start,” he said.
“We need to keep the belief in how we are doing things. We need to improve on a lot of things, but there are a lot of plus points too.
“We have put some really good building blocks in, and if we get something on Saturday we have hit our targets for the month which is what we set out to do.
“That puts us on course to be in the top seven. We are not looking at anything else. We are not looking at mid-table, not looking at just surviving.
“I want this team and this club to push forward this season and that takes hard work, a lot of discipline and a lot of belief from everybody.
“What we have got to do is keep the focus which I honestly believe at this minute this football club has. We all want to succeed and break into that top seven. I think people are seeing the bigger picture which makes me really happy.”
On the York game, he said: “We will prepare right and it’s going to be a good game for us.
“I travelled to Swansea last night to watch them so we know what we are in for and we are going there to win, make no bones about that. We are not going there to get an awayday draw, we are going there to win.”
Murray had studied York’s previous three games, so did he learn anything new from the Swansea Capital one cup game?
“I learned it takes a lot of fuel getting to Swansea” he said. “I think it was a different kind of game. Obviously they made a couple of changes and changed the shape a bit last night.
“But it was a good outing. The way York play, we may have to tweak things our end as they do play a difficult shape to come up against.
“But it’s about us on Saturday. We are confident. We are going into it full of beans. We will have a lot of energy and we are looking forward to the game.
“Last night they played no centre forwards and loads of midfielders but it was effective and at times they put Swansea on the back foot, so it will be an interesting game on Saturday.
“They are an effective League Two team. They are very organised, physical and will give us a stern test. We need to be on our game and carry on the performances we’ve had - and we are starting to put together little bits and bobs from each game.
“We had a meeting with the lads yesterday about continuing the belief of what we are about.
“When we do get to the full package of what I believe we can bring to this league I believe we will be a force. At the minute we have seen bits and bobs in the games we’ve had so far and when that all comes together, I do believe we are going to affect this league.
“We are looking to the boys now to understand that we have got certain strengths in our team but we must set about games to enable those strengths to come out.
“We have some excellent footballers in our team and we need to start dictating games a bit better.”
Adam Murray loving his job at Mansfield Town after tough baptism
chad.co.uk, by John Lomas
After seriously considering his future at the end of last season, when just managing to save the club from relegation, Mansfield Town manager Adam Murray admitted he is now loving the job.
Murray took some fearsome flak from some quarters last season after trying to steer the poor quality squad he had inherited to safety and eventually questioned his future in the role.
The relegation fight led to sleepless nights, but that has changed for the better and he smiled: “I am having such good sleeps now.
“I am learning every day. I have said all along that I think some of the situations I went through last season were real tools to me.
“As tough as I found it at times last season I feel like I’ve come through the other end and I am really enjoying it.
“I am with a bunch of players at the minute that I love, a bunch of players that are extremely good - not just football-wise but they work so hard and they want to learn.
“Every day they are pushing me to get something new which, as a coach and manager you can’t ask for anything more. Everything is possible at the minute.
“I look at the fans at the minute and they are positive. The people behind the scenes can’t work any harder at the minute and everything is moving forward, so I am privileged and happy to be working for Mansfield Town at the minute. I do believe it’s a club on the up.”
Murray knows his own thought process was partly the cause of his insomnia last season as he tried to analyse every aspect of games.
“It’s the way I over-think sometimes, I am into the smallest detail you can possibly think of,” he said.
“I make sure my teams know inside and outside of the opponents. We don’t leave a stone unturned. But I am sleeping like a baby at the minute - apart from when I get back from Swansea at 3am.
“It was a big learning curve for me last season.
“I spoke to a lot of top coaches and managers last year, people that have worked for England and at the highest level. Luckily I am privileged to have those kind of contacts and one of the biggest things they said to me was don’t over-complicate it.
“With respect to the level, it can only take on certain bits of information and make it effective so I have had to funnel and channel my information I do give out and I have seen the benefits of that.”
Level-headed left back wants to keep improving
mansfieldtown.net, 27th August 2015
Defender Malvind Benning is relishing his ‘fresh start’ at One Call Stadium and hopes to keep working hard to cement his place in the side.
The left-back joined the Stags during the summer from boyhood club Walsall, and wants to keep learning in order to improve as a player.
Read more at http://www.mansfieldtown.net/news/article/benning-aims-to-keep-working-hard-for-the-stags-2648471.aspx#w6zhq7O0MPxshtYd.99
“It’s up to me to put steady performances in each week, carry on working hard on the training ground and keep my place in the team, and hopefully I can do that and play as many games as I can,” said Benning, speaking at yesterday's news conference, previewing our match away at York City this Saturday.
After being at Walsall since the age of eight, Benning is thankful to them for giving him an opportunity in the professional game, but says he is by no means the complete package.
“I can’t thank them enough to give me that opportunity to make my debut and get into professional football and I did have good times there, but I’m happy to be at Mansfield now and hopefully I can kick on.
“I think there are plenty of parts [of my game] I can improve on. Defensively I think I can get more alert and stay more alert during the game and I think there’s a lot more to give from me, attacking-wise, as I don’t think I’ve shown much of that so far.”
Benning is of Asian heritage and he hopes that more players from a similar background to himself get the chance to ply their trade in the professional game.
“It’s a hard profession to get in to,” he said. "But I would like to see a few more Asians in the game.
“There are a few that are involved in the first-team squad [across the country] but haven’t quite got the breakthrough but hopefully there will be more in the years to come.”
Looking forward to this Saturday’s Sky Bet League Two fixture against York City, where Benning spent two months on loan last season, he said: “They’re a good side with a good manager but we’re going there to get three points and that’s something which I’m confident we can do.
“They’re a disciplined team, they’re quite organised and their defensive record is quite good so we’re going to have to be on top of our game.
“I think as a team we’ve done well, we’re gelling as quickly as we can and as the gaffer said, we probably should have more points than we [currently] have but that will come in time.”
You can hear more from Benning on Stags Player.
Mansfield Town defender Mal Benning blazing a trail for Asian footballers
chad.co.uk, by John Lomas
As one of only a handful of professional footballers of Indian origin, Mansfield Town’s Mal Benning is helping to blaze a trail he hopes many young British-Asians will follow in the future.
The exciting 21-year-old left back, who joined the Stags from Walsall in the summer, also hopes to be allowed to play for his country one day if the Indian government loosen their restrictions on who can play.
“It is a hard profession to get into, I’ve got to say that, but I would like to see a few more Asians involved in the game,” he said.
“There are a couple involved here in the first team squad who haven’t quite made the breakthrough but I hope in the years to come there will be many more.”
Benning said he didn’t believe the lack of Asian players was because football was not part of their culture, saying: “I think that’s a cliché to use. Nowadays it’s become much more of an Asian game.”
But his ambition to play for his country is being stifled for now by red tape.
“It’s a bit difficult,” he said. “I have always wanted to play for India but I think you need to give up your British passport to get an Indian passport to play for them.
“Many Asians that are British haven’t had the call-up. We are all itching for that rule to be changed by the Indian government, but there is work being done on that and, if it does change, then yes I’d like to play for India.”
Benning, who was born in Sandwell and played for Walsall from U8s upwards, became an instant hit with the Mansfield supporters after marking his debut by scoring a stunning 30-yard free kick against Carlisle, let alone filling a problem position in recent seasons with some great attacking play.
“I am thankful of that to be fair,” he said. “But it’s the early part of the season yet and it’s up to me to keep up the good work and, hopefully, I can do that by working hard on the training ground.
“I will keep my feet grounded and keep working hard.
“My main aim is to try to play a full season. There is no guarantee, it’s up to me to put in steady performances each week and keep my place in the team. Hopefully I can do that and play as many games as I can.
“It was getting frustrating at Walsall but I can’t thank them enough for giving me the opportunity to make my debut and get into professional football.
“I did have good times there, but it was a dark place for me at other times and I am happy to be at Mansfield now and hopefully I can kick on.”
He added: “There is plenty I can improve on. Defensively, I think I can get more alert and stay more alert during a game. I think there is a lot more from me to give attacking-wise and I don’t think I have done that much in games I’ve played so far. I am here to learn and improve.
“I have to remember in my head that I am a defender first and attacking is a plus point.
“I started out as a left midfielder as U13 at Walsall, but I reverted to left back as I was a bit chubby back then and didn’t have enough pace. To be fair for a bit I did play left midfield at Walsall last year, but full back is my main position.
“I was at Walsall from U8s. I wouldn’t say I got emotional. I had been there for so long but I was glad to get a fresh start.”
While at Walsall, Benning has had a couple of loan spells away including last season at Saturday’s opponents York City.
“I spent, I think, two months on loan there last year,” he said. “They are a good club with a good manager, but we are going there for three points as we need to win, which I am confident we can do.
“To be fair they are a disciplined team, well-organised, and their defensive record is quite good. So we are going to have to be on top of our game. If we are, we can win the game.
“As a team I think we’ve done well, we are gelling as quickly as we can. We should probably have more points than we have, but that will come in time I think.”
Then on Tuesday the Stags head back to Meadow Lane in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy less than three weeks after the 2-0 League Two win there, Benning thoroughly enjoying his first taste of local derby success with the Stags.
“You enjoy it at the time, but straight after you have to get your head down,” he said. “We were warned about Accrington on the Tuesday, but things happen like that regularly so it’s one of those things.
“We were all focussed not to make it happen, but it did happen and we have to move on from it. I thought it was a good reaction on Saturday against Oxford. They are a good team and it was a good point.”
Latest | September 2015