CHAD LATEST - THERE IS MONEY TO SPEND
Anticipation mounts as new fixtures prepared
BARELY has the dust settled on last season and we are now just 15 days away from the much-anticipated fixture list for the new campaign.
Many Stags fans still feel in the state of limbo that began when Keith Curle was suspended back in November 2004.
But if Carlton Palmer and new assistant Peter Shirtliff, who is expected to begin work at Field Mill in a fortnight, can pull one or two rabbits out the hat, this could still be a season to remember.
There is no doubt that the young players already brought into the first team will be raring to go after enjoying their first taste of regular League footballl.
But Palmer knows where he needs to strengthen and is going all out to do that.
Criticism of him for the breakdown of the Rob Clare and Danny Bacon deals was harsh.
A section of fans had been calling for more information to come out of Field Mill and Palmer quite happily revealed the names of the two players he had landed before the deals were signed.
Now it is unlikely he will mention names again until they have signed to avoid such public kicks in the teeth.
He remains hopeful a couple of players will be joining the club over the next week but is keeping their identities close to his chest after feeling so let down and used following the events over the last fortnight.
But the 'players available' lists are so long and players are holding out for the best deals they can, so there really is no great rush to nail the players required.
The nearer we get to pre-season training, the more fees and wage demands will come down for players wanting to move or clubs wanting to move them on.
And, contrary to certain views, there is money to spend at Mansfield.
But it has to be spent wisely.Amazing wage demands from pampered players at the top like Rio Ferdinand have a knock-on effect all the way down and, with the Danny Bacon debacle, Palmer showed he has to keep it tight with squad players until he knows what he will need to pay his first choice hitman - whoever he turns out to be.
The side would certainly benefit from being settled next season.
With so many injuries and players coming and going, Mansfield used 40 different players in the first team last year - hardly a recipe for consistency.
Despite the huge hangover of the Play-off final defeat in Cardiff in May and then losing the first two games, Stags, overall, began the new season well and four wins in five matches - including 4-1 successes over eventual champions Yeovil and play-off chasing Northampton Town pointed to a bright future.
Results then became patchy, punctuated only by a brilliant 3-1 home win over Notts County.
Just one win in 11, not counting an LDV penalties win, saw the clouds gather and Curle's suspension saw those clouds burst open and fans run for shelter.
Civil war followed for pretty much the rest of the season as those prepared to give Palmer a chance and those who were not argued among themselves while familiar faces followed Curle out the door.
Nevertheless, Palmer did what he could in a short space of time, despite the hostility against him from the stands, and at one stage gave them an unlikely chance of making the Play-offs.
But it wasn't to be and some public spats with some of his own players saw the season end in a disappointing manner for the new manager as crowds plummeted.
However, those who were there saw enough to know there is a chance the season ahead could be one to relish - if the right additions are made.
Alex John-Baptiste, Jake Buxton, Adam Rundle, Gareth Jelleyman, Simon Brown, Giles Coke, Danny Heron and Callum Lloyd will provide a passionate young backbone of the side with other youngsters waiting in the wings.
The experienced Richie Barker is a 100 per cent honest professional who will score goals. But he needs much more help.
The jury remains out on Fraser McLachlan who showed glimpses of what he can do and maybe needs a full pre-season to get the full fitness that has eluded him so far at Field Mill.
Tom Curtis is another who needs to get fully fit to be at his terrier-like best while rumours abound over the futures of Rhys Day, Dave Artell and Adam Eaton.
Jason White has signed a new deal and fellow keeper Kevin Pilkington is said to be closer to staying as well.
Even so, some fans may still elect to stay away at the start until they see the direction the season is taking.
But they would be of far more use in the stand from day one to get behind their side, whatever their thoughts on Carlton Palmer.
At the end of the day if he succeeds then surely that is what every Stags fan wants to see their side do. And if he fails he will go the way of all managers.
He does rub some folk up the wrong way with his shoot-from-the-hip comments and sometimes brutal honesty.
But, right or wrong, he is always entertaining and, if he can marry that with results, could yet be a big hit with his critics.
However, a poor start and inadequate players brought in (last summer brought us Chris Tate and Joe O'Neill) and he could be in for a very rough ride indeed.
But the only way we will know is once that new season arrives and the first ball is kicked in anger.
Bring on that fixture list!
Latest | June 2005