I wonder if other Football Managers look at their competition’s teams and wish they had this player, or that player? As a Notts County fan, it begrudges me to say Mansfield have a good team. Having been with them a full pre-season, I now know why they have dominated Notts in friendlies.
One thing that did become apparent though is the boards expectation, I’ve said before they want promotion. The price for not getting that is, apparently, my job.
I like it when things are black and white like that (see what I did there?).
A Dull Pre-Season
Coming in to this club is weird. I got one of the media team to walk around the ground and facilities, filming as he went. He sent the video and I must say, there is not much here that impresses me. Its your average League 2 set-up.
However, Steve Evans and David Flitcroft (the previous two managers) have put together a decent team. So decent, in fact, that I have yet to make a single signing and the season starts next week. I have sent the scouts out to find full backs – so far they’ve found everything but.
With no transfers to be made, or none I can actually make, its been pretty dull. We train, we play friendlies, we train some more. I can’t remember the last time I was at such a boringly stable club.
But I’m drifting off topic.
The Lazy Summer
I’m not one to make massive changes when I join a club. I’d rather they be gradual. With Mansfield this will be no different, despite the fact I only plan to be here one season. That being said, there is room to add to what is already here.
After doing all the usual meet the key people (chairman, assistant manager) routine – they think it’s weird I did this via Skype – I sat in my back garden and read the dossier I had Ben Futcher, my assistant manager, send over.
That was the first task then, send out job advertisements for key staff. A coach, scout and physio – I can only assume the previous incumbents left with the last manager. If not, then this may be part of why the team stumble at the last hurdle of getting out of League 2.
It’s taken all summer to get staff in. I’m not sure, but I think the chairman was too busy getting a tan and forgot to put the adverts out. But we got there eventually, I really managed to improve the backroom staff.
Don’t ask me how the goalkeeping stats got worse, I have no clue. But, look, things were sort of improved. At least now the players may get some physiotherapy. There may even be a chance of finding new full backs, now we have a scout.
Getting Set Up
I’ve hinted at it a few times now, but there must be a core reason or reasons this club fails at the final hurdle. The squad is good. The backroom staff are decent (for this level). The facilities aren’t bad. So, I’m looking through Futcher’s dossier and found this little bit of information:
It seems the squad is made up of strangers who meet in the car park for a kick about on a Saturday afternoon. The solution is simple – lots of team bonding and community outreach initiatives. It’s a slow process, but it will work.
Tactically, I’ve gone for a 4-1-4-1 wide formation:
League 2 is a crappy league. It’s physical and there isn’t much ability. I like the idea of mixing up the attack a little. We have an inside forward on the left and a winger on the right. The lone striker gets some support, but we can also pull teams out wide if need be. How well this works in competitive matches remains to be seen. I may pull one of the mid-fielders out wide when the inside forward comes in. We’ll see how it goes. My only concern is the lone striker getting bullied off the ball by the more physical defenders – should be okay against Notts though.
With that in mind I’ve been training a back up 4-4-2 formation, just in case things go pear shaped. The aim is NOT to get sacked, so I’m covering my back here.
Made in Mansfield
I have to say I am seriously impressed by the number of homegrown players at the club:
That envy crept in again when I saw this. This is a club with the future sorted. Many clubs at this level talk a good talk about developing players for the future, but Mansfield are doing it. How well they’re doing it remains to be seen, but DAMN this is a good start.
Of the players I’ve seen pre-season Lewis Gibbens stands out. He’s 18, still developing, but he’s been a solid performer during the friendly matches.
At the very least, if I were staying beyond one season, the club may be able to cash in on him.
Cameron Healey has also impressed pre-season. I took a chance and put him in the first team, retraining him as a regista to suit the tactic.
He’s a natural leader, I like the idea that a youngster could one day go on to be the driving force behind the team. Future legend?
Those are a couple of the young guns. But what about the old guard? It seems 32 year old Craig Davies is in the running to be one of the leagues top goalscorer’s this season. I guess we’ll have to make sure he stays fit and wrap him in cotton wool a bit.
I made Neal Bishop captain for the season. I like the idea of an ex-Notts man being the captain. Sort of me flicking v’s at the fans. Petty? Me? Nooooooo.
Holy Contract Renewals Fatman
What I love about league 2 is the sheer volume of one year contracts.
Read it and weep. I don’t have the patience to sort that lot out, on top of seemingly ALL the staff in their final year:
Plus the youth players:
It’s almost as if the owner/chairman has even less long term ambition at the club than me. As I only plan on being here a season, I wasn’t going to waste time sorting this lot out. Any player with a contract extension clause, got an instant extension. No staff got new contracts. I let all the youth players go, they looked crap anyway. Sorted.
No real shocks here. We lost to teams better than us and beat teams worse than us. As I said, it’s been a really DULL pre-season.
I learned very little about the team, from the friendly matches. Actually, that’s not true. I learned that there are goals in this team, which is reassuring. All the players already mentioned will get in to the match day squad come the first game of the season.