Mansfield Town Season Preview: exciting times

Following successive top half finishes at this level for the first time in well over a decade, Mansfield Town are now spending big to back Steve Evans, who has won seven promotions in his managerial career. Supporter Sam Binch has his say on these exciting times for the club.

I don’t think I have anticipated a season as much in my years supporting Mansfield. We have made some very good signings very early in the window, meaning the majority of the squad will have the whole of pre-season to gel.

You’ve not had a goalkeeper start more than 25 league games in any of your last three seasons. Bobby Olejnik signs from Exeter and Conrad Logan joins from Rochdale – but is continuity as important as personnel?

We have not had a good keeper since our first season back in the league with Alan Marriott. I’m yet to see either play for Mansfield, but both Olejnik and Logan come with promising reviews from their previous clubs. I think it’s important to have competition between the two keepers otherwise complacency can creep in.

Right-back Hayden White started 18 games in the second half of last season and you only lost four of them. Are you pleased to have signed him permanently?

Very much so. White’s a composed, quick full back and impressed hugely during his loan spell. He also looked adept at wing back when called upon so is versatile. I think he will probably first choice right back ahead of Rhys Bennett.

Zander Diamond was Player of the Year at Northampton while fellow centre-back David Mirfin was loved at Scunthorpe. Given that Krystian Pearce was one of your better players last year, do you think Evans is planning to use three at the back?

It’s a tricky one. It would seem on paper that centre defence is loaded with quality. I expect Diamond will be one of the first names on the team sheet and will probably captain. Pearce has been consistently good for two years, whilst Bennett did very well at centre half when used their last season. Evans also rates George Taft highly. I wouldn’t like to see Diamond and Mirfin playing together as I think there may be a lack of pace. As you say, with Benning and White we have competent wing backs so Evans has multiple systems he could use.

If so, do you think we’ll see a lot from Mal Benning going forward? Will he keep his place over new signing Johnny Hunt?

Benning has been one of the first names on the team sheet over the last two years and I don’t expect that to change. I think it’s fair to say he wasn’t as good last season as the previous, but I’m sure he will continue to improve and I don’t see Hunt starting ahead of him.

New midfielders Paul Digby and Jacob Mellis were teammates at Barnsley and have both played in the Championship recently. Will they provide grit and guile respectively?

Paul Digby is a signing that went under the radar a little. He looks physically imposing and impressed during the pre-season tour to Malta according to those who attended. Mellis will hopefully provide the creative spark from the centre of the park which we have been missing for a while. There are question marks over his attitude but hopefully Evans can get the best out of him.

Will Atkinson has won three promotions from this division while Paul Anderson has competed reasonably well at a higher level. Where do you see them fitting into the team?

Will Atkinson played a few games for us on loan years ago as a left winger, but Evans has made it pretty clear he sees him as a box to box midfielder, with his work rate being one of his greatest assets. Anderson I expect to see on the wing or in behind the strikers. He has a good pedigree having played at a higher level, and hopefully retains some of his ability. He’s 28 so should be in his prime but has had injury problems over the years.

Jimmy Spencer is known for his selfless hold-up play while Lee Angol has an excellent goalscoring record. Are you excited by the prospect of those two linking up?

I could be wrong, but I don’t expect Spencer to be someone who starts games at the beginning of the season. Angol and Danny Rose I believe will be the initial preferred partnership. Spencer is a player who other strikers love and I expect him to play his part but I’m very excited by Angol. Some Posh fans were surprised to see him go. He looks to have all the attributes to be a success.

Evans sees new signing Omari Sterling-James as a striker while Danny Rose helped Bury to promotion. Even with Matt Green leaving, would you be content if a big-name number nine wasn’t brought in?

Like most fans, I am still hopeful of a ‘big name’ striker coming in. Evans has indicated he is still on the look out for another striker, but only if they bring something different to the table. Rose’s work rate is incredible and he is fantastic in the air, whilst Sterling-James could be a surprise success, a relative unknown when he signed but according to Evans he is the big surprise of the squad he has assemble so far.

You’re 15th in home attendances with average gates below 4k. Clearly John and Carolyn Radford have been willing to invest, but how does the club comply with financial regulations? Are there risks attached with this spending spree?

I’m no financial expert but I don’t think we are spending beyond our means. My understanding is that the players contracts, and the managements, are bonus based should promotion be achieved. The Radford’s deserve huge credit for their ambition. Carolyn is getting a reputation as the ‘new Karren Brady!’

What are your thoughts ahead of the League Two season as a whole? Any potential dark horses for you?

It should be a very competitive season, I think Luton have to be the favourites after the signing of James Collins, and Coventry also have recruited well. Crewe might be a dark horse and we have them on the opening day!

Where will you finish? You were bang on the money with 12th last time…

I’m cautious of being over confident, play offs minimum but at this moment in time I would say 3rd.

The Football Lab’s Verdict

These are exciting times for Mansfield. New centre-back Mirfin and midfielder Atkinson were competing for promotion to the Championship last season and most of the other 11 additions are used to higher levels. If they integrate quickly, Evans should win the eighth promotion of his career. 2nd

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