PILKS OFFERED NEW CONTRACT/ DISLEY INTERVIEW
PALMER LOOKS TO FUTURE OF SQUAD
EVENING POST, 18 March 2005
MARK ROACH ON THE LATEST TEAM NEWS AND PLANS AT FIELD MILL
Stags goalkeeper Kevin Pilkington has been offered a new contract - but Colin Larkin's future remains in the balance.
New Mansfield Town boss Carlton Palmer is rebuilding his squad ahead of next season and is keen to retain Pilkington's services.
And the 31-year-old former Manchester United stopper, who lives in Newark, confirmed that he wants to stay.
"My current contract runs out at the end of the season and I've been offered another one," said Pilkington, who signed for the Stags from Wigan in September 2000.
"I've enjoyed my time at Mansfield and I'd like to stay. I've got a wife and two girls to support and we're settled where we are."
Players likely to be involved next season include Richie Barker, Simon Brown and Gareth Jelleyman - and Palmer is keen to retain the services of Alex John-Baptiste and Jake Buxton.
The signs are that there will be very few players at Field Mill next term who started this season as Stags players.
Palmer is keen to sign midfielder Giles Coke from non-league Kingstonian and wants to keep hold of Adam Rundle.
But Tom Curtis, Alex Neil, Luke Dimech and Adam Eaton look set to be released.
A friendly scheduled for Monday was cancelled and Palmer has already lost out on a Millwall player he wanted to have a look at.
The Stags boss is still interested in another Millwall player, as well as Wolves midfielder Sammy Clingan.
Palmer also revealed he tried to bring Stags old boys Lee Williamson and Craig Disley - who lines up for Bristol Rovers tomorrow - back to Field Mill. "Disley is a very good player and should never have been allowed to leave here," he said.
"It must be unsettling for players out of contract in the summer to not know their futures.
"I have made my mind up about most of them, but I am still not sure about Colin Larkin. He could come back to haunt me.
"He has spoken to Boston United about a move but has told me he wants to stay here. I will give him a new contract if he can get his act together."
Stags are thought to have accepted a five-figure bid from Boston for Larkin, who will be a free agent in the summer.
But Larkin turned down the opportunity of a move.
Curtis (ankle), Murray (ankle), Jellyman (hamstring) and Buxton (groin) are doubtful for tomorrow's game.
John-Baptiste is ruled out after suffering migraines and is set to undergo a scan.
Mansfield from: Pilkington, Neil, Buxton, Jelleyman, McNiven, Dimech, Day, Curtis, McLachlan, Murray, Brown, Rundle, McIntosh, Barker, Barrowman, Larkin, White, Lloyd.
Bristol Rovers Official Site
Craig Disley says that Saturday's clash between Rovers and Mansfield Town will be a meeting of two of the division's big underachievers.
The 23-year-old midfielder, who left the Stags to move to the Memorial Stadium in the summer, believes that both clubs have failed to live up to expectations this season as they languish in 17th and 14th place respectively.
But although Craig knows that this weekend's meeting of his former and present employers will have little impact on the significant end-of-season shake-up in Coca-Cola League Two, he says it's still a game he's relishing, and one with plenty riding on it.
"It's a match I've been looking forward to for a long time," Craig told bristolrovers.co.uk, "It's a big game for me, and I'd like to be involved and help us win, and maybe even score a goal or two as well.
"I have many fond memories of the time I spent there. I had six good years at Mansfield, and it was a hard place to leave in the summer. There have been quite a few changes since I left, but I still have a lot of friends at the club and it will be good to see them on Saturday - and to hopefully put one over on them!"
Mansfield's season has followed a similar pattern to that of Rovers, with a reasonably promising opening couple of months deteriorating into a very average campaign.
"I think like Bristol Rovers, they have underachieved as well this season, although not as much as us," said Craig, "They had some trouble with their manager earlier in the year, and have had a fair few faces go in and out, so I suppose it all takes a bit of getting used to. But they'll definitely feel they could be higher than they are, just like we do."
Although Craig's contract at Rovers doesn't run out at the end of the season, he believes that the final nine games before the summer break are still crucial to every player at the club.
"At the end of the day we are all playing for our places," he said, "Nobody is safe, and nobody knows for sure what is going to happen in the summer.
"We're all playing for our futures at Bristol Rovers, so we're all focused on doing well for the rest of the season. Personally I want to do well, to put in some good performances, to score some more goals and to stay in the team.
"We owe the fans a few results, and hopefully a good result on Saturday can be the start of a decent final run.
"The pressure is off a bit in a sense, but we can't see it like that, that would be the easy way out. We are always under pressure, this is a big club and we are expected to do well. We haven't really done that this season, and we need to end the season well and pick up a few good results.
"If we can go undefeated for the rest of the season and get a few wins under our belts then it'll give us confidence going into next year, and that's the way we've got to look at it.
"The gaffer has already said that people are going to have to go out, and that could include some of those players that he's brought in. Nobody is safe, and it's up to us all to work hard individually to prove that we are worthy of our place at Bristol Rovers.
"That applies to me as well, as I could easily find myself out of it if I don't do well for the rest of the season. It's up to us all to make sure we work hard, so that that doesn't happen."
John-Baptiste and Curtis to miss Bristol trip
CHAD website, 17Mar05
STAGS skipper Alex John-Baptiste could face a brain scan for the severe headaches he has suffered recently.
And both he and midfielder Tom Curtis look certain to be ruled out of Saturday's trip to Bristol Rovers (3pm).
Fellow midfielders Adam Murray and Alex Neil and defender Jake Buxton have missed training this week with injuries but all could yet play.
"Alex John-Baptiste has no chance of playing on Saturday," said manager Carlton Palmer.
"These headaches he is getting are really severe and the next step is maybe a brain scan. So we are very concerned for him."
With the play-offs all but gone for this season, Palmer has begun to draw up plans for next season.
He has already told his players who he wants to retain and who will be leaving.
"The players now, more or less, all know what's what for next season," he said. "One or two people have things to think about and come back to me.
"There are some negotiations to be done with the players we want to keep. But what has been said between me and the players is not for public consumption right now."
Palmer also said he will not be bringing in any more loan players to shore up his side for the last nine games.
"It would be a waste of money to bring loan players in now - and that is my decision," he said.
"It is unlikely we will be involved in the play-offs now so I have to look at the fact that, in all honesty, I have 15 weeks to get a side together to challenge next season.
"First we need to look in-house. We have one or two decent youngsters here and we need to give them a chance. Next season, with the transfer window, we will need a bigger squad and it is vital we know if these kids are good enough to come in and do us a job.
"The coaching staff are all out every night looking at players and we are drawing up a list. Obviously if we get them or not will depend on a number of things and I am sure a lot of them will want to play at a higher level.
"We have tried again to bring in Sammy Clingan from Wolves. Paul Holland went to watch him again last night and he was outstanding. But he has already turned down moves to two Championship sides so what chance do we stand? That's the problem.
"Clubs want to place their players at higher clubs and players want to play at a higher level. If you get players out on loan for a season from Premership clubs they are often too young.
"So maybe we have to shop around the Conference and lower divisions and get the best young talent we can find.
"We have already decided to offer Adam Rundle a deal as well as the Kingstonian midfielder Giles Coke.
"Giles is only 18 but playing in a man's league. He is physically fit and strong and he can deal with the football. With a pre-season and some coaching behind him we feel we can make him better and that's the type of player we want to work with."
Stags travel to Bristol looking to put the misery of Saturday's poor display in the 3-1 home defeat by Oxford United quickly behind them.
And they will be up against a Rovers side who have drawn a club record 18 games this season and not won in their last eight.
"I am sure Ian Atkins would agree Rovers have drawn far too many home games this season," said Palmer. "But they are not a bad side and not far away from being a very good side.
"With all due respect to them, though, I am only concerned with what Mansfield Town do on Saturday.
"Whatever the result, the side I pick will go out there and fight their corner.
"I know we had injuries last week and I was forced to play Rhys Day and Scott McNiven when they were not fit. But it was alarming to see a side of mine playing without desire and looking disorganised. That won't happen again.
"Hopefully it will just be one of those games that you always get from time to time. I can remember playing in a side that finished third in the table but during the season we got beaten 7-0 by Arsenal and 5-0 by Aston Villa.
"As I've said before I think a lot of it is to do with fitness and that has to improve here."
Stags have drawn two and lost two of their last four games but are unbeaten in three away matches, winning two of them.
Stags boss Carlton Palmer has seen enough already to know who will be staying and who will be leaving Field Mill at the end of the season.
"I have had one to one meetings with all the players this week and made them aware of the situation so now they know exactly where they stand and what is expected from them. This doesn't mean that I have pulled the whole thing to pieces. We have suffered from injury and suspensions lately but a side of mine that shown no fight was a real worry" he said speaking of Saturday's 3-1 defeat at the hands of Oxford United.
With the players now knowing whether they will be offered a new contract or transfer listed it is hoped that the team can now put Saturday's defeat behind them and concentrate on the remaining games of this campaign.
The retained list will be made public when all the players concerned have decided what they want to do.
One of the new additions could arrive at the club courtesy of you the MTFC supporter. you now have the chanec to win your club a player worth £250,000. that's right a quarter of a mmillion pounds and you could net ten grand for yourself to boot.
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Transfer Deadline approaches
As the transfer deadline for 2004/05 looms Carlton Palmer has had his sights on a number of players but does not know yet whether or not changes will be made before the deadline date on Thursday next week.
"At this moment in time, other than the boy from Wolves we have identified one other player that we would like to be bringing to the club and we are confident that he will be coming in the summer and there is no disputing that we will be trying to keep Rundle here. We have already made him a formal offer and we have offered trialist Giles Coke from Kingstonian a contract. He is an eighteen year old that has impressed already and we feel that with some coaching he can become great player.
But any major changes are unlikely before the deadline." He told the official website this afternoon.
Mansfield were beaten play-off finalists in 2003/4 under Keith Curle, losing on penalties to Huddersfield after a 0-0 draw, and they were fancied again this season. However, Curle left the club under a rather large cloud in November and Carlton Palmer took over, initially as caretaker and permanently last week, and things, well, haven't exactly gone to plan. Palmer has certainly made an impact, although it's not an entirely good one, criticising fans for their lack of support and slating Derek Asamoah's attitude (Asamoah was sold to Lincoln City shortly afterwards), and the club have slipped in the table with the play-offs now pretty-much out of reach.
How are they doing?
The Stags are 15th in Division Three, two places and three points ahead of Rovers. It's disappointing for one of the pre-season favourites and the loss of Keith Curle seems to have affected both results and the good, flowing football they played under him. Recent form hasn't been great overall, although of their last five away they have only lost one, winning two (at Bury and Notts County, both in February) and drawing two. Speaking of drawing, Mansfield have drawn twelve so far this season, six of those on their travels, so (say it quietly) number nineteen for Rovers could just be on the cards.
Anyone to look out for?
Colin Larkin leads the scoring this season with ten so far and Mansfield have also made some decent signings, including paying West Brom £50,000 for midfielder Simon Brown in December. According to a number of Mansfield fans however, the quality of signings is rather difficult to determine under Palmer as the manager has the ability to transform them all into, well, a pretty standard level of rubbish. And if that sounds familiar at all then wait 'til you hear some of the other complaints against the Stags' boss.
He likes to have a go!
Midfielder Adam Murray has had twenty-four shots on target this season – more than any other Stags' player.
With the departure of Curle – a link to both sides of Bristol – the sheedhead links seem to have died out. Defender Craig Woodman played nine games on loan at Mansfield earlier this season but as far as Saturday goes it looks as if there's no one to abuse - again.
What about Rovers connections?
Craig Disley moved to Rovers from Mansfield in the summer and will no doubt want to show their fans what they're missing while the Stags had former Gas man Guy Ipoua on loan last autumn. Ryan Williams started his career at Mansfield and Rovers physio Phil Kite had a spell on loan at Mansfield in 1991/92.
Notts County are their major rivals and last month's win at Meadow Lane was watched by more Mansfield fans than the club has recently been getting at home. Yorkshire teams in particular dislike Mansfield because of the miners strike of twenty years ago and chants of “scabs” are still heard when they play any number of clubs. Feel free to give it a go on Saturday.
Last time we met?
Rovers won two nil on the opening day of the season with an Agogo goal in each half. Given Mansfield's pre-season credentials it was a win that gave Rovers fans huge hope for the season…how things change eh?
How's things on the home front?
The suspension and subsequent sacking of Keith Curle after 'bullying' allegations led to the appointment of Carlton Palmer as manager and it's fair to say this has not been a popular choice. Palmer is a friend of Stags' Chairman Keith Haslam and you've got to admit that his record of p23 w6 d8 l9 wouldn't be enough to land the job on a permanent basis at most clubs. Palmer though was handed the reins on a full-time basis just last week, after Curle's appeal was turned down.
While Palmer may have friends in the boardroom, it's a different matter on the terraces (as Palmer himself acknowledged recently) with fans unhappy about the manager's negative tactics, his ability to turn good players into clodhoppers and his propensity to blame everything other than himself for Mansfield's poor form. If that sounds familiar then take a look at this comment about Palmer, found on the Stags Online website and posted coincidently by “West Stand Man”
" …he has an excuse book the size of Encyclopaedia Britannica, though strangely not one of the entries include "it was my fault"
On this evidence it seems that Carlton Palmer is Ian Atkins' long lost son.
Will they bring many?
Probably not. The Stags brought 307 last season but the Carlton Palmer factor is hitting the home crowds big time and there's no reason to expect it to be any different for an away fixture, especially one against another team with nothing to play for.
Mansfield have only converted 50% of the penalties they have been awarded in Division Three this season, putting away two out of four – both of those since February.
The Big Question of the Day
Is it really only seven months since that glorious day full of hope at Field Mill?
Possible Tabloid Headlines
JAMES HUNTS SCABS DOWN
Oops, typing error, we meant to say:
JAMES HUNTS STAGS DOWN
Probable Tabloid Headlines
ROVERS IN BORE DRAW
Latest | March 2005