Squad Takes Shape As Pre-Season Begins

Excitement is building around Mansfield Town Football Club as players checked in for their first day of pre-season training at Brooksby Melton College in Leicestershire. The newly assembled squad are due to spend a residential week at the recently refurbished facility, as Adam Murray attempts to impart a fresh philosophy onto his players for the season ahead. The week will not only focus on building fitness, but a team ethic and togetherness that will be required if the club are to be successful during the 2015/16 campaign, which begins at the One Call Stadium on the 8th August against Carlisle United.

Key to the clubs close season activities has been recruitment, as twelve players in total have put pen to paper. The most recent of the new signings could prove crucial, as experienced keepers Scott Shearer and Brian Jensen fill the void which has lingered since the departure of Alan Marriott a season ago. Murray has made it clear that Shearer will be his number one, with Brian Jensen providing more than adequate back up. Jensen's role will also extend to the non-playing staff, where he will provide coaching to Shearer and no doubt valuable advice to Murray, gained from a fifteen year playing career in English football encompassing over 350 league appearances. Shearer himself is no rookie, having also racked up over 300 league appearances and several promotions. It is nice to know that barring an injury crisis the Stags will not be scratching around the loan market for inexperienced, fourth choice keepers from higher league clubs to drag them out of the mire. Credit must go to Murray for killing three birds with one stone before pre-season began, in securing both a first and second choice keeper, as well as a coach who adds football league 'know how' to his backroom staff.

The defence has also been strengthened, as pacey centre half Lee Collins joined the Stags after his release from Northampton. His liberation from The Cobblers has been much maligned by their fans and the signing can be considered a bit of a coup, and perhaps one that has gone a little under the radar. At just 26 years of age, Collins has a wealth of experience and is arguably in his prime. Adding further experience, former Bolton full back Nicky Hunt joined from Accrington Stanley. He adds nous to the back line as well as options going forward, something the Stags greatly missed last season from their full backs. Malvind Benning, recruited from Walsall, should by all accounts provide the same on the left flank. Despite lacking the experience of Collins and Hunt, Walsall fans believed Benning had the potential to be a decent League One player if he brushed up on his defending. With coaches Mickey Moore and Richard Cooper contributing to a sturdy defence under Paul Cox, they should have the required tools to improve Benning's capabilities. With Ryan Tafazolli the only remaining senior defender on the books, this is still an area which requires strengthening. Luke Jones future is still to be decided given his battle against injury and youngsters Liam Marsden and Corbin Shires are perhaps not yet ready to be thrown in at the deep end, which means one injury could leave Murray short at the back.

One man on the books who has been described as a utility player is Mitch Rose, an interesting new signing following his release from Rotherham. Rose, brother of Spurs full back Danny, was carefully nurtured by Murray and special arrangements were made with local side Ilkeston for Rose to get game time towards the end of least reason. High hopes were had for Rose at Rotherham and hopefully his potential will be unlocked by Murray and his staff. Adam Chapman was the first player through the during the close season, a close friend of Murray and a talented ball player on his day, as displayed during a previous spell with the Stags during the championship winning campaign. A winger has also been added to the ranks in the form of Nathan Thomas. An extremely talented dribbler, Thomas earned a move to SPL side Motherwell after impressing at Plymouth. Things did not quite work out in Scotland, but having been on trial with the Stags last season, he is sure to be a player that can get fans out of their seat with his direct, attacking style. Chris Clements committed to the Stags for another season and the jury remains out for many fans. I have always believed that Clements would thrive in a passing side and the talk coming out from the management team is that this will be exactly the sort of team 'Clemmo' will be a part of next season. Despite the plethora of new signings, no fan has forgotten the impact Jack Thomas had on the side towards the end of the last campaign and will be looking forward to see if he can continue his development this term. Youngster Anthony Dwyer and Joe Fitzpatrick will be hoping to follow in Jack's footsteps and are both highly rated by Murray. Jamie McGuire will be part of the squad for a third consecutive season and will help bond the group together, whilst Matty Blair is still attempting to prove his fitness.

The biggest overhaul to the squad has taken place in the striking department as Rakish Bingham, Liam Hearn, Matt Rhead and Alex Fisher all left the club in the summer and if rumours are to be believe, Ollie Palmer will soon be joining Leyton Orient, despite being offered a new deal at Field Mill. Despite the departures, there have not been many tears shed by Stags fans over the names mentioned above, mainly down to the return of talismanic striker Matt Green. Question still have to be answered as to whether Green can rediscover his form and fitness of the two seasons he spent with Mansfield Town, however it would be a huge shock if he cannot at least equal the seven goals managed by the Stags top scorers last term, but fans will he hoping for at least double that. Joining Green in returning to Field Mill is Chris Beardsley, a shock to most supporters, which was telegraphed by Murray who announced a few days prior to Beardsley's signing being announced that fans may be puzzled by some of his dealings. Murray was at pains to point out that Beardsley bought a winning mentality and leadership to the dressing room, as well as much needed graft and guile. It must be pointed out however, that Beardsley has a one goal to five starts ratio and is likely to be a foil to one of the other strikers rather than the main man. Craig Westcarr, a much travelled winger/striker who has played for most clubs in Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire, will provide pace and invention to the Stags forward line. A scorer of good goals, Westcarr struggled at Portsmouth last season but still manager six league strikes and has scored consistently at a higher level. The final attacker added to the ranks is Adi Yussuf, a player who score 26 goals for Oxford City in the Conference North last season. Whilst there is no doubting the signing is a bit of a gamble given the way the signing of Ollie Palmer appears to have a worked out, Yussuf appears hungry and has a point to prove having been released by both Leicester and Burton Albion in the past. The powerful front man clearly impressed Murray enough to roll the dice and the young striker will surely get his chance to impress in pre-season. Dan Fletcher, a youth team graduate who signed pro terms last year, will also surely get a chance to impress with Murray showing he is prepared to give youth a chance.

Whilst the squad appears to remain short of a couple of defenders and perhaps a winger or two, the core of the squad is in place and will no doubt benefit to spending the week together away from any distractions. The general consensus on Murray's dealings I would say is pleasantly surprised. The calibre of player that has been attracted, including two ex-premier league players, is above expectations and supporters are buoyant ahead of a busy pre-season fixture list. Murray has a lot to work on and has clearly impressed new signings with talk of his philosophy and style of play. A key theme running through Murray's interviews following new signings have been the words 'experience', 'character' and 'distribution'. The manager has clearly researched not only the technical ability of his new charges, but also what they can add to the group in terms of personality. As we know however, actions speak louder than words and the focus now switches from the managers office to the training pitch. Our first indications as to Adam Murray's philosophy will be on full view against Rainworth on Saturday, so get yourselves down to the game if possible and witness the start of a promising new era.