Plymouth Argyle face Mansfield at the weekend for the first time in over two years. Ahead of the encounter, we spoke to Stags fan Craig from Mansfield Matters to get his take. More content can be found on the Mansfield Matters website.
First of all, how did you get into supporting Mansfield?
I hated football when I was really young, but after being bullied at school I was taken along to a Stags game to take my mind off things and was hooked. I remember watching Kevin Pilkington throwing himself around in goal and I just wanted to be him, the hero! I soon realised that my footballing ability wasn’t there and just settled for watching games!
I very rarely missed games, often skipping school! Somehow, I fumbled a career out of watching the Stags and got into Sports Journalism, from writing blogs for the paper to commentating at Wembley Stadium for my local community radio station – I’ve done it all! Nowadays I work as a Media & Communications officer and follow the Stags as a hobby, hosting/ producing the ‘Mansfield Matters’ podcast every week and haven’t missed a game home or away for three seasons.
Are there any Mansfield players in particular we should be looking out for this weekend?
Danny Rose is the obvious name to highlight, he didn’t have the greatest of seasons last term what with transfer speculation coupled with a bad injury, but he’s got his head right and is back to the blossoming Rose we’ve come to love – he’s good in the air and on the floor and frustrates opposition. Other than Danny, CJ Hamilton and Otis Khan have got a bit on their day – whilst Pearce at the back is solid. It looks like we’ll have goalkeeper Bobby Oljenik back after a long layoff which will also be a boost.
Mansfield boss John Dempster is in his first season as a manager. What have you made of him so far?
John is a Mansfield legend in my book – a solid player who played a pivotal part in getting us back into and then staying in the football league. He was a good Captain and has done a phenomenal job with the Academy and deserves his shot at the top job. Sadly it hasn’t quite worked yet, but our owners are patient and I believe the good times will come – nobody learns or succeeds without the gift of time.
How would you say the club has recovered from defeat in the play-offs last season?
We haven’t. It’s as simple as that. David Flitcroft fell on his sword for not taking us up and a lot of people, me included, were sad to see him go – but you can’t ignore that the amount of bad performances and missed opportunities which led to our downfall and ultimately someone had to take the blame.
Dempster has been promoted from the Academy and inherited the squad which failed, but added quality to it – again it’s not quite worked but over the last few games the signs have been positive that something good is going to come eventually. We just need a sequence of better results and we’ll be fine.
What sort of tactical style do you expect to set up with on Saturday?
3-4-3 has been the style over the last few games with emphasis on a high press and quick movement when we have the ball, I do however have a feeling that there’ll be a tweak to that and we may go a little more defensive.
And are there any real weak links in the side you’re worried about?
In terms of players’ performance, no. Mentally yes. We have to get our crowd on side early and kill the little bubble of toxic attitude which has started to develop – failure to do that could result in a bad day at the office.
What first comes to mind when you think of Plymouth Argyle?
A good club, who should be in League One still, with a good manager in Ryan Lowe. I think Argyle will have a good season as things pan out and will be right up there.
Which Argyle player, if any, would you like to sign?
It would have been nice to bring in Danny Mayor in the summer to complement Nicky Maynard, and I’ve always rated Sarcevic and Edwards (class on Football Manager!) but I don’t think any of the three mentioned are any better than what we have, I think both squads are well balanced and on a par with one and other – regardless of what the league table suggests
Do you have any predictions for League Two in general this year?
I don’t think the first ten games reflect on how it’ll finish, both Plymouth and the Stags will be in the top 3/5 at the end of the season; they just need to allow the changes both clubs have made time to grow. Exeter will be up there whilst Cheltenham will drop off – keep an eye on Salford too, they won’t be afraid to protect their status by throwing money at it.
And finally, what is your prediction for the game itself?
Mansfield have to turn it around at some point, 3-0 Stags! Safe trip to all those travelling!