Daydreaming of open top bus rides!

by

WHAT a week for Mansfield sport! Stags sit fifth in the table just two points off the summit and Becky Adlington’s homecoming party on Tuesday night was something everyone there will remember forever.

It was impossible to squeeze your way into the Market Place from certain approaches as 15,000 flag-waving, cheering locals acknowledged Becky’s amazing Olympic double.

And while enjoying the chance to applaud her I must admit I also stood there daydreaming and wondering how many Stags fans among that crowd were hoping, like me,  to see Mansfield Town on the same open top bus drive again in May, celebrating gaining promotion back to the Football League.

In all honesty I wouldn’t bank any money on it becoming reality. But that is not taking away from the excellent and unexpected early points return from Billy McEwan’s rag-tag side.

All any of us wanted was our club to survive the summer and begin the BSP season. We survived by the skin of our teeth and knew that McEwan’s late appointment and the even later addition of available players meant we were facing a year of consolidation and even survival at this level.

Don’t forget McEwan could only sign players that were still available and many of them were far from match fit with no pre-season under their belts.

Some say that, without a proper full pre-season, it is nigh on impossible to really reach your potential once the games start. So to take 10 points from the first five games and be within touching distance of the top is remarkable. So for those who feel they need to have a go at the side for not being more impressive, I can only ask – what do you want?

These players are largely strangers to us and to each other. They are not match fit. And yet they are performing whole-heartedly for the cause. Let’s be grateful for what we have right now.

Fitness is a vicious circle. Having lost the opportunity to gradually build it up in the summer, it is so hard to sharpen players’ fitness once the games start coming thick and fast. Push them too hard and niggling injuries will creep in. And they need time to fully recover from games. It is a fine balancing act.

It is true we have not looked fully convincing over a 90 minute period yet. Indeed, Barrow aside, Lady Luck has been quite good to us so far this campaign.

But we are trying to play football the right way and no one could be accused of not trying for the cause while wearing the shirt. At times we show that, of all the players out of work when the manager came in, McEwan has picked out some who can obviously play. But at other times we look like what we are – a bunch of lads thrown together only a few weeks ago.

Maybe having such a good start is not the best way for the players to keep the ‘Moaning Minnies’ off their backs. Maybe it is just piling pressure on themselves to stay in the promotion hunt when maybe a poor start followed by a decent run later in the season would have kept certain hyper-critical fans happier. Most of us prefer it how it is, though, thank you.

Games so far have been scrappy but exciting with goals-a-plenty. And, let’s be honest, the standard of the BSP hasn’t been as high as we thought it might be so far. But we do have some bigger name clubs to play and a long, long way to go.

Congratulations to Nathan Arnold and Jon D’Laryea for their selection to the England non-League squad this week.

To represent your country at anything at any level is something hard-earned and to feel proud about. D’Laryea has already shown us he is finally getting back to the player we had before his injury problems. And Arnold has just begun to show glimpses of the pace and trickery that will terrify BSP defenders this season once he has got into his full stride.

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