New-look Mansfield Town can taste glory says Nicky Hunt

Nicky Hunt - Pic By James Williamson
Nicky Hunt - Pic By James Williamson

Mansfield Town may not have the biggest budget in League Two and will kick-off as a new-look side with 13 new faces – but experienced defender Nicky Hunt is confident the Stags can still achieve promotion glory.

One of the new arrivals, the 31-year-old former England U21 man, who has spent much of his career in the top two divisions, said: “The gaffer talked about it on the first day and the players have taken all that on board.

“We believe in ourselves that we can get it – either way, play-offs or automatic – so we will see how it goes.

“We’ve got a great set of lads. The changing room is always buzzing from morning until we go onto the training ground when we know it’s time to work as soon as we step on there. He has had that instilled in us.

“We believe in his philosophy, we believe in the way he plays, we believe in the way he wants us to play and I believe we can handle the pressure this season that’s he’s put on and we’ve put on ourselves.

“Pre-season has gone really well. I think the lads have adapted well. There are a lot of new faces here and it’s always hard to adapt to different playing styles.

“The manager wants us to pass the ball this season and get at teams that way which has been great for us because I think everyone in the team can do that.”

Hunt does not believe that having to compete with clubs with far bigger budgets will hold them back either.

“I’ve had to deal with that for the last two years at Accrington and they had one of the lowest budgets in the League, and maybe the Conference as well,” he said.

“But we overcame a lot of people that were putting us down and I am sure it’s the same here.

“We haven’t got the biggest budget but what we have got is a lot of heart, a lot of character and a lot of good players.

“It’s a good place to be around. The staff are friendly and have made everyone feel welcome. I just hope that on Saturday, and I am quite confident we can do it, is that we get off to the perfect start.”

Hunt is one of the more experienced new face at the One Call Stadium – and he has been very impressed by the young players he has found in the dressing room.

“There is an awful lot of talent here,” he said. “You’ve got young Jack Thomas and Mitch Rose, you’ve got Nathan Thomas, you’ve got some some really good up and coming players. Corbin Shires, the centre half, is only 17.

“You’ve got a lot of home-grown talent here which is always nice to see at lower league clubs.

“Maybe they don’t get the chance at the higher clubs because of all the foreign transfers, but especially League Two/League One and the Championship to some extent it’s great to see young lads coming through.”

Hunt said another ambition was to try to be an ever-present in the side this season, though concedes it would be a big ask.

“I just want to keep fit all season – that’s the big one for me – and to play as many games as I can,” he said.

“Obviously I’d love to play 46 League games and all the cup games. But it’s a tough season and a long season and we’ve got a really good squad. So I am sure the manager wants to use all the players in the squad when needed.

“I still have the same enthusiasm as ever, though my legs won’t carry me as fast as they used, but I have always loved the game.

“I am sure there might be a time when I fall out of love with the game, then that would be the time to finish. But at the moment I am loving every minute I am here.”

He added: “They just get longer and longer these pre-seasons at my age. But it’s brilliant to get back into the swing of things.

“To be honest it’s been exactly the same as any other pre-season. There’s differences in training obviously wherever you go. But, apart from that, you are working hard and gearing up to Saturday, which is the first game of the season.

“You never go into that first game at 100 per cent fitness. You can play as many matches as you want but nothing is like the league that you play in.

“There will be three or four games where, though not rusty, we will need the game time, and that goes for every club in every league, even as high as the Premier League.”