Mansfield Town manager Paul Cox has admitted he expects a summer of heartache and knock-backs in his search for a goalscorer and said patience has to be the key.
Stags have just enjoyed a decent season on their return to League football, but having been unable to replace promotion goalscoring hero Matt Green, it is easy to wonder where they might have ended up with a 20+ goalscorer this last season.
However, finding one remains a holy grail-sized task and is made more difficult by the club having to cut its playing budget for the new season.
“We are going to have to work extremely hard with the money we have to spend,” said Cox. “We will be running a squad of 22 or less, maybe 20 players.
“The priority is to bring in someone that can score goals - someone who has a good goals to games ratio. We are sifting through a multitude of agents’ emails and talking to agents and other clubs regarding this.
“In our first season back up we have finished with 60 points, just 11 points off the play-offs. If we can tighten up a little bit more defensively and added someone that can score goals to the ranks, we could probably go into the season in a good frame of mind.
“But goalscorers like Matt Green are hard to find, and when you do find them they cost a lot of money. So I am steadying myself for a lot of knock-backs this summer.
“It is going to be a long drawn-out process. In the end we hope to get our man for the right reasons, not just the amount of money or of length of contract.
“Only one club in our entire division had a striker that scored over 20 goals and that was Sam Winnall at Scunthorpe. The next centre forward was Scott Hogan at Rochdale with 17 and then Byron Harrison at Chetenham with 13.
“Everyone is looking for them and it is not as if I can go and pinch one from another club in our division. They are not there.”
He added: “We have been looking at the Premier U21s all season and players in the Conference. We have not left any stone unturned.
“Sometimes you have to create one like we did with Matt Green. His goalscoring record wasn’t brilliant when we brought him in. We had to work hard with him.
“But we would like to bring in a natural goalscorer that is within our budget.
“A lot of footballers’ contracts don’t end until 30th June so there are a lot of players out there playing poker while they are still earning. Once their contract ends they will have to cut their cloth accordingly.
“Sometimes you have got to be patient. We can’t be too quick diving into every deal. Patience has got to be the key.”
One man who could yet fit the bill is former Alfreton and Grimsby hit man Liam Hearn, who has been a regular face at One Call Stadium where Stags have been helping him with his rehabilitation from a cruciate ligament injury. But, if he is declared fully fit, there is bound to be a queue for his services.
“Liam has had a scan on his injury and it has been brilliant news,” said Cox. “The graft is looking good and the surgeons and specialists are happy with it. He is running well now.
“I am talking all the time to his agent and the lad himself. But there has obviously got to be a point where we have to sit down and see where he wants to go.
“He has just moved back to the area, I get on well with him and he has a good relationship with the rest of the lads.
“Liam’s goalscoring record speaks for itself. We know what he can do. But the final decision has to be the right one for the player and the football club.”