Ex-boss Paul Cox believes appointing John Dempster as manager is a shrewd move by Mansfield Town

John Dempster with Paul Cox.
John Dempster with Paul Cox.

Former Mansfield Town boss Paul Cox believes the appointment of John Dempster as the club’s new manager is a shrewd move.

Cox, who brought Dempster to the club as a player and watched him help Stags to promotion from the Conference, can see parallels to when he was also given a chance as an unknown manager.

But he warned the pressure on Dempster, like on Steve Evans and David Flitcroft, would be huge to achieve promotion next season after two near misses.

Dempster was promoted from academy manager to first team boss by chairman John Radford after the sacking of Flitcroft this week and Cox said: “I personally thing it’s a very good appointment.

“The last two appointments have been big names with big reputations. The proof is in the pudding and it hasn’t worked to be totally frank.

“John is an intelligent lad, he understand the game, and he’s probably been doing his ‘apprenticeship’ with the academy.

“Now John Radford thinks he deserves a crack at it.”

He added: “I can see a few similarities in a way with myself.

“When John gave me an opportunity I was an unknown. I had worked really, really hard, albeit in first team football and not youth football.

“We look at the success we had in the club at that time and it was down to John Radford’s good decision-making.

“It mirrors what is happening with John Dempster now and I think it’s a shrewd appointment by John.

“The chairman is not a stupid man. You don’t get to that level of business without being astute.

“I am sure he will have been keeping an eye on John and now thinks it’s time for him to step up.

“If he gives him the backing the other two have had I can see John being a real success.”

Cox believes Dempster’s experience of different levels of the game will hold him in good stead.

“He knows the game inside out and he’s good with people,” he said.

“He has a high level of intelligence – not just football intelligence, but human intelligence too.

“The good thing is he has been in a lot of dressing rooms through his career where his teams are not just made up of quality technically-gifted footballers.

“He’s played at Kettering and also in the Football League – he’s had a good foundation which develops a good understanding of good people.

“It’s not all about just having the best squad of players.

“You also need good people with a good mentality and John has an understanding of that. He looks like he’s done that with his youth teams.”

Still emotionally attached to the club, Cox was heartbroken by the Stags’ failure to achieve automatic promotion and admits he could not watch the play-off second leg with Newport.

“If you analyse Newport’s psychology, they are a very good cup side,” he said.

“They’ve had numerous successes over the last two or three seasons with good FA Cup runs.

“They are used to being in big one-off games and competing in them.

“I could not bear the watch that last play-off game.

“It broke my heart if I’m honest when I heard the result as I know how much John and Carolyn had put into this season. It’s cruel.

“The manager would not have wanted to leave it until the play-offs. The more results went against the side in the last three games, there was a bit of anxiety setting in – not just in the players but in the football club in general.

“I think you have to be a real one-off character to be able to control that, especially with the players.”

Cox said the sacking of Flitcroft last week was no great surprise.

“I still have a really strong affinity with the club and I wanted it to be a success,” he said.

“But it happened and I am not surprised the manager got the sack.

“It sounds harsh, but I don’t think anyone gets any joy out of that. It’s the nature of the beast. It’s the job we’re all in.

“We all know when we are in the job that it’s fine lines and you have to be successful and win football matches.

“If you look at the resources that the previous managers have had, knowing John Radford as I do, I think he would expect nothing less than automatic promotion.

“I don’t think John could ever be questioned on his decision-making over a change of manager.”

With Dempster’s inside knowledge from his time at the academy, Mansfield Town are perfectly set for another group of young players to come through the ranks for the first time in years, though Cox warned promotion would be the main aim and youngsters could only be blooded at the right moment.

“The whole club is now in a much better position than it was 10-12 years ago,” he said.

“The last crop of youngsters to come through were very successful, though they have had some trickle through since like Jack Thomas.

“John Dempster will be aware of what he needs to do and, let’s not beat about the bush, he will probably need to be up there in that top three again next season.

“It would be the same with any manager that went in.

“He will have a good insight into the kids in there and their strengths and weaknesses.

“It’s right that John will blood them when he sees fit – not just for the sake of the kid, as you can destroy a kid by blooding them too early – but also for the sake of the football club and the promotion they will probably have to achieve next season.

“Overall I think it’s a very positive appointment and I’m sure John will be more than equipped to deal with all the different kids of pressure that will now be associated with the step up.”