As he takes the first steps on his fledgling coaching career, Mansfield Town defender John Dempster paid tribute to boss Adam Murray and the new direction the club is heading in.
Paul Cox was still the manager, employing a direct, physical style, when Dempster (32) suffered a groin injury that needed surgery early in the season.
We are lucky to have Adam Murray in charge of this football club
While he has been recovering, Murray has taken over as manager, tried to change many things at the club including the style of play, and Dempster has been allowed to step onto the first rung of the coaching ladder with the youth team.
“The old regime was successful but it would be fair to say it was old school,” said Dempster “The club is now moving to the new school. Football is an evolving business and it’s important to move with the times.
“It’s great to see Mansfield Town moving with the times, and with the new manager they have a different philosophy and different ideas. It’s been brilliant for me to jump on board and be part of it.
“Being completely honest, everything has been flipped on its head. That’s no disrespect to the previous regime as it was a successful one. This is now a work in progress and a new project that will take time.
“From my experience as a player with the coaches and managers I have worked for, we are lucky to have Adam Murray in charge of this football club. He is highly thought of within the football business and he is going places.
“Hopefully that will work hand in hand with the manager progressing and taking the football club with him.”
Dempster is now back up for selection if needed, but he is enjoying the youth coaching and said it had long been an ambition of his to get into that side of the game.
“I won’t say I feel fit as I have been out for the majority of the season, doing a lot of rehab from my operation which seem to have healed up well,” he said.
“During that time I have been helping out on first team matters and with the youth team as well.
“It has been an interesting period and an enjoyable one. I had a bilateral repair on my groin, which is both sides. It was painful and just down to general wear and tear over the years.
“It has been a frustrating season from that point of view as I have been fortunate with injuries and never had a long term one before. This is the longest I have been out. So it’s good to be on the mend.”
He added: “Coaching is something that has interested me even from a young age which may seem quite strange to some people. A lot of people just focus on their playing careers.
“I am especially interested in the youth side and developing players. That’s why I have been doing my coaching badges so if the opportunity did arise I’d to be able to take it.
“I have my UEFA B licence and start my A in the summer. With the first team it’s all about the results. But with the youth team, even if you win your league, if you don’t bring players through it can be seen as an unsuccessful season.”
He added: “With the first team I have been in the dressing room as a positive influence in and around the players as I have a wealth of experience at this level.
“We have to focus on what is required and our main target is survival. That has not changed for a number of months now.
“So I’ve been juggling a few things and I have enjoyed it.”
The return of Steve Hymas as director will see an even greater focus on youth at the club next season.
After several wilderness years, Stags have finally started to unearth local talent again with the likes of Jack Thomas, Liam Marsden, Joe Fitzpatrick and Dan Fletcher coming through.
A new-look youth set up, with the U18s coming under the auspices of the FA’s acclaimed Elite Player Performance Plan (EPPP) system, could unearth even more gems in the coming seasons with Dempster hoping to be in the vanguard of that.
“One of the main areas we are looking to improve is the youth set up,” said Dempster.
“We want to maybe bring a few more through and even increase the quality of players coming through, though it will take time.
“Steve Hymas will be at the top of the tree. He is someone for the club to tap into if something is needed, whether that’s advice or a new bag of balls. He will be there to support us along with Mark Hawkins. It’s good to have someone with the club’s interests at heart – you can’t really go wrong.
“It is good to have that support and I am sure we will need it in the coming years. It’s a big challenge and something I am looking forward to.”
But, although at the tail end of his playing career, Dempster is not ready to fully hang his boots up as yet.
“I may make a cameo appearance in the first team once we are safe, or if there was an injury crisis I would be available to slot in hopefully,” he said. “But I do hope to get another playing contract next season.”