The January transfer window is finally open and Mansfield Town have settled down for what will be a long haul game of chess.
Manager David Flitcroft is approaching this most crucial time of the season with a very cool head and a very open mind as he tries to make sure every position is covered for the run-in.
He has made it very clear he is in no hurry to bring players in – and why would he be with the side’s current form? And he is certainly in no hurry to sell.
BIG BID FOR CJ HAMILTON TURNED DOWN?
In Stags’ current lofty position of third, you could imagine previous boss Steve Evans splashing the cash and boosting the numbers.
But Flitcroft already has a smaller, tight squad of quality players and knows he needs to add little – maybe one more striker and a centre half as cover.
The bigger worry is losing players.
When a side is playing as consistently well as Mansfield you can bet any side worth their salt have been watching closely and Flitcroft said there had already been interest in his players ahead of the window.
The exciting CJ Hamilton will obviously be the main point of interest for big bids – it was rumoured on social media that Stags have already turned down £750,000 from Preston though the club have not confirmed that as yet.
But most players in that side are in the spotlight and, for once, Stags players are likely to be in demand from higher clubs.
Mansfield also have the task of securing top scorer Tyler Walker on loan for the rest of the season.
Walker certainly wants to stay and I find it hard to believe the rumours that Forest want to recall him and send him to a higher division club where he may not play as regularly.
The current situation suits all three parties perfectly so Walker going would be the biggest shock in my opinion.
Flitcroft has said he now has four weeks to assess who is available and what he needs and will take his time to bring in the right players.
That list can change from day to day with injuries, loss of form and players sold.
It’s not just about ability. Ever since that pre-season trip to Portugal, Mansfield have had a tightness, a real family feeling, about the squad, and it’s not a dressing room that needs or would tolerate any disruption from the wrong character.
Who or what he needs could also change in an instant were the club to get an enormous bid in for one of the current players that was simply too big to turn down.
It is unsettling for the club and unsettling for the supporters.
But it can also be unsettling for players too.
With some very tough games ahead this month, the manager won’t find it easy to focus some of his players while speculation over their futures rages all over the internet.
They certainly won’t come much tougher than this Saturday when Stags have to make one of their longest trips of the season to take on a Carlisle United side who have just reeled off five successive wins, scoring 17 goals, to move three points behind Mansfield.
Two home games in four days against Yeovil Town and Crawley offer a good chance for points before a home clash with Tranmere is sandwiched by crucial away trips to promotion rivals Colchester and Forest Green to round off the month.
With Stags playing both their games in hand this month and the window then closing, we will all have a much better picture of Stags’ promotion chances by the time bottom club Macclesfield visit for the first game of February.