LOMAS ON STAGS: Reasons to be cheerful - see you at the bookies!

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Every football supporter in the country will have ambitions and dreams for the new season that kicks off this Saturday.

But Mansfield Town fans have genuine reason to believe their side could at least make the end of season play-off party this time around.

John Lomas

John Lomas

Adam Murray is determined to take the club forward every season and looks to have put the components in place to have the best chance he can of doing that.

Mansfield are not one of the division’s top spenders in wages or transfer fees so the budget for the season is not one that gives them any right to gatecrash the top seven.

That, coupled with the fact that chairman John Radford has not make any ambitious predictions for where he hopes his club will end up, both help take away enormous unwanted pressure from Murray’s men.

Having the budget (and the history) can be a burden – just watch how clubs like Portsmouth and Luton Town choke on the pressure.

The bookies and the footballing world do not expect Stags to feature in the final play-off reckoning, and that will suit Murray just fine.

Against the odds last time around Mansfield stayed with the play-off pace and ruffled plenty of feathers along the way before ultimately blowing up from a terrible March.

This time around Murray has kept together the bulk of that talented squad but added several quality names to it and – whisper it – even paid a fee for an exciting young striker from a division above.

With 12 months under their belt, playing together and learning the Murray way of doing things, last season’s squad are raring to go and apparently the new faces have fitted in perfectly well and are now part of one big happy family – Adi Yussuf excepted.

In new boys Ashley Hemmings, CJ Hamilton and Kevan Hurst Stags finally look to have options of getting down the wings and round the back.

Hurst looks a high quality addition who can play in a number of positions and is an expert with the dead ball.

Up front Danny Rose looks a perfect foil to take goalscoring pressure off Matt Green this time around, though Pat Hoban has impressed hugely during his pre-season appearances.

Biggest worry must be at the back where player of the year Ryan Tafazolli leaves a huge pair of boots to fill.

But Murray has huge faith that towering newcomer George Taft can shake off his injury troubles from last season at Burton and again find the form that earned the 6ft 5ins centre half England U18 and U19 honours – a height Tafazolli never hit.

Just in case there are any problems back there, Murray has already roped in a six month loan for another highly promising 6ft 5ins centre half in West Brom’s Kyle Howkins.

The problem right back slot has been filled by Rochdale’s Rhys Bennett, who Everton were keeping tabs on not long ago and who loves to get forward like Nicky Hunt used to.

In goal we still have genuine competition with Brian Jensen rolling back the years in pre-season games to give Murray a lovely headache for Saturday.

It would seem the only rocking of the boat for Murray has come in the shape of striker Yussuf’s request to play elsewhere this week.

Despite flashes of quality last season and in pre-season here and there, the former Oxford City frontman has never quite done enough to be a first choice and his statement to Murray that he felt he was ahead of Rose, Green and Hoban simply did not have the facts to back it up.

He wants to start games, and hats off to him for that. Seasons soon race by and you can end up with more splinters in your backside from sitting on benches than goals scored when your career end suddenly looms into sight.

It remains to be soon who or if Murray replaces him before the weekend or before the August window closes.

But with three decent strikers fighting for one or two shirts and an up-and-coming youngster in Zayn Hakeem in reserve, it is far from the worst blow Murray could have suffered in the week leading up to the big kick-off.

At least playing away at Newport first should guarantee some grass on their awful pitch that resembled a beach on last season’s trip.

Nothing helps sides to win matches more then confidence and nothing helps confidence more than winning.

So if Stags can get off to a flying start in the league, then one of two of us may be annoyed we didn’t pop that tenner on this week before the bookies get wind of the Murray’s squad’s capabilities.

Enjoy the opener and see you at the bookies!