ONCE the emotion of a Wembley final had passed and the dust had died down, Mansfield Town’s board looked at the final league position in the cold light of day and decided manager Duncan Russell had to go.
On Wednesday night Russell was told he would not be offered a new deal, a decision made public the following morning, but the club have said they will not rush into a new appointment.
Fans had been calling for change after the club’s worst-ever finish to a BSBP season and chief executive Steve Barker said: “It was a difficult one as everyone knows we had a nice run in the FA Trophy and got to Wembley which was memorable for everyone at the club as well as the fans.
“But for Duncan Russell, the same as every other manager, it is results-orientated and when he took over we were 10th and four points off the play-offs.
“You look at it now and we are 13th and 17 points off the play-offs. That’s what this decision has been made on.
“It was a board decision. The chairman spoke to him on the phone last night to tell him the decision and I then spoke to him face to face this morning to go through things and give him the respect he deserves.
“He is a great fellow and getting Mansfield to Wembley is an achievement for himself. We wish him all the best for any future jobs he gets.
“I also want to thank all our supporters too for their backing last season and at Wembley. To see them all there was very emotional for me.”
For a time it seemed chairman John Radford would give Russell another year and comments he made on the radio suggested it was heading that way.
But Barker said: “The board have been reviewing everything. I think the euphoria of Wembley overshadowed some parts and comments were made. But Saturday is done and gone now and we know this club needs to freshen its ideas. This is a very big summer ahead for this club. We want a promotion push.
“Obviously we take on board what the supporters think too as, without them, we wouldn’t have a club. But their comments on Duncan were not the sole reason. The results speak for themselves. It was easy sometimes to get smokescreened by Wembley.
“It was an absolutely brilliant day but promotion remains our main aim.”
Stags are now expecting a flood of applications with former Eastwood boss Paul Cox plus Dave Penney and Martin Foyle, seen at recent games, among the likely contenders.
“We will sift through the applications and take each one on its merit,” said Barker.
“We have to be looking for promotion or play-offs as a minimum. That is the target.
“You have only got to look at the town and the support we took to Wembley. I know the support is there and we potentially have a great future ahead of us.”
One sticking block continues to be the fact that Stags don’t have a 10-year lease on Field Mill and are trying to reclaim the ground from landlord Keith Haslam through the courts.
Although the club insist they have a ‘plan B’, fans are worried the new campaign could end up being a season of, in effect, ‘friendlies’ with the club unable to go up without a ground, which could put off a potential new manager.
If the ground is reclaimed Mr Radford has said he will put up a £2m promotion war chest. But, if the ground saga drags on, a new manager would still be expected to have them up there in the play-off reckoning with maybe only a quarter of that to spend.
“I hope the situation won’t affect potential managers applying,” said Barker. “We are very confident we will get the ground back though the courts or through negotiations outside the courts.
“Candidates will be asked how they would go forward with different scenarios on budgets.”
Despite comments made to the contrary by Mr Haslam’s legal representatives, Mr Barker insisted an out-of-court offer had been made and turned down to the landlord.
He said: “We made an offer to Mr Haslam after the court case but it wasn’t agreed. I hope we can sit down and negotiate. But we do have a plan B which I can’t go into.
“I can definitely say an offer was made at court when he asked to be given 14 days grace from our lawyers pursuing our claim.
“When our lawyers spoke to his lawyers after that 14 days they said we don’t know why you are even asking as Mr Haslam said he had rejected it there and then, which wasn’t what we heard.
“We will just have to wait and see. We hope he will sit down and negotiate a price in both parties’ interests. We will look to talk this summer.
“But we won’t be held to ransom by Mr Haslam and if need be we can put ‘plan B’ into action by the end of next season.”
Assistant boss Paul Hall has been made caretaker-manager for now and would love the job full-time, saying: “I will be throwing my hat in, I have to. But I know there will be bigger hats in there too.”
Barker said: “Paul, like everyone else, is in our eye, and if he goes for it he will have to go through the same criteria as the other applicants have to go through.
“We have to get this appointment right. We won’t be rushing into it. I don’t want to put a time limit on the appointment.
“We want a successful manager. We don’t mind what his style is. Managers are different. Steve Evans at Crawley is very aggressive and vocal while Sven Goran Eriksson is very quiet and laid-back. As long as they are successful they can be any combination of those.”
Stags today announced that Kyle Nix, Paul Stonehouse, Niall O’Rafferty, Mark Preece and Tyrone Thompson will not be offered new deals. And more could follow them out the door with other players still to be spoken to.
This quintet were told they were going by Russell just before also left the club, but Barker said: “We have sat down and spoken to Paul Hall and those players will stay released. It will be down to the new manager if he wants to bring them back in.
“We have a squad of nine players which needs some players of the right calibre added to it.”