Stags blog: Mansfield Town need to finally replace Alan Marriott next season

Alan Marriott makes a fine save from Andy Dawson's free kick -Pic by:Richard Parkes
Alan Marriott makes a fine save from Andy Dawson's free kick -Pic by:Richard Parkes

It is often said that a good goalkeeper is worth 12 extra points throughout the course of a Football League campaign, but I think that figure is probably a little bit low.

I would say that a good – not great, just good – goalkeeper is probably worth closer to 20 extra points during the season.

A steady stopper is something which Mansfield Town boss Adam Murray must do his utmost to sign this summer if the Stags are to achieve their ambitions for the 2015/16 season.

Following Alan Marriott’s departure, Stags have been found sadly wanting in the goalkeeping department.

I am sure most Stags fans will agree that ‘Mazza’ was by far the most consistent keeper Mansfield Town has seen for quite some time.

I would probably go as far to say that the former Lincoln City keeper was unlucky not to be rewarded with a new contract ahead of the 2014/15 season, I do believe one was offered, but terms couldn’t be agreed, which I guess is the way football works.

Marriott had been a loyal servant of over 200 games for the Stags and having been the number one stopper for five years his departure was always going to leave the club with big gloves to fill.

Last season without being able to call upon Marriott no fewer than four keepers were used in competitive fixtures.

Sascha Studer, Dimitar Evtimov, Adam Smith and Lenny Pidgeley all kept goal at some point throughout the campaign but not one of them managed to stamp their authority on the first-team.

Not only that but three of the four were brought to the club on loan with Studer the only contracted Mansfield Town goalkeeper on the books last season.

I have always said that the goalkeeping position is the one position that should not be rotated over the course of a season.

Goalkeepers thrive on confidence and by sitting on a bench they are not gaining any confidence whatsoever.

A manager would be wise to inform the keepers at the start of August which man is his preferred choice between the sticks for the forthcoming season and play him in as many games as possible - dependant on fitness.

It shouldn’t matter whether that is in the league or the cups, the first-choice stopper should play every game, regardless of the type of fixture.

Some of the finest club’s in the world go down the other route of regularly rotating the gloves but I simply don’t see the logic.

Also, I find the concept of a loan goalkeeper a little odd too. Loan players don’t always live and breathe a club, they are simply doing their bit to ensure they play some first team football.

Regardless of what anyone seems to think, there is no way on this earth that a loan player will put in as much effort as someone who is contracted and being paid by the club on a permanent basis. Okay so there are exceptions. Every club will get that one loan gem every now and again, but when it comes to borrowing a goalkeeper it is a risky thing to try and do.

Mansfield Town Football Club has a history of having excellent keepers that the club can look back on with fond memories. Kevin Hitchcock, Ian Bowling, Kevin Pilkington even Marriott would fall into that category and it is imperative ahead of next season that the club makes the right choice when it comes to the new number one.

It is all fine and well signing players of the ilk of Matt Green to score goals in abundance at one end but foundations of a football team have to be built from back-to-front, and that starts in between the sticks.

Reports are suggesting that the club are speaking to four experienced players who are keen to come to the One Call Stadium along with two more inexperienced players who would be prospects rather than immediate first-team regulars.

I can only hope that one of the four older heads is a goalkeeper, who ideally, has been proven when playing regular football in either League One or Two – Championship would be a bonus, but probably unrealistic.

You look at the teams that won promotion from League Two last season and they all had consistent goalkeepers. Dan Bentley at Southend United was exceptional and looks set for a move to a bigger club, Jayson Leutwiler at Shrewsbury Town set a new club record for the most consecutive clean sheets and Jon McLaughlin at Burton, played every single game as the Brewers won the League Two title.

How many points would those three clubs have missed out on had if not for the performances of their keepers?

Hopefully the Stags have learnt their lesson from the goalkeeping merry-go-round of last season and no doubt Adam Murray will have someone in mind.

I dare to say it but a good custodian with Football League experience, to add to the recruits that have already come through the door, and the club would already be 10-12 places better off on last year’s final position.

Two or three other experienced additions in other areas of the pitch and a play-off push really could be there for the taking for the Yellows.

I can’t really see many stand-out teams in League Two next season and it will all be down to who strengthens their squad the best.

Some of Murray’s signings so far indicate that he means business and it is now about ‘dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s’ as the boss himself likes to say.