Paul Cox believes he is about to begin his most challenging season since becoming Mansfield Town boss.
Cox goes into the new League Two campaign against Northampton Town with just 21 first-team players to select from following a major cut in the club’s wage budget.
But, despite the challenging financial constraints and smaller squad, Cox appears to have improved the quality of players at his disposal and found the answer to their goal-scoring troubles in Liam Hearn.
“In some ways this has been my biggest pre-season challenge,” said Cox. “This will be the biggest season since I have been at the club, but I’m looking forward to enjoying it.
“The players are looking forward to the task ahead, it is going to be an enjoyable challenge for us all.
“We have had a good pre-season, but I have been around the block enough to know that pre-season can give you a false sense of security. You cannot read too much into them, it is just pre-season.
“The fans are excited about how things have gone and it is great seeing that level of excitement around the place.
“But we cannot get carried away and have got to keep our feet on the ground.
“It is my job to keep the players focused and on the right path.”
During his three seasons in the hot-seat Cox has improved Mansfield’s fortunes year on year having taken the club from play-off semi-final defeat to the Conference League title and then a credible 11th place finish in League Two.
But if that trend is to repeat itself, Cox knows he will need lady luck to be smiling on the One Call Stadium.
“We have only got a squad of 21 players and we are going to need some luck with injuries and suspensions,” said Cox.
“We have been given a wage budget and it is what it is. We have had to look far and wide for players and myself and my staff have worked very hard to bring new players in.
“I do not think they are gambles, the new players all have excellent potential.
“We have also got some good young players in the squad, but they might take some time to adjust to League Two.
“We have a lot of potential, but at the moment potential is all it is. If we can realise some of that potential then we will not be bad.
“Players like Ryan Tafazolli have been touted by higher clubs and I am looking for Ryan and Sam Clucas to push on and improve further.
“Some of our younger players have got the potential to be excellent players, they could go on to become another Sam Clucas.”
Mansfield Town will be looking to change history by picking up their first opening day away win for 24 years.
Northampton Town, who avoided relegation by the skin of their teeth last season, ended their 2013/14 with five wins out of their final 12 matches.