Master v pupil as rookie Mansfield Town manager John Dempster prepares for showdown with ex-boss and friend Mark Cooper at Forest Green

Forest Green Rovers manager Mark Cooper
Forest Green Rovers manager Mark Cooper

Rookie boss John Dempster takes his Mansfield Town side to face his high-flying former boss Mark Cooper in a master v pupil showdown at Forest Green Rovers on Saturday.

Dempster served as Cooper’s captain at Kettering Town and has retained a close relationship.

However, Dempster admitted that would temporarily go out the window on Saturday as his Mansfield side try to make it three wins in a row away to a side only knocked off the top of the table last weekend by a 1-0 defeat at Exeter.

“I know their manager personally and we know it’s going to be a real challenge, though we’ll go into it confidently,” said Dempster.

“I was his captain at Kettering Town for three years so I know how he works and how professional he is.

“We have remained in contact since and he is someone I can call for advice. He is someone I respect a great deal.

“But there will be no love lost on Saturday. One thing is for sure – he won’t be doing me any favours and I know he won’t expect any from me.

“You look at some of the things he has done in the game as a manager, it’s impressive – none more so than what he has built at Forest Green.

“He is fortunate to have a very good chairman and it’s a club that is run efficiently.

“He has been given time and backing, which is always important, and I think he’s been trusted to get on with the job.”

Dempster believes Cooper could eventually manager at the top level.

“He is from a footballing family so he has a wealth of experience – his dad was a top player,” he said.

“Coops had a good career, but he has excelled as a manager and is someone I can see managing at the very top level in the future. If he carries on like he has been doing then he may become someone they will struggle to keep hold of.

“He has built and evolved a squad and got success which is very impressive. I am very fortunate to have him to tap into.”

Rovers have impressed so far this season and Dempster added: “Without a doubt they are one of the top three footballing sides in the division, if not the best.

“They keep the ball well, they will play out from the back, they will expect the goalkeeper to get on the ball.

“If it’s not on to go forwards they will play sideways and back as they value possession.

“When they lose the ball they look to get after people and win it back and get playing again.

“They will be right up there come the end of the season. They had a disappointing result against Exeter on Saturday, when Exeter were outstanding, so will be looking to put that right on Saturday no doubt.

“But at times they take risks and there are other areas we will be looking to exploit.”