Mansfield Town fly home from their pre-season training camp in Malta today with boss Steve Evans admitting he is excited by what he has seen from his new-look squad.
Stags are already the bookies’ favourites and after a 5-0 demolition of a Malta Players Association XI on Thursday and an energetic inter-squad game in blistering heat on Saturday, even a manager with Evans’ experience has been thrilled by the quality shown.
After the inter-squad game he said: “The players were saying after 45 minutes that was the hardest they’ve worked in a long, long time – and that was total football today.
“The quality within that total football excites me and I’m a manager on the back end of nine promotions, all led by very good players of course.
“It was a real step up in terms of how quickly people have to move the ball and how hard they have to work.
“We know the opposition the other night was a little bit away from where we are and we wanted as strong a competition as we could.”
Evans added: “We could have opened it up and played a similar opposition to what we had on Thursday evening, but I told the chairman quite clearly that I wanted us to play amongst the group.
“There is great team spirit within the group but also a real rivalry for positions. They know how tough it’s going to be to be in the team.
“For 45 minutes in 35 degrees the pace of the game was kept really high and some of the performances, it has to be said, on both sides were outstanding.
“It helps when you play it the ‘British way’ – at a high tempo. Jurgen Klopp comes to this country and talks about high tempo – the best teams in this country have been doing it for decades. Look at Alex Ferguson.
“So we played with a real high tempo and zest to our play. We didn’t allow the sun to make it a crawling game.”
On Thursday two separate Stags’ teams played 45 minutes each in the 5-0 victory win at the Ta ‘Qali National Stadium Training Facility with Lee Angol bagging a brace and seeing a penalty saved, striker Danny Rose, Paul Digby and Will Atkinson also on target.
“It was very much a workmanlike performance, with lots of energy,” said Evans.
“We scored a few goals, didn’t concede and could have scored lots more. “But I was really pleased with the industry and how they’re adapting to the style that we’re trying to introduce.
“We’re trying to get players used to playing with each other and trying to quickly come up to speed with how we want them to play. It was a good start and simply just something to build on.
“I was really pleased with the industry and how they’re adapting to the style that we’re trying to introduce.
“These lads have got an incredible attitude to work hard, they’ve come here and trained three times a day. There’s never been one criticism, not one raised eyebrow.
“The players deserve enormous credit for adapting to what they’ve done, but the chairman and the chief executive, the Radford family, deserve enormous credit.
“I think we’ve got players who have all been successful – a lot of them have been successful in their careers at higher levels – and certainly in terms of arrangements, professionalism and how they’ve been treated, it’s the best they’ve had in their careers. That’s testament to the Radford family.”