If Mansfield Town managed to sneak their way into the play-offs then Paul Cox would be delighted, but, as League Two leaders Rochdale hit town tomorrow, the Stags boss said, whatever the result, what he needs to see is his players staking claims for new contracts next season with good performances.
Table-topping Dale have only lost once in 13 outings and will provide formidable opposition, as Stags found in the 3-0 loss at Spotland on Boxing Day.
But Mansfield, who have just won three on the bounce, are just seven points off the play-offs with five games to go and Cox said: “If we were lucky enough to win five out of five and find ourselves in the play-offs, anyone would take that. But I just want us to finish as high as we can in our first season.
“I don’t want players to think the job is done and they can rest on their laurels. I am not that kind of person and we are not that kind of club.
“Everyone wants to win every game and I understand that. We need to improve. I need to improve, the club needs to improve, the players need to improve. Standards all around the place need to be stepped up.
“I have some big decisions to make in the summer, but I hope they are positive ones.
“I have a group of men here, regardless of what people say about them, who are becoming anxious. Contracts are running out and they have families to feed and mortgages to pay.
“It’s not a nice part of the job, but it is a nice position to be in as a manager. The players all know what I want. I want players to be hungry and successful.
“Everyone will be given the chance over the next month to stay here at the club. No door has been closed on any player.
“But we do need a bit of something else bringing in over the summer. I wouldn’t be doing my job if not. We need to bring in 3/4/5 players who are going to improve the squad.”
Cox added: “Probably only three times this season have the boys as a group let everyone down. And the game at Rochdale was one of those games.
“We let our travelling support down that day and a few harsh words were said afterwards, not just by me but also the players among themselves.
“Rochdale have had a great season and deserve to be where they are.
“But we don’t want the season to end right now as we have a vigour about us and are getting about sides. I just want to end the season on a high.”
The game, like all other games in this the league, kicks-off at 3.07pm in respect to the 25th anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster on Saturday and Cox said: “It is so important we all try to make sure we respect Hillsborough on Saturday.
“We all chase this dream in football and sometimes forget there is a bigger thing called life.
“A lot of good people lost their lives that day and Saturday will be an emotional day, particularly in the North-West. I hope everyone will pay their respects.
“We tried to do it properly when we played Liverpool last year. At the end of the day this is a job and it is a game. It is just a sport. There are bigger things than this business. People have got families and wives – they are the important things in life.”
Stags will be without suspended duo Anthony Howell and Jamie McGuire on Saturday but do welcome James Jennings back from a two-game ban.
They will also hope goalkeeper Alan Marriott recovers from a dislocated finger sustained in training.