The return of Junior Daniel today was a move few people saw coming before his appearance in the crowd last weekend.
The versatile left-footer played a prominent role in Stags’ promotion from the Conference and successful first year back in League football two years ago – and his return with just 13 games to go underlines how serious the club is about making this season’s play-offs.
Although chairman John Radford and manager Adam Murray recently relieved the mounting pressure on their over-achieving squad by telling the players to enjoy themselves and not to worry about League placings, make no mistake this shows the Stags are deadly serious about staying in that top seven.
Click HERE to read a profile of Junior Daniel and boss Murray’s thoughts
Click HERE to read the Daniel signing story
To come so close now, having been up there almost all season, and to miss out would be heart-breaking.
So it’s great credit to John Radford that he has backed Murray’s view that Daniel could make all the difference in the run-in and, despite the tight budget, has once again invested in the club.
As we all remember from last time, Daniel could sometimes cut a frustrating figure, drifting out of games.
But he has great pace, is big and strong and, on his day, a definite match-winner.
When he left Mansfield it was by his choice – and only because he was being courted by Port Vale boss Micky Adams to go and play at a higher level.
The good thing is that Murray knows the player and his potential inside out and believes he knows how to get more out of him than Stags fans saw last time around, which could be spectacular.
In a small squad, his versatility in being able to play defence, midfield or up front is a huge asset.
As well as returning to a former club, Daniel is also Nottingham-born which will help in quickly settling him down.
He has played 25 times for League One Vale this season, 12 of them as a sub, the last on January 23 against Bradford.
So, apart from a little rust to burn off, he is fresh and raring to go with a tremendous prize to chase and a contract for next season to be won.
As Murray plays his cards one last time for a tilt at the play-offs, let’s hope Junior can be the ace in the pack.