LOMAS ON STAGS: Potentially season-defining week ahead after shock departures

Mansfield Town manager Steve Evans - Pic By James Williamson
Mansfield Town manager Steve Evans - Pic By James Williamson

You are always told never to be surprised by anything in football.

But the departure of Steve Evans and Paul Raynor from Mansfield Town last night was a huge shock to all.

The Radford family, the players, the fans and certainly myself struggled to take in the reality that Evans had walked and Stags were managerless at a crucial moment in the season.

A larger than life character, Evans had breezed into the club in November 2016 with huge confidence he could turn their fortunes around and turn them from a club flirting with relegation to one that could jump up to the Championship in a couple of full seasons.

True to his word, Evans changed things round immediately and has put them in a fantastic position with 12 games to go. He has kept his word every step of the way.

So why leave now? It certainly isn’t about money.

One would guess his severance pay at Championship giants Leeds United would see him through for life, let alone the wages he has earned.

So has he just gone to a ‘Posher’ job? Forgive me Peterborough but I don’t see you as that exciting a club.

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If Evans had gone to a top half Championship or Premier League club we’d have all gone fair enough – good luck and thanks for what you’ve done.

But Posh are a yo-yo club and he won’t get any more money there than the Radford family have been giving him here in Mansfield.

If it’s not for cash, then being a football manager is about the glory and about your CV.

So what would look better on a CV? That you joined a side staring at a drop to the Conference and took them up two divisions to the Championship or that you took over a side on the verge of the League One play-offs and helped them over the line near the end of the season?

I know Evans is great friends with the chairman and staff at London Road and it is his local club, living nearby, which is a big draw for anyone looking for a job.

We also know there is no loyalty in football any more and, let’s be honest, clubs sack managers at a whim - I am sure Grant McCann can testify to that at Peterborough.

So maybe we shouldn’t be surprised when it happens the other way round?

Evans talks about his nine promotions, though one occurred three or four weeks after he had actually departed from Crawley with the job all but done.

It will be interesting to see if both Stags and Peterborough go up this year if that CV total rises to 11!

So is this the end of ‘Project Promotion’?

That will be up to the players and how quick Radford can bring in a credible new manager to get it over the line.

Evans can take huge credit for the quality of players he has assembled at the club – much better than anything in my 30 years of following them.

This is the first time I can remember having 22 players that could form two sides, either XI of which you would be confident of starting in League matches.

Those players know they are on the verge of a possible promotion medal and now is the time for them to take some collective responsibility in the dressing room.

They have a huge week ahead with three of their last 12 games inside eight days, two at home.

Led by Zander Diamond, Krystian Pearce and the senior players, the squad must use the shock and anger at Evans’ departure at the club as fuel for a final 12-game blitz. It is going to be more of a mental test than physical now.

If we were all shocked at last night’s news then how much of a shock must it have been to the three players I saw coming out of Evans’ office on Monday, having been sold a future with him and signed extended contracts?

So who will come in now? Phil Brown appears to be the early bookies’ favourite and he is another larger than life character who has promotions with Hull and Southend under his belt and top flight experience. I couldn’t argue with him taking over.

Some fans have also mentioned the name of ex-Stags striker Richie Barker.

His record at Crawley and Portsmouth was unimpressive and his association with the job may be more on sentimental grounds.

However, he once expressed a desire to come back one day and manage, and he did take over at Bury in a similar position when they had only eight games left to achieve promotion and got them over the line. Maybe this is his time?

It will be a fascinating couple of weeks in the Stags soap opera to see who the Radfords appoint and how the players react.

You have to feel so sorry for John and Carolyn who, after accusations of ‘cheap appointments’ in the past threw their heart, soul and bank balance at Evans only to be let down before he had completed a full season.

The one piece of good news last night was Coventry winning at Wycombe, meaning Stags can now catch the Chairboys in the top three if they won their game in hand.

But, what had looked a very important week ahead in the Stags’ season, has now suddenly become crucial and potentially pivotal and season-defining.