Adam Murray today said he believed Mansfield Town Football Club were at a crossroads and called on the small number of dissenting fans to help him steer the club down the road to success.
A highly passionate Murray, who in his first full season as a manager has turned last season’s relegation-battlers into play-off chasers, was upset to hear some of the abuse directed his way after Saturday’s 3-2 home defeat by Accrington.
And he was hurt to hear boos for skipper Adam Chapman on Saturday after he was given sponsors’ man of the match and then appalled to see teen prospect Jack Thomas come in upset on Monday after being given personal abuse on social media over the weekend.
Ahead of Saturday’s visit of Stevenage, Murray praised the majority of the club’s fans but called on the dissenters to break with their long-standing culture of anger and stick with the club.
In a brave and impassioned plea, Murray said: “There has to be a culture change. If it kills me I am going to do everything to make this club successful and competitive – and that is the bottom line of it.
“I need people to get on board with that. Through the highs and the lows, let’s ride it together.
“We have to change the culture, we have to change history. Because if we keep doing what we’ve always done, we bring in another manager, we bring another set of players in, it’s going to follow the same trend.
“I honestly think we are at a crossroads at the football club.
“We have got to be better out there in certain aspects, but I won’t allow our success in the first quarter to be our downfall for the rest of the season. We did what we did. But it’s like World War VIII now and it can’t happen.
“As a player here over the last 12 years I know the club always implodes at some point. It always attacks itself and implodes.”
He added: “I have said it over the years and I get battered for it, and today I will get battered for it again as there will always be some other reason.
“But the chairman puts on a Kids for a Quid deal and we get less fans – that doesn’t make sense.
“People have got to go that extra yard. Before the game on Saturday I am getting abuse before the kick-off because someone wants me to play two strikers.
“That’s before the game so that’s where people’s mindsets are at even before kick-off and that rubs off on the players.
“One of my players, for me he wasn’t having the best of games but for the majority of the season has been a good player, got man of the match on Saturday – how, I don’t know. But he got booed.
“Then one of our kids came in on Monday, who is also one of the fans’ own and he runs his absolute socks off every game, said he needed to have words with me.
“He said he’d been getting some personal messages abusing him – the kid is 19. So if we are expected to get the best out of people doing what we have always done, let’s react in a different way.
“Okay we weren’t good enough on Saturday. We are going to take this football club forward, but if we act like we always do, the same thing will happen as always.”
Murray conceded: “We need to be better in a lot of aspects. We got off to a poor start last weekend, got ourselves back in the game and then, to be fair, the game was way too open and it could have been 4-4 at half-time.
“We were up against a team that play with no fear, which is always dangerous. And when you are chasing the game, we conceded – for us – poor goals. We’ve prided ourselves all season on our defending.
“Even when we’ve not been winning games we’ve not conceded a lot of goals.”
However, the manager and the squad have used last Saturday’s loss as a springboard and a positive spur.
“For me last weekend has been a blessing in disguise,” he said.
“It’s been good for the team. It has made us re-focus on everything. When we’ve sat back and analysed the first quarter of the season, then the second quarter, looked at the tweaks and what has changed without knowing, there have been a fair few things that have changed. So it’s been a good 72 hours for us as a group.
“You look at the last 20 years at this football club and in the League it’s had one promotion, then it got relegated straight back, then it spent five years non-League, and then it’s been an average to poor League Two club.
“Now I am going to make that better – there is no doubt about that. I know how proud everyone here are as people. But we can’t have this imploding and people saying - you were fourth three months ago and now we’re dead.
“We don’t deserve to be anywhere in this league. The facts and the stats say this club has been an average League Two club for a big part of its history.
“My job is to put that right and I am going to do that. This group of players, they want that more than anything and I want it more than anything – and we are going to do it.
“You look at the successful times – it was the club’s own that did it. From U12s to the youth team, we brought through a group of players that saw a big part of them go on to the Championship and some to the Premiership.
“That brought the club success. So in 12 months we have put that back in place.
“I am going to take this football club, not just for a one-off season but for a period of time, where everyone who walks through this door believes we are competive at what we do.
“We are not going to be average, we are not going to be poor, we are going to be competitive. But to get there it takes time and will take learning curves for all of us. It’s got to be that change in culture and history of the whole place to ultimately get the football club where it needs to be.
“If we don’t we’ll keep fighting the same battles. It will go – new manager, new set of players, and, eventually, new chairman and just keep going round.
“When we take one on the chin, let’s react differently now. Let’s see if that works. Because I ultimately believe these players and me as a manager are going to make this football club successful.
“I have enjoyed the last 72 hours as I don’t think I’ve slept but I’ve tore the so-and-sos out of it. When I took this job I always said I’d give this football club and these fans something to be proud of.
“Part of this season I have gone off a few scars from last season if I am being totally up front.
“Last year as a football club we got used to getting battered. As a manager, probably because I am too close to the club, that tore my heart out.
“So I have gone the opposite this year and said let’s be cautious at what we do.
“You look at Accrington and they are where they are because they don’t care as there is no expectation. There is no pressure on them to win any football matches.
“They go – we don’t care. They just go out and play free which makes them dangerous.
“If they lose, they just say – we are Accrington, we’ll try to win the next one. If they lose they go – we weren’t supposed to win that one anyway. Look what they’ve done.
“Our expectations here are that we have to beat everyone in this league and you must be top of the league. We are trying our best here.
“We will ultimately get to where we need to be. If we can change the way we deal with things and change the reactions in certain areas, that’s what has to happen.
“It won’t happen overnight. But for me this is a crossroad and it can go the way it always does as history tells us what will happen, or we can go – let’s make this different now.
“Let’s really try to make it different as I believe in this place, I believe in this club and, ultimately I believe in myself.
“I have taken a negative here and made it a massive positive. We had a good meeting on Monday with the lads – open with a lot of honesty in it.
“You look at the little things that have changed out there from my point of view, they have changed into big things.
“When you break it down, there is a reason why we keep conceding so many goals.
“You look at the start of the season, people couldn’t get in our half for the first 20 minutes.
“We know what has changed and we now can’t wait to get back and get out teeth into it and really attack it.”
Murray stressed that the Stags – on their budget and crowds – had to entitlement to compete at the top end.
He said: “Oxford United at the start of the season came out as a football club and said – there are no excuses for us this season. We are going to get promoted.
“Northampton also said we are getting promoted this season, so they go and sign the best striker for me in League Two last year, and they’ve already got one of the best strikers - we are not in a position to do that.
“We have got one man here that saved the football club (chairman John Radford). We don’t get four, five, six, seven thousand fans every week. So this one man, it’s all about him.
“He does his best, but we can’t go and sign (James) Collins on x-amount of thousand pounds a week.
“If we were doing that and were 18th in the league – abuse us.
“It hurts the players and myself that we were fourth at one point, so we know we are good enough.
“The bits I’ve tweaked over the last few months I will take a big responsibility for. But our success in the first quarter can’t be our downfall now.”
There is certainly a siege mentality developing in the dressing room and a determination to prove the rest of the country – and the pre-season bookies’ forecasts – wrong.
“Everyone outside this club, I can guarantee you, will be saying the wheels have fallen off here,” said Murray.
“But inside the building me and my team are saying no chance. We have worked too hard for this not to happen.
“Now the second quarter has not been as good as the first we have got to get this back on track.
“Do we react and go – not good enough and ultimately end up like it always does? Or do we go – let’s dig in here and get back to where we were?”
Despite being upset with a section of the home fans, Murray was quick to praise the majority.
“Even though I am saying this, big parts of the crowd on Saturday were superb,” he said.
“I walked out there for the first time in a long time and – I know people don’t agree with it sometimes – but there was a smoke bomb gone off somewhere, there was noise, there was a drum and I looked in the stand and I thought – you have sent shivers down my spine. That’s the Mansfield Town fans I know and it felt like a proper atmosphere.
“We are getting back to full strength now with injuries which will make a difference. I am not making excuses, but we have had to change things round that haven’t worked and played people out of position. That was always going to be a problem from the start of the season.
“If the culture doesn’t change then the next 20 years are going to be the same as the last 20.
“I’ve had double figures in football managers and double figures in clubs, so I am experienced. I have been in the professional game 18 years, so I know the game inside out. I sleep the game. If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.
“The only success will be when you get like your ‘Busby Babes’ like we had with our Lawrences and Hassells.
“You get promoted then come back down in 23rd. I will make this club competitive over a period of time. Whoever comes in after me, Mansfield Town will be looked at as a strong club.”
Murray again shot down hopes of fans wanting him to play a 4-4-2 formation, saying: “This season people have said we are a good team and this will be a tough game, now we have to get back on the horse.
“It doesn’t come with the naivety that you’ve got to play two centre forwards, it’s not about that. It doesn’t work and I won’t do. It’s not what I believe in and that’s not what got us to fourth in the league.
“I will do what I believe in and what I have seen this group can do and suits them.
“Whether success comes this season, what will happen will happen, but we will have success in the next couple of seasons – that’s a promise.”
He added: “From someone who has this club in their blood, all I will ask is listen to me.
“A lot of our fans have been coming for 40-50 years and it’s hard to change those traits. I get that.
“But there is a good freshness in this stadium right now. I see a lot of the kids coming in and people go – they are a pain the backside. But they care. They make a noise. They want the club to win.”
On Saturday’s visit of Stevenage, Murray smiled: “We’ll just get our boxing gloves on, we’ll forget the ball on Saturday.
“No, we have had a good couple of days so far and there is a lot of passion and fight in the camp right now.
“It starts with me against Stevenage on Saturday. Win, lose or draw I want to see that passion and pride and I want to see my players run around at 100mph, putting people in the stand and trying to score goals. That’s what we are about. That’s what I stand for.”