Mansfield Town hungrier than ever to succeed after Wembley hearbreak as new campaign kicks off

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Mansfield Town boss Nigel Clough said his players are hungrier than ever to succeed after last season's Wembley heartbreak as they kick off the new campaign at Salford City on Saturday.

Stags were beaten 3-0 by Port Vale in the play-off final and Clough said: “After last season's exploits I think we go into the new one excited and full of optimism. There is no reason not to.

“We fell at the final hurdle. But that doesn't change the season we had and the achievements within it.

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“I think we have even more hunger this season. That's the way you have to use the disappointment of what happened in the play-off final to further motivate you and spur you on to go one better this season.

Stags in action at Salford City in their final away game of last season.Stags in action at Salford City in their final away game of last season.
Stags in action at Salford City in their final away game of last season.

“I think quite a few of the players would just have continued straight on without the short break we had. You have a week or so then you want to get back at it and put right what happened in the final game.

“You could curl up and feel sorry for yourself that we blew it, or you can look at it over the course of a season in which we did so many good things and say let's pick ourselves up, go again, do it a little bit better and improve on what we did.

“There is no better motivation than the feeling we had at the final whistle at Wembley and the days after – it was a horrible feeling in the pit of your stomach that doesn't go away. We want to put that right and have a different feeling in nine months time.

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“We can't wait to get going. It has been a short break but now let's get cracking.”

Clough could give debuts to any of his new signings with Hiram Boateng, Christy Pym, Scott Flinders, Will Swan and Ryan Harbottle in the frame.

“The new lads have all settled in very well indeed and they have all improved us,” said Clough.

“ That's the major aim of bringing in new players. They have to be better or different to what you already have.

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“I think Hiram has been the outstanding performer we've seen during the pre-season. He has settled in well and he looks a good player.

“We needed somebody that we thought was above the standard we already had and he provides great competition. He is very comfortable on the ball.

“He has got settled in the area with his girlfriend which is very important as well and I am looking forward to what he's going to do this season.

“Will Swan and Riley Harbottle have both come here to play games and both will play quite a few games this season.

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“The fact that they are local as well will help them settle in even quicker and I am very grateful to Forest for letting them come to us.

“Our squad is very welcoming – they are all good characters. That helps new players settle in. There are no factions or dissent within the squad.

“They are very unified which we will need over the next nine or 10 months. I am sure we will have some low points again but hopefully a lot more high points.

“You saw last season the strength of that unity and camaraderie came through, more so when they stuck together through the bad time we had. We saw the fruits of it when we got going and got onto the incredible run we had.”

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Clough is delighted to see a club record of around 4,500 season tickets sold.

He said: “I hope it's a reflection on not just how we did in terms of results but how we went about it – that people actually want to come and watch us play week in, week out. It is absolutely remarkable to sell that many season tickets.

“We haven't just beaten the previous record by a little bit, we are close to doubling it. And I hope that if we start the season well a few more people might be persuaded.

“We are trying to build something with some foundation that is not just a fleeting moment or a fleeting season or half a season. You want it to go on and have sustained success.

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“One of the teams promoted last season was Exeter and I believe they have been in the play-offs five times or something and lost three times at Wembley. But they eventually made it.

“That is a club that has been building for quite a few seasons for the success to get to League One. I think that's the way to do it.

“If we could have gone up it would have been great. But let's build a platform for the club to be successful in the next few seasons.”

On opponents Salford, Clough said: “We got a 2-2 draw there second to last game of the regular season. It really killed off our chances of automatic promotion that day.

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“It was ironic the referee missed a decision. There should have been a red card and that player went on to score the equalising goal.

“They have changed their manager now so they will be a different proposition on Saturday.

“The main lesson we can learn from last season is that, even if we do have a bad run of games, we can come back from it. We did it in spectacular fashion last year.

“I hope, if we do lose a few games, it's certainly not going to extend to the amount it did during September and October. There were reasons for that and we saw that once we got the players back we were a different team.”

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Kieran Wallace will definitely miss the opener through injury and Clough will also be checking on knocks for James Perch, Jason Law, George Lapslie, and Stephen Quinn.

Stags will also be without Oli Hawkins as he serves a suspension for his red card in the Wembley play-off final defeat by Port Vale.

Salford are now managed by former Manchester United U23s coach Neil Wood and have made six summer signings.

Their latest is former Stags loanee defender Richard Nartey from Burnley.

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But they have also brought in winger Elliot Simoes on a one-year deal from French side AS Nancy for an undisclosed fee, defender Ryan Leak from League One club Burton Albion for an undisclosed fee, midfielder Stevie Mallan on a two-year deal following a spell with Turkish Super Lig side Yeni Malatyaspor, Bradford City midfielder Elliot Watt for an undisclosed fee and forward Callum Hendry on a two-year deal, following his exit from Scottish Premiership side St Johnstone.