Fresh from playing in a Wembley final, striker Ollie Palmer says he can’t wait to finally get going as a Mansfield Town player under Adam Murray.
Palmer (23) feels he was never given a fair run in the side under previous boss Paul Cox and, since Murray sent him out for what proved to be a highly successful loan spell at Grimsby Town after taking over as Stags boss at the turn of the year, the striker went on to fire eight goals – more than any Stags player managed all season.
That took his season’s tally to double figures and helped the Mariners to the Conference play-off final with Bristol Rovers last weekend.
As he prepared for last weekend’s final, which ended in penalties heartbreak for Grimsby, Palmer was boosted by the news he was to be offered a new deal at Mansfield Town.
He said that all he had ever asked for at Mansfield was a fair crack of the whip and the chance to play more than two games in succession, which Murray has acknowledged and vowed to put right.
“I have never started more than two games in a row at Mansfield,” said Palmer.
“It’s never happened. No matter if I scored or had a good game, I was always the one rotated out.
“As a striker you need a continual run of games to pick up some form and get on the goals trail. You need to get your legs moving and that never happened.
“At Grimsby, if I didn’t score or have a great game, I would still start the next game, even if I hadn’t scored for three or four games.
“He (boss Paul Hurst) stuck with me after I missed a good opportunity in the first leg away at Eastleigh and I came back to score twice in the second leg.
I have never started more than two games in a row at Mansfield
“Adam Murray has spoken to me about it and it was good to hear his views. He knows I will score goals if given the opportunity to play games. He also knows I will miss chances. Show me a footballer that doesn’t and I will show you a cartoon.”
Palmer arrived at Mansfield in August 2013 as a highly-promising youngster, whom boss Cox at the time said he felt was ahead of Leicester star Jamie Vardy at that age.
After joining Conference South Havant & Waterlooville, Palmer had quickly scored seven goals in five games by October 2011 with Chelsea and Charlton Athletic keeping close tabs on him.
Palmer went on to score 37 goals in 69 games in two seasons. While at Havant & Waterlooville he was both top scorer and Player of the Year in the Conference South in the 2012/13 season, bagging 25 goals for The Hawks, and awarded the Golden Boot.
But things didn’t work out for him immediately as he stepped up a level to Mansfield and the move to Blundell Park has proved to be just the tonic his career needed.
“I have absolutely loved it at Grimsby,” he said. “The fans are positive and they have supported me. It is a big club and the changing room is fantastic. The boys welcomed me from day one and I felt at home.
“I felt I could crack straight on. The gaffer stuck by me, even if I didn’t score for a few games, which is what I wanted.
“I was really appreciative of that and I wanted to help them get promotion to show my thanks. From my point of view I really enjoyed my time there and it was a fantastic start to 2015.”
Now the buzz of Wembley is over, Palmer will sit down and talk terms with Adam Murray.
“We’ve not gone too far as he let me focus on Wembley and wanted me to do well,” he said.
“But I am a Mansfield player and I want to do my best for Mansfield. I appreciate the gaffer giving me a new offer. I have got to sort things out, talk a bit more and go from there.
“I think I would be welcome to go to Grimsby if Mansfield wanted to let me go. But that’s not the case. Adam Murray has offered me a new deal and says he wants to give me a fresh start and a fair crack of the whip, which I have never had there.
“Grimsby are a fantastic club. But Mansfield are also a huge club.”
Many players never achieve the dream of playing at Wembley, so last weekend is something Palmer will always have to cherish from his Grimsby loan.
“It was amazing,” he smiled. “I said to a few people that as we walked out the tunnel I thought they were playing music but it was just the fans making so much noise. It was a great experience.
“I managed to sleep fine the night before and didn’t have too many nerves.
“Playing in the semi-final first leg against Eastleigh, I cramped up after about 70 minutes, probably because I had been building myself up so much and got too excited thinking about the game.
“I didn’t want that to happen at Wembley so I had to make sure I kept myself calm and not think too much about it the night before.”
Many players say they find the Wembley pitch to be huge and strength-sapping, but Palmer said: “It’s all about players’ mentality. It’s not that much bigger than what we play on every week and didn’t feel that huge, although obviously the stadium is absolutely ginormous.
“I had a lot of friends and family there. It was an expensive day out so I really appreciate the support they showed me. Three came from abroad and travelled several hours to be there for me on the day which was lovely.”
When the Mariners took an early lead, suddenly they had one tentative foot back in the League. But Palmer said: “It came so early on you couldn’t really get too hopeful.
“There was still 85 minutes to play. It was a good start and gave us belief we could go on and win the game, but it wasn’t to be.”
A key moment involved Palmer soon after with referee Ross Joyce in the spotlight.
Rovers claimed Joyce had already missed what seemed to be a punch thrown by Matty Taylor at Grimsby defender Shaun Pearson.
Then soon after Rovers keeper Will Puddy deliberately handled a goalbound Palmer outside of his 18 yard box which would have made it 2-0, but escaped with a yellow card.
“I have seen it back hundreds of times and it was clearly a sending-off like it would have been for any other player,” said Palmer.
“He handled outside the box and there was no one in the goal so it was definitely going in. I’ve seen a picture that shows there is no one else in sight in the box.
“The referee told me he didn’t want to spoil the game, but he’s spoiled it by not sticking to the rules. But that’s football. Both sides had chances after that so you can’t dwell on it.”
After a 1-1 draw after extra-time, the game eventually went down to penalties with Grimsby’s Jon-Paul Pittman the unfortunate player to miss his kick.
“The penalties were sickening and nerve-racking to watch,” recalled Palmer. “It’s just 50-50.
“Players miss penalties at all levels. But it’s hard to watch a team mate and friend miss one. It’s not nice for the player. He didn’t deliberately want to miss. It was just unfortunate in the circumstances. It wasn’t to be.
“Overall it was a great experience, but I am gutted we didn’t win. That made it a bitter-sweet day and not the one I was dreaming of.
“I now need to dust myself off and pick myself up for next season.
“Adam Murray wants to do big things next season. He wants to get the club promoted, he wants to win competitions and win games.
“He is a very competitive person and a very passionate man. He is someone I think I will really enjoy working with. I think he will benefit me.”