Mansfield Town’s towering central defender Ryan Tafazolli believes promotion is a realistic target for the Stags in the upcoming season, which gets underway on 8th August at home to Carlisle.
One of few surviving faces from last season’s disappointing campaign, Tafazolli is confident that the newly-assembled squad has what it takes to catapult the Stags towards the top of the table, perhaps following in the footsteps of Wycombe Wanderers in narrowly avoiding relegation and following up with a promotion push.
There has been speculation in the past as to Tafazolli’s future at the club, with teams from higher divisions reportedly monitoring his progress at the start of last season.
However, with the club taking up an option on Tafazolli’s contract, he was happy to commit to the Stags.
He said: “I was delighted to stay. I feel this is the best club for me to be at, at this point in my career. The coaching staff are superb and this season I can only improve with their help.”
When reflecting on last season and what would be different this time around, Tafazolli said: “Obviously it was always going to be hard with a change of manager midway through the season.
“However, this season we have a fresh squad and we have a whole pre-season together under the manager. We’ve come such a long way already in the first week and the things the gaffer is trying to implement to the new squad will give us a great chance of success this season.
“The philosophy the manager is using is the most effective way to get results in this league. “Obviously everyone likes to see pretty football but there’s no point unless it’s penetrative and effective and I think you’ll see with our new playing style a combination of both.”
He added: “I definitely think promotion is a realistic target. We’ve come such a long way in one week and I personally already feel in the best shape I’ve been in in a long time.
“With this continuation of progress each week, I feel the one per cents will all add up and can hopefully separate us from other teams outside the play-offs come the end of season and lead to promotion. The standard in training has been very high and everyone demands a lot from each other daily.”
Murray’s mantra is clearly registering with his squad and, after a week of residential team-bonding, tactical analysis and tough running under their belts, the Stags ran out 5-1 winners against local side Rainworth Miners Welfare on Saturday afternoon.
Discussing the dreaded first week back, Tafazolli said: “I kept myself in good shape over the summer so I wouldn’t struggle too much. The first day comprised of fitness testing and football. A yo-yo test was used to assess where we’re at stamina wise.”
Mansfield Town have been the busiest League club in England over the summer with 12 new faces buying into Murray’s vision for the future.
“The new players settled in straight away,” said Tafazolli. “Everyone has taken to each other and the team spirit is already high. There’s good banter between the lads, and there are already early signs that this squad can achieve big things.”
Former Northampton defender Lee Collins will be someone Tafazolli will likely work closely with throughout the next year or so, and he was fulsome in his praise of the newcomer, saying: “It was great to see someone of Lee’s experience sign.
“He has been a class act in training and I hope we’re able to take our good relationship we have off the pitch onto the pitch and form a good partnership.”
When asked if had any personal targets for the coming season, he explained: “I set short, medium and long term goals for myself. This season my personal goals interlink with the club’s - the main one being pushing for promotion.
“Obviously I also set smaller ones too, so for example, try to keep a clean sheet against Carlisle on the first game of the season,.
“But this year my personal goals are similar to the club’s which I think will be the same for many of the other players and, with this selfless mentality the squad has, I’m hoping it brings success and we have a great season.”
It is clear that if defensive stopper speaks for the rest of the squad, the camp is brimming with confidence ahead of the new campaign and is on the hunt for success.
Adam Murray has clearly detailed to his players that if they stay focused on team ethic and the minutest of details, they have the quality on the field to give anybody a run for their money.
Whilst offering no guarantee for the coming season, the teams that made up last term’s League Two were a much of a muchness in terms of technical ability. But the more organised and mentally strong teams were able to rise to the top.
It is hard not to get carried away with the positivity flowing out of the club at the moment, but this weekend’s fixture away at Tamworth should provide a clearer insight as to the progress made on the pitch over the summer.