Dave Artell returns to the One Call Stadium as Crewe Alexandra manager on Saturday with lingering memories of two major disappointments as a Mansfield Town player.
As a commanding centre half, Artell was a crucial part of Keith Curle’s excellent 2003/04 Stags side.
But his two abiding memories of his time at Mansfield are the cruel play-off final defeat to Huddersfield Town in Cardiff after a superb season, and then the disastrous appointment of Carlton Palmer as manager the following year, which saw Artell frozen out of the side and forced to move on.
“I can remember the disappointment of that play-off final,” said Artell.
“We certainly had a team capable of going up – that’s for sure. We had some real top young players that had been coached well by Billy Dearden and then Keith Curle.
“But we couldn’t quite get over the line against a decent Huddersfield team.
“Then the following year there was the further disappointment of Carlton Palmer coming in.
“I was injured at first but then I didn’t get a look in under him.
“In my opinion, looking back, he wasn’t the right man for the football club.
“He took a real decent footballing team that Billy Dearden and Keith Curle had put together and did it his way.
“That was his prerogative, but I think he changed a bit too much too soon. I think the fans liked seeing the good football and he was the opposite of that.
“It ended that way too, so you can’t say he was successful.
“I know a lot of the other players felt the same. I still speak to a couple of them now and they don’t necessarily speak highly of him either.
“I just wish we’d have got promoted as we deserved it that year. We had some really good performances and some good players who deserved to go up. The football club deserved to go up.
“But that was Carlton Palmer’s way and his philosophy. I am not going to criticise him him because it’s a tough job.”
Artell took over the reigns at Crewe in January 2017 when they were staring a second relegation in the face and successfully kept them up.
“I have had 14 months as manager now,” he said. “I took over last January when we were in a bit of a pickle with our league position.
“You don’t usually get a manager’s job when the team are doing well. So to keep them in the Football League was good.
“This season we have just been decimated by injuries up until probably two games ago. We have had so many key players out. It’s been injury after injury after injury.”
He added: “At the same time I think we’ve done well. I bet we’ve thrown away more points from winning positions than any other side in the division.
“We have been good enough at times. But when you need that little bit of extra help you look at the bench and you’ve got youngsters, which is our policy.
“That’s not a complaint, it’s just that some of them are not quite ready.
“They’ve been given the opportunity a touch early. But that’s part and parcel of being Crewe Alexandra manager.
“Now we are getting players back, we are starting to string some results together. It’s part and parcel of football and we’ve not been bleating it out from the rooftops.
“We’ve just got on with the job. It has been tough at times but I know we’ve got a group of players here who would run through a brick wall for the football club which will always stand you in good stead.”
Artell believes Crewe are now safe for another season but stressed they won’t be taking their foot off the gas.
“What we do in the next few games will set us up nicely for the summer going into next season,” he said.
“We are not going to think our job is done. It’s far from done still.
“There is a 10-point cushion to Chesterfield. But I am not worrying or looking over my shoulder as I haven’t been all season. We just have to make sure we keep producing performances.”
Artell admitted it was a surprise to see Steve Evans move on and had sympathy for replacement David Flitcroft, still looking for his first win after six games, saying the premise that new managers coming in gave clubs a ‘bounce’ was a myth.
He said: “Steve is a good manager. Everyone was talking about Mansfield being title favourites last summer.
“The first game of the season at our place was a really good game. It finished 2-2 and it was two good teams out there.
“I am not really sure why Steve left Mansfield. It’s not really my concern or my place to speculate, but he had his reasons.
“Obviously David Flitcroft has gone in and he’s not quite had the run of results he’d have wanted. It hasn’t been the honeymoon period he’d have been after.
“But that’s what happens when you change manager. People talk about ‘new manager bounce’ and the rest of it but that doesn’t often happen. It’s a myth.
“They might win their first game but they don’t generally do much over the next six or seven games.
“That’s why stability is usually the way forward through thick and thin.”
He added: “I am sure he’s desperate for that first win and he’ll see Crewe at home as a great opportunity.
“He beat us 4-3 at Swindon, but we were 3-1 up with 10 minutes to go. That was down to our young kids not seeing a game out. We’re not like that any more. It will be a good game on Saturday.
“It will be nice to see the Mansfield fans again as well. I have to say they were a good set of fans – always welcoming.”