Most challenging period I’ve ever had in football, says Mansfield Town boss Nigel Clough

NIgel Clough - testing times for the Stags boss.NIgel Clough - testing times for the Stags boss.
NIgel Clough - testing times for the Stags boss.
As Mansfield Town take on visiting in-form Port Vale tonight looking for a first win in 13 games, boss Nigel Clough admitted it was the most challenging period he has ever had in football.

Stags have been ravaged by a string of injuries and suspensions and could have three more missing tonight with Stephen McLaughlin nursing an ankle injury and Rhys Oates and Will Forrester off ill.

“We are all a bit low at the moment,” admitted Clough.

“It's 23 years ago this week since we started in this management business. I've been around football now for 50 years and directly involved for nearly 40 playing and managing.

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“We've had some ups and downs over those times and we know in football certain things happen – you try everything you can.

“Certain circumstances conspire against you, but we understand that patience wears thin very quickly in football with everybody. We're under no illusions about that.

“We think there are mitigating circumstances for our results of late but we understand that won't count for much if we don't start getting results sooner or later.

“I hope it starts against Port Vale and that we are still around against Sunderland in a few weeks.

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“This is probably the most challenging period I've had as a manager. We've always been able to put teams a pitch.”

He added: “You usually get a job when a team has been struggling, the only exception being at Burton when we took over when they were top of the league, got them promoted, and then stayed a year in the Championship, which was miraculous considering the club's size.

“I think when we first went in at Burton we lost five consecutive home games in the Dr Martens League including one to a local team – Atherstone – who beat us four or five-nil – they turned us over a couple of years running actually – so you draw on all those sort of experiences.

“Also what we were doing eight weeks or so ago when we were all fantastic and brilliant and we'd won our first two games and playing well - we are doing the same things now. If they are wrong now why weren't they wrong eight weeks ago?

“We've never had this combination of circumstances before.

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“It's been a combination of injuries, suspensions and decisions and it's been difficult to fathom and cope with.

“Usually you get three or four players out at one time, maybe five at the worst.

“But to be down to only three of the players that won those early games within two months, I don't think that has happened too many times and I don't think it's happened to too many teams in football either, certainly not this season.”

Opponents Port Vale have won six of their last games to move into the top three promotion places and have ex-Stags star Darrell Clarke as manager backed by former Mansfield boss David Flitcroft as director of football, while their squad boasts ex-Stags Mal Benning and Aidan Stone.

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“They have had a brilliant start under Darrell Clarke,” said Clough.

“When we played them at the end of last season we were absolutely superb and won there 3-0.

“Since then he has changed the whole lot around and there are probably only one or two from that team will be around. He has signed 15 new players in the summer and they have a great chance of staying up there.

“They have two ex-Stags employees so they will be looking to put one over on us tomorrow night, so we have all that to contend with as well as a couple of ex-Stags players coming back as well. It will be nice to see Mal and Stoney because they're two good lads.”

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Clough tips Vale for promotion this season, saying: “I do fancy them if they keep people fit - and they could strengthen in January if they need to. They had the takeover last season and they are a high.

“But it won't take too much for us to get back on a high too. We just need players back and results.”