Former Mansfield Town hero Phil Stant believes his old club can build on their ‘nearly season’ and go one better with promotion next season.
Ex-striker Stant, who now works for the Football League as a youth development officer, admitted he was hugely disappointed as a ‘Stags fan’ when they missed out last season after a late slump when boss Steve Evans quit the club.
Stant said that shock walkout was a huge factor in the failure as was new boss David Flitcroft’s attempts to quickly get the side adopting his own methodology.
Stant said: “I always keep an eye on the scores at Mansfield Town as I had a fantastic time there as a player and I have quite a few friends that are Mansfield fans, so I can’t ever escape it.
“I was a bit disappointed they missed out as they’d got the momentum, so Steve leaving was a real factor.
“Although David came in when everything was going well, it was always going to be difficult for him.
“Steve has a pedigree of promotion in the lower leagues so expectations came with that last season.
“I was really surprised when he left as he’d got the club in such a good position. I think if he’d stayed they might have gone up.
“The momentum stopped when he left and David Flitcroft couldn’t get a win. That tells its own story.
“No matter what people say it does affect players and it does affect staff when a manager goes. It was a key decision at such an important stage of the season.”
Stant also believes Flitcroft should have seen the season out in the same style.
He said: “Trying to change things by the new manager was another key factor. The results showed that. If something is not broke then don’t fix it.
“You’re asking players to play a different style when they’ve been conditioned all year.
“It wasn’t like it was early season – there were only 12 games to go. They’ve been used to playing a certain way and Steve Evans’ recruitment would have been aligned to that philosophy.
“David has a reputation of playing a bit. It’s now a clean slate again and can now use pre-season to embed his own philosophy and style of play.”
Stant said, while everyone wants overnight success, it had been important for Mansfield to re-establish themselves as a Football League club after the dark days of relegation and Conference football with the club financially on its knees when it went down.
“Fans will have been very disappointed by last season, but they’ve got this season to look forward to now on the back of that,” he said.
“Let’s be honest the club had been out of the League for quite a few years and it was always going to take a bit of time to build up momentum.
“The club was in a really bad place a few years ago, we all know that. It’s been well documented.
“The last few years have been of consolidation and building foundations which I think is very important. Hopefully, now they’ve gone through that now and can kick on.
“The good thing is you could see how well they were doing anyway last season, so hopefully now they can spring off that and look to the new season with optimism.
“Time will tell. Signings are going to be crucial of course. Everyone is after the same players out of the same barrel.
“Finance does dictate nowadays. I know that because I work for the Football League. He also has to keep key players happy.”
Stant believes a good start will be vital to ambitions.
“I think they should be in that play-off group next season,” he said.
“But, as every manager and every coach will tell you, they need a good start.
“The fixtures are out on Thursday, we are just working on them now, so we will know the first few games and it’s so important to get that good start in them.”