Mansfield Town boss Paul Cox is bracing himself for more abuse and a possible demonstration from a section of fans wanting him to go ahead of Saturday’s tough home game with high-flying Plymouth Argyle.
After a run of nine games without a win, Cox and his players took some nasty abuse from the stands during and after their 1-1 home FA Cup draw with Conference South outfit Concord Rangers on Tuesday night which has provoked talk of what he feels seems to be an annual outburst against his position.
Cox says he has shoulders broad enough to handle the criticism but was upset that, after accusations of playing too directly, his side were booed when keeping possession on Tuesday and he was particularly upset by the cruel boos during the game for young defender Liam Marsden, who has come through the club ranks.
Cox said: “It wasn’t hoofball on Tuesday, instead we got booed for playing the ball along the back. A comment from Concord’s bench was that they thought we were a bit direct but one of the best footballing sides they have seen this season.
“As a performance I couldn’t ask anything more from my players. I have watched the DVD back and we have passed the ball out from the back, played through the thirds and created chances. But we have not put those chances away – simple as that.
“Give credit to Concord, they made a game of it and scored what will probably be the goal of the round.
“But some of the fans are never going to be happy. I spoke to someone from the Press Association who was at our game in Shrewsbury on Saturday and he pointed out how Shrewsbury passed the ball out from the back and were applauded for it and when we did it on Tuesday we were booed for it. I honestly believe it is a small minority, though. I know the majority are 100 per cent behind us.”
On Marsden’s treatment, he added: “We have brought a young lad, a local boy, through. He earns a pittance – it’s embarrassing how much, and he is in our first team. Yet he got booed from start to finish on Tuesday night. I don’t know what people want.
“I have some good 14-16-year-olds coming through, but I couldn’t put them in the first team if they are going to get booed.
“I won’t tell a lie, one young player with massive potential had tears in his eyes at the end of Tuesday night’s game. You wonder where it is all going to end.
“They need to get behind the players. We have some young players who are new to League Two and we are not paying much money to.”
Cox continued: “In the three years I have been here we have had absolutely unbelievable success. Everything we have wanted to achieve every year we have achieved the marker. You have to wonder what we have to do as a football club before we begin to be appreciated. It will be interesting to see where this all leads to.
“Apart from the stairs in the main stand, you wouldn’t believe we won a championship two years ago and I have to question that.”
With his budget slashed by half to what is likely to be one of the lowest couple of budgets in the League, Cox warned in the summer that people should forget talk of reaching the Championship and get behind the side in what would be his toughest season in management to date. But that warning has quickly been forgotten, and he feels some fans don’t even seem to comprehend he has recently had as many as 11 first team players out injured.
“There were people who lost their heads at the start of the season and said we were going to the promised land,” he said. “But I said we needed people behind us from the start as, although I didn’t foresee the injuries coming, we always knew this season would be a challenge because of the aspects we spoke about.
“You can’t have everything as there is not the money here. The chairman has put a lot of time and resources into the club over the last few years. But we now have to cut our cloth accordingly.
“Going forward we need to sort our infrastructure, bring young players through and find good non-League players and U21s we can sculpture. That takes time and it will be horrendous if this fall-out happens every time we go on a bad run of results. People must understand the scenario. We are all working hard here and now we need some help.
“I always chat with our supporters after the games, individually to their face, whether they have a problem or want to pat me on the back.
“I am answerable and accountable and happy to speak to anyone. What I don’t like is cheap shots at the players and the football club.”
Cox has heard the whispers of a protest against him on Saturday, but said: “This happens to me year in, year out, it’s nothing new.
“I’ve had banners on fences to people coming behind the dug-out at Matlock as well as being spat at if you go back two years. Sometimes you wonder what goes through people’s minds. This is my fourth year here and we have had nothing but success.
“I would hate to see this place when we are not achieving our goals.
“My wife always reminds me when I go home that after about 10 games in charge here there were banners wanting me out, yet we gave them the play-offs that first year.
“The next year they wanted me out again. But I gave them not only the championship but also the dreams and memories of a great FA Cup run with the game against Liverpool.
“That season we drew at home to Slough, who are a lower side than Concord, and probably fluked the replay on penalties at their place.
“Last season, in our first season back in the Football League, we were joint 10th.
“And I have always honoured my contract when I have been approached by clubs from higher leagues. A minority have very short memories.
“I have really broad shoulders, but I just want supporters to get behind the boys.”
Plymouth arrive in fifth place on the crest of a wave with five wins and two draws in their last seven games, culminating in three first half goals that saw off Portsmouth last weekend.
Last season they staged a 1-0 smash and grab with a 93rd minute winner at One Call Stadium before bagging a 96th minute goal to save a 1-1 draw at home.
Stags will welcome back loanee pair Keiron Freeman and Vadaine Oliver, but, although midfielder Jamie McGuire has served his one match ban for his red card last weekend, he damaged medial knee ligaments in the challenge and now faces four to six weeks on the sidelines.