Mansfield Town boss Adam Murray has called on his players to be professional and end the season on a high in the final game of the season at home to Cambridge United on Saturday.
Murray has already told a small number of players they won’t be back next season while he is also in contract negotiations with a large number of them, which he hopes won’t distract any from the task in hand.
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Often managers leave players waiting until after the final game before telling them if they remain in his plans. But Murray, like several other managers, has done it early this season to try to help his players be a step ahead of what Murray describes as what will be a ‘real rat race’ to find employment elsewhere this summer.
“It’s a pain in the backside to be honest,” he said.
“We saw that on Saturday. Me and Karl (Hawley) were talking before the game and we said as players when we were in that situation it is a kind of subconscious thing, as much as you try to motivate yourself to finish as strongly as you can.
“It’s the environment as well. For me the last home environment was a little disappointing after the results we’d come off the back of. Even half an hour before the game everything was very quiet and sombre.
“It’s up to the players to motivate themselves. We can give them all the geeing up and motivate them as much as possible – like we will do and always do – I am a motivator and I will do everything I can.
“Then it’s asking players to take responsibility and be professional. It’s three points available and we want to finish as high as possible.
“We are giving fair deals out to players and you want people’s minds settled going into the game. You don’t want all the ups and downs and focus on other things other than three points.
“Unfortunately this week that’s something we can’t affect. Unfortunately, there will be people’s minds elsewhere. Some will have their minds on their job status and the ability to get a job and that’s just the way it is.
“We won’t be the only club in that position this week. I think I read David Flitcroft’s press at Bury that he let his lads know last week and he said it was a bad mistake as the performance on Saturday wasn’t to the standard it should have been for that reason.
“People’s minds go elsewhere. Unfortunately, that’s the nature of the beast. If we were going for a play-off place or we were in the play-offs, you’d obviously hold off and don’t give people the news.
“But we have plans and I think it’s best. I think a lot of clubs have done it this week and let their players know so you’re not leaving them in the rat race. We will get our business done as quickly as we can.”
He added: “Last year was a little bit easier at this time as we knew we were safe and I knew everybody was going.
“I think they did as well, so it was an easy week. This one is a little bit trickier as we are trying to negotiate with people we want here and at the same time the players have to understand we are Mansfield Town and won’t be throwing massive money around.”
Murray said he would not release the retained list ahead of the game.
“I will probably let that one out of the bag later in the week, but there are not a lot really to be honest,” he said.
“A lot have been offered something, so there are only a handful that’s we have spoken to (about leaving). Like the lads with contracts, we hope we will have that all done by the weekend going into the start of next week.
“There are a few that are very very close (to signing) and will be hopefully finalised over the next 48 hours, then there is a few that are a little bit further away from being done. But it will all be done one way or the other before next week.”
Murray stressed there would be no room for negotiating wage increases and the new contracts are incentive-based.
He explained: “As I said at the weekend I want to keep this group together. “Every single one of them have given me everything and gone through brick walls this season. I’d like to think they could turn round and say I’ve given the same.
“So it’s been a mutual respect between me and the group. I believe this group can move forward again and I want to keep it together.
“But for each individual there is still room for improvement. So they will be given a contract that I believe they deserve and a contract that I believe there is scope in it for them to achieve more if they do better.
“Like anything in life, if you’ve not got targets and incentives people get into comfort zones. So a lot of my work will be based around that.”
Murray is also working hard to bring in new faces as soon as possible.
“I think we’ve seen this season we are lacking a couple of ingredients to this team,” he said. “They have been fantastic but, like any team, we want to progress and move on again next season.
“We need to get better as ourselves and we need a bit of help.
“We are in the race for quite a few at the minute in terms of the ones we are speaking to.
“There are a few that won’t be done as they are in the play-offs at the minute and they don’t want to make decisions until after that.
“There are a couple from the league above that also want to wait until the end of the season to decide on their futures.
“So we are going to have to be patient with one or two. But we have got a few irons in the fire that we are quite down the road with.
“We’ve probably ended up this season where we’ve deserved to overall.
“We have missed a ruthlessness at times in both boxes which will be the difference next season if we can get it, which pushes us on.”
Junior Daniel (ankle) and Jack Thomas (groin) remain doubts after missing last weekend’s 1-0 defeat at Leyton Orient.
“They’ve had a week off up to now and need to be back in physical training to have a chance for Saturday,” said Murray.
“The tempo we play at as a team, especially our home performances lately, which have been of a real high tempo.
“One of our big things at the start of the season was about improving our home form and I think we’ve done that.
“It’s come with a higher intensity and getting the ball forward a little bit quicker. It’s a high energy environment and if these boys haven’t had a god few days training they won’t be ready.”
Adam Chapman, Dan Alfei and Chris Beardsley are also having treatment this week while loanee Shaun Kavanagh has returned to Fulham.
So Murray may dip into his title-winning youth team to bolster numbers and possibly blood one or two at senior level.
The U’s, who saw their play-off bid end last weekend, have some long-term absentees in Barry Corr (knee), Greg Taylor (ankle) and Conor Newton (back/hamstring), while Ryan Haynes (knee) is also likely to be out.