Mansfield Town boss Adam Murray has set his squad sky-high ambitions in their continuing quest for success in Sky Bet League Two.
The Stags face the challenge of Gareth Ainsworth’s Wycombe Wanderers on Saturday – the team which he wanted his side to aspire to when speaking about them last season – but now Murray is eager to improve on the standards set by the weekend’s visitors to One Call Stadium.
Stags' currently lie in 5th position in the league and Wycombe, who suffered play-off final heartbreak on penalties to Southend last season, are in 10th.
Murray said: “I would like us to be better than Wycombe to be honest. Wycombe didn’t get promoted – we’re still setting our goals [towards] the moon, we’re still aiming for perfection. We know it’s early into our journey and we’ve wanted this season to be a progressive one.
“We said a couple of months ago to aim for the limits, and if we don’t quite hit that we’ll end up in a good place. We believe as a football club we’re growing, off the pitch and on the pitch we’re moving forward.
“They (Wycombe) had a great season last season and they’re carrying that on so it’ll be another tough test for us. They’ll provide us with different problems, they’re an efficient outfit. We’re at home so we’ll try and make it as much about us as we can.”
Reflecting on Monday’s Emirates FA Cup first round draw in which Mansfield were drawn at home to play Oldham Athletic on Saturday 07 November, Murray believes his men have nothing to fear going into the contest in a little over a week.
“It’s a good tie for us, good to be at home and one we can go into believing we can win. I’m not really interested in the defeat a couple of years ago, it was obviously a different team and a different way of doing things. We’ll approach it in our manner, take the game to them and we’re confident we can get a result.”
Stags’ Under 18s, managed by John Dempster, host Cambridge City at One Call Stadium on Monday evening (02 November) and Murray is excited about watching the league-leading youngsters in action.
“They’re flying. I’ve had some conversations and I want to get the next batch through and around the first team as much as we can. There are some good players in there and they’re top of the league.
“These young boys know standards have to be risen, and if they’re performing well they’ll go in [to first team reckoning], there’s no doubt about that. It’ll be a good game, we’re looking forward to watching them – we’ve got a few of the boys training with us today, the future’s bright.
“The infrastructure needs to be there. [John] Dempster has turned it into a positive manner and the play they have produced in the youth team set-up has been tremendous. [The academy] is a big part of this football club and over the next few years we want to see players coming through, grabbing shirts and keeping them.”
After being thrust into the spotlight at a young age himself at then Premier League outfit Derby County, the manager added: “The importance is understanding how much hard work it is. Sometimes for the young kids they can be put into the first team environment and they think that’s it, they think they’ve made it.
“They take their foot off the gas, they don’t want to work as hard as they did before – and before you know it you’re working in Tesco. It’s a dream job [being a footballer] and one you need to earn the right to have.”
One of Stags’ young professionals, Liam Marsden, has recently been loaned out to Guiseley AFC to get some games under his belt and the manager is keen to take the same approach with other youngsters on the fringes of the first team squad.
“It’s a great opportunity for Mars (Liam Marsden) because he’s got to go and play games at that level, it’s tough. It’ll test him more than any reserve game or training so we’re over the moon with the opportunity he’s had.
“It’s something we’re going to be looking to do with a few more of our kids now. We’ve got a healthy squad, even though it’s small on numbers there’s some of these boys we’re not going to have sitting around and training without any game to look forward to on the Saturday.”
Watch Adam Murray's news conference now on Stags Player.