Stags' midfielder Oscar Gobern spoke to our matchday programme, The Stag, for Tuesday night's match against Blackpool and supporters can now read the interview on mansfieldtown.net.
It was always likely that Oscar Gobern would turn out to be a professional footballer once he’d seen older brother Lewis make the grade with Wolves.
As a young, enthusiastic and impressionable teenager on the books at Aston Villa, the elevation of his elder sibling to the first team at Molineux only made the now 25-year-old Mansfield midfielder that much more determined that he, too, would one day play in the English Football League.
As we now know, that resolve served the younger Gobern well, as he overcame the disappointment of being released by his hometown club to clinch a pro deal at Southampton.
His debut for the Saints was not long in coming as he came on as a 17-year-old substitute in a 3-2 win at Preston, where the visitors managed to overturn a 2-0 half-time deficit. Since then, the Birmingham-born player has revelled in earning a living doing something he loves.
“Seeing my older brother play for Wolves just made me want to emulate him, especially as there was always healthy competition between us to be the best,” explains Gobern.
“Our dad helped push both of us along, but Lewis was a big help to me, especially when I was a scholar.
“He had the experience and had been in that situation and done it, so he always had some good advice that I was thankful for. He knew the professional game before I did and what I should look out for.
“I went to Southampton after Villa, even though there were a few clubs interested, because they had a reputation of bringing through good, young players and giving them a chance in the first team. Gareth Bale, Theo Walcott and Adam Lallana had gone through a couple of years before me and Alex OxladeChamberlain and Luke Shaw came through after.
“I came through in the same team as Ryan Tafazolli, who did very well here at Mansfield, and I always thought he would make it as a player because he had the hunger and the determination. “I remember my Southampton debut was a Friday night game and I wasn’t in the original 18 but was to go up there just for the experience and see what it was all about. But then a couple of players pulled out with illness and I was on the bench, and got my chance at half-time with us two down. It was a brilliant day.”
Gobern managed 21 appearances at St Mary’s, scoring one goal, and also won an England Under-19 cap against Russia – alongside the likes of Jack Rodwell and Nile Ranger – describing the moment he pulled on the Three Lions jersey as ‘a great honour’. But he left for Huddersfield in the summer of 2011 in a bid to find regular first team football after previously flitting in and out of the side at Southampton.
It was a decision that proved a wise one as he helped the Terriers win promotion from League One and enjoyed four years with the West Yorkshire club.
Gobern says: “I had turned 20 and I felt the time was right to go out and try to establish myself as a first team regular. Huddersfield came in for me and the chairman told me how they were going all out for promotion – and that’s the way it turned out.
“We had a good side that season and I remember a game at Wycombe where I scored a goal and Jordan Rhodes got the other five. It was one of those games where everything he hit went in, whether it was with his left foot, right foot or with a header.
“He is one of the best strikers I have played with, great in front of goal, but he never hit the ball that hard, preferring to go for precision and placement. He was the complete opposite to the other striker who I would rate in that same bracket in the shape of Rickie Lambert, who was all about power.”
The next stop for Gobern was QPR, but he was soon loaned out to Doncaster Rovers, where he sustained a serious cruciate knee ligament injury that put him out for the second half of 2015-16. It meant a late start to this season after a summer of rehabilitation, eventually signing for Mansfield in September, making his debut in a substitute appearance during the 0-0 draw at Hartlepool and following it up with his first start in the 1-0 home loss to Grimsby.
“It was tough going with the injury and it’s not nice for anyone in that position,” insists Gobern. “It does take time to get back to your best after something like that, but I would never say I came back into the side too soon, because you need minutes under your belt at some point to get back up to speed.
“It’s a case of working hard and persisting to find that level again. Mansfield fans haven’t seen the best of me yet, but hopefully they will be rewarded for their patience.”
In the League Two table, only seven points separates Crewe in ninth place and Exeter in 24th, with Mansfield sat in 11th spot on 22 points. Speaking before Saturday’s home win against Crawley,
Gobern said: “There’s no doubt that we need to put our home form right and there is definitely a feeling around the changing room that we can do it.
“We haven’t scored goals at home in the first half in matches and if you get an early one then you can go on and get two or three, so we just need to be a bit more ruthless with our chances when they come along.”