Mansfield Town right wing-back CJ Hamilton has attributed his increased fitness levels to the work that Stags’ boss David Flitcroft has his players doing on the training ground.
Hamilton, who scored and assisted in Stags’ emphatic 6-1 win over Accrington on Tuesday night, says he feels ‘a lot fitter’ compared to previous seasons.
“Pre-season was built on a lot of fitness-based stuff. He [David Flitcroft] wants to get everyone running faster, running stronger and people look like they can run for a half-an-hour after the game, so we’re so fit.
“Everyone wants to run forward and it makes a big difference when everyone is that fit and wants to keep going.
“I feel a lot fitter. I feel like I cover a lot more distance in games at higher speeds. I do more sprints - a lot more than I was doing the past two years.
“The manager encourages you to run forward. When you run forward you know the ball is going to be forward, so you’re always on the run. You can trust your teammates and everyone has to run.
“We’re doing different phases of play in training where people can be in positions to be higher and actually play football and trust each other as a team.”
Hamilton finished off an illustrious team goal in the third-minute of added time in the 6-1 win over Accrington, capping off a 25-pass sequence with a confident strike past Accrington keeper Jonny Maxted.
“If you look back at the amount of passing we did, everyone is getting on the ball, trusting each other and going forward at the same time,” Hamilton said. “It’s crazy how we ended up finishing it as well.
“I looked back on it last night when it came up so I had a look for myself and I was buzzing with the whole teamwork and effort that was put into the goal. Obviously I was there to finish it off.
"I feel a lot fitter. I feel like I cover a lot more distance in games at higher speeds. I do more sprints - a lot more than I was doing the past two years."
“It was a lot better when I watched it back because I didn’t realise it was that many passes.
“When you’re in the game you don’t really count passes. You don’t look and you can’t see, you’re just trying to get your own movement right and make sure you’re in a position where you can help the team and try to score.”
The 23-year-old also notched an assist in the Carabao Cup first round clash, with a textbook cross to Danny Rose, who struck home to extend Stags’ lead to 5-1.
“It was a great ball by [Jacob] Mellis and when I saw Rosey, I knew I had to set him up. I was delighted to get the assist,” Hamilton said.
In his third-year as a Stag, Hamilton has transitioned from his more accustomed position as a left winger to a spot at right wing-back. He credited much of the smoothness of that transition to Flitcroft and assistant manager Ben Futcher.
“I have to give a big shout to the gaffer, he’s been telling me how to slot in, and obviously Futch has been helping me as well in how to get into a position where you don’t actually give yourself too much to do. I fancy myself in a one-versus-one battle against anyone.
“Obviously because it’s right wing-back, it’s about positioning because it can be a defensive back-five sometimes. I’m enjoying it, because I’d rather get myself more advanced up the pitch now.
“That’s what we’re working on at the minute, and obviously trying to get more goals and assists. [This year] I’m more confident and I believe in myself more.”
Following two convincing home victories to begin the campaign, Hamilton also commended the fans and noted the squad has made it a point to defend their home turf this season.
“The fans have been brilliant. Ever since pre-season kicked off, they’ve been behind the team 100 percent. I think they’re enjoying what the manager is trying to bring to the club – the different style of play. So it’s very good.
“You don’t want anyone to ever come to your backyard and beat you. We want this to be our fortress, so as long as we defend our fortress I think we’ll do very well.”
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