Stags’ boss David Flitcroft has said the ‘togetherness’ in the Mansfield squad is growing ‘even stronger,’ as we head towards the busy festive period.
Next up for the Stags is a trip to Stevenage on Saturday, which will be followed by a quick run of clashes against Bury, Swindon, Grimsby and Carlisle.
The manager spoke of his players’ commitment on the training ground, and discussed the possibility of a winter break in English football.
“I’m a football fan and football is part of my life. I’ve got kids myself but at Christmas, Christmas Day is a day of work and Christmas Eve is a day of work.
“The players know that and they know how intensive I am with it. Boxing Day is always a brilliant day and a day that you can get out there after Christmas Day and watch your team.
“You can feel that togetherness [in the squad] growing even stronger. The lads are getting in [to training] even earlier and staying out longer.
“I’ve seen it at other clubs where as soon as training finishes, they just leave. But here, there’s a genuine want to stay on the training ground and it’s good to see.
“In the Premier League I can see it [winter break] coming in, maybe a January one. If we want to talk about being successful and getting to World Cup finals and Champions League finals, every English fan wants that.
“I think it will come in. The decision will have to be to benefit football. I look at someone like Harry Kane who’s probably got a couple of weeks off and has been right around the clock for the full year.
"You can feel that togetherness [in the squad] growing even stronger. The lads are getting in [to training] even earlier and staying out longer."
“It’s a busy period for the English clubs, but that’s what is special about our English leagues. We’ve benefited from playing Saturday-Tuesday and staying in that rhythm.”
Last week we announced with immeasurable disappointment that goalkeeper Bobby Olejnik had been ruled out for the season with an anterior cruciate ligament rupture. The Stags’ boss says the injury to the in-form shot-stopper left the squad ‘gutted.’
“With Bobby [Olejnik], he looks after himself so well,” he added. “He’s a leader by performance and preparation. When it’s a catastrophic injury, it leaves you wondering why and how, because someone who puts so much into the game should get so much back.
“It did leave them [players] gutted because of the form he was in. When you have a spirit and camaraderie like we’ve got, there’s going to be that devastation.
“He [Olejnik] had a meeting with a specialist on Monday night. That’s showed that because he is so fit and his preparation is so good, potentially nine to 10 months is what we’re looking at.
“He’s a goalkeeper but he’s also an athlete. We’re hoping that we can get him back in nine months. He’s an incredibly positive guy and that positivity will get him back to where he needs to be.”
The manager looked ahead to this weekend’s fixture against Stevenage, and says that his players have something to ‘protect’ with the unbeaten away record in Sky Bet League Two, which currently stretches back to last season.
“Dino Maamria is a manager who demands the best out of his players and demands high standards. They [Stevenage] have had a really good season so far.
“We’ve been really good at home and really consistent away from home. We’re going there with something to protect and something to honour with the [away] record.
“It’s something that the players want to protect. We’ve been difficult to beat and we have to make sure that remains consistent on Saturday.”
The manager also gave injury updates on striker Craig Davies and midfielder Alex MacDonald.
“Over a six-week period now Davo [Craig Davies] has felt this discomfort in his ankle and he’s been having injections. Some of the bone has flaked off and it’s getting trapped in different parts of his ankle joint.
“We’ve been trying to mask his discomfort with the injections to try and get through training and games.
“You can only have a certain amount of injections in your career, never mind in one season. Craig’s probably up to that level now.
“He’s probably been about 60 percent on his work. I don’t know a timescale on it [return].
“[MacDonald is] progressing okay now. He’s just doing the gym work. It’s probably not going to be as soon as I wanted him to be out on the grass.
“[Return is] possibly going to be another couple of weeks. It’s not something we can define. It depends how deep the bone bruising is. Hopefully we can get him out on the grass in the next couple of weeks.”
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