On-loan Stoke City defender Ryan Sweeney says that manager David Flitcroft has been ‘fantastic’ to him since his arrival at the club, and spoke of how he is relishing the challenge of playing in the back-three system implemented by the Stags’ boss.
The 21-year-old came to One Call Stadium in the summer on a season-long loan from the Potters, and has made an impressive start to the campaign.
Although having not played in a defensive back-three before, he says he is ‘enjoying’ the test of doing so, and knows what the manager wants from him in his system.
“The gaffer’s been fantastic since I’ve come in,” he said. “We haven’t had a lot of time to do the extra work we’ve wanted to because of the schedule in August, but it’s Saturday to Saturday this month so hopefully I can get the extra work in.
“It’s a different task to what I’m used to [playing in a back three]. I’ve always been used to playing in a back four. I’ve enjoyed the test so far. I’m still learning how to play that position, but I know what the gaffer wants from me. I’m really enjoying it on a day-to-day basis and I’m really looking forward to the games.
“With Stoke they implement that [composed] style. With the under-23s they’re all very good on the ball. When you play with those sorts of players it helps you bring on your game in possession.
“The lads off the ball [at Mansfield] make it easier. Everyone wants the ball and everyone wants to get it and make things happen.
"It’s a different task to what I’m used to [playing in a back three]. I’ve always been used to playing in a back four. I’ve enjoyed the test so far. I’m still learning how to play that position, but I know what the gaffer wants from me."
“When you come up to first team football, the reality is that there are jobs on the line and crowds come and pay their money to watch us play. That’s the position I want to be in. I want to push myself and be under that pressure playing for three points every week. I like to think I really thrive under it.
“I’m really enjoying playing in this environment, and long may that continue.”
Sweeney returned to the club this week after he performed for Ireland under-21s in their 1-1 draw with Kosovo last Friday, and spoke of his international experience.
“It was a bit of a long trip out there [to Kosovo],” he added. “We had a stop on the way in Istanbul before getting over there.
“We had a few days training and played them on the Friday. It’s always a good experience travelling to the places that you haven’t been to before. We picked up a good point in the end at a very tough place to go.
“It was a good point. Hopefully in the next round of international fixtures we can kick on.
“When you go to way [international] games, there’s a lot more travelling. You have the staff sorting out recovery strategies and getting the training and diet right. It’s not too different [to club football]. The main difference is the travelling.
“Kosovo make it very difficult for you. They get in your face and run after lost causes. The pitch was a bit bobbly so we had to adapt. First-half we probably took time to come to terms with what the game was, but in the second-half we came out and put them under pressure in the last 20 minutes.
“[The Irish link comes from] my grandparents. My dad’s side and all of his cousins are all Irish so that’s how I got into it [Irish international football].”
The central defender also reflected on Stags’ performances in recent weeks, and stated his belief that the side’s performances have warranted more points.
Sweeney says if Mansfield keep up their good performances, the results will follow.
“I had to be patient in the first couple of weeks because the team were performing very well. I came in for the Accrington game and we were superb on the night. I’d have liked to pick up more points to be honest. I think our performances warrant more points than we have at the moment.
“We need to start turning those draws into wins and we started that off against Carlisle, where we played well and could’ve had a few more. We’re looking to kick on Saturday.
“We can take a lot of positives from those draws. Most of those games, bar the Macclesfield game, we were the better team in those fixtures. We’re still unbeaten in the league and the team is full of confidence. We need to keep putting those performances in and the wins will come.
“All these League Two games are very tough. They all throw up different sorts of tests for you. Exeter will come in off the back of a very good win against Notts County and they’ll come here full of confidence.
“We have to keep looking at ourselves and keep putting in the performances we have been doing. It will be a tough test against a very tough side.
“We’ve been playing some very good football and we have the quality to do well in this league. If we keep up the passing play that we’ve implemented we can pick up more wins.”
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