Senior professional development coach Richard Cooper says that Mansfield’s senior players have a ‘priceless’ influence on his under-21s.
Many of Stags’ under-21s have been elevated to first team training this season, and the likes of Alistair Smith, Jason Law and Zayn Hakeem have been included in David Flitcroft’s matchday squads in Sky Bet League Two.
Cooper's comments follow Tuesday afternoon’s reserve game against Grimsby Town at Blundell Park, in which a mixed Mansfield outfit ran out 2-1 winners.
The side featured the likes of Alex MacDonald, Otis Khan and Conrad Logan, and Cooper says that the more experienced players help his younger recruits on and off the pitch.
“They [senior players] have been excellent – not just on the pitch, but off the pitch,” he said. “Before the game, they’re helping the lads and giving them information.
“During the game you can hear them encouraging and driving the team. With the ball, Otis [Khan] has shown everyone what he can do with his goal. It was a great finish.
“It’s priceless having them [senior players] in and around the young lads. Macca gives everything and a little bit more.
“He’ll always be there to have the ball but vocally he will encourage people. Any sort of mistake from a younger player, he’s encouraging them and making sure they get the next one right.”
"It’s priceless having them [senior players] in and around the young lads. Macca gives everything and a little bit more."
Speaking about Stags’ 2-1 Central League victory, Cooper says that Mansfield’s second string played ‘really good football’ in the win, in which they mirrored the system deployed by first team manager David Flitcroft.
“I thought in the first-half we played some really good stuff. We looked at some of the recent first team games to see what the gaffer [David Flitcroft] and Futch [Ben Futcher, assistant manager] have been doing.
“We’re really trying hard to get that [first team system] into the younger teams at the minute, so we’ve gone with a similar formation today.
“We had the likes of Otis [Khan], Tom Fielding, Macca [Alex MacDonald] and Alistair [Smith] in there as a midfield four, and we played some really good football.
“We got the width from Iyrwah [Gooden] and Jason [Law], and Zayn [Hakeem] led the line really well.
“In the second-half we tried to do more of what we were doing in the first-half. In fairness, Grimsby matched us up and scored a goal, which we probably should have done better with.
“We decided then to get Jimmy Knowles on and go with two strikers with Otis in behind. It was more or less and immediate impact by Jimmy.
“He came across the near post, the ball’s come out to Jason Law, who is probably the one person you do want it to fall to. He showed composure and calmness, waited for the ‘keeper and slotted it in the far corner to give us the win.”
Young defender Jamie Chisholm was handed his reserves’ debut in the match, and displayed a superb performance throughout.
Cooper was full of praise for the centre-back after the game.
“[It was an] excellent debut for Chis [Jamie Chisholm]. I think he’s been on the radar for a good couple of weeks with the reserves.
“We’ve just not been able to get him in because of the injuries he’s been having. It was good to see him today.
“His decision-making was good, and his defending and heading, along with his willingness to go and attack the ball – it was a great debut.”