Stags’ boss David Flitcroft says there has been a ‘fire’ within his players this week, as Mansfield prepare to take on promotion rivals Exeter on Saturday.
The amber and blue make what will be their longest away trip of the season to face the Grecians at the weekend, as we enter the final seven fixtures of the campaign.
The manager says that the Stags are ‘fighting together’ to ‘exorcise the ghost’ of last week’s disappointing defeat to Crewe.
“They [players] know exactly what is expected,” he said. “They know what is required. The spirit has been reignited this week.
“The fire is there. They know they’re in for one hell of a game. Exeter are a good team and have some top players.
“We know we have to be on our best to compete with them. They [players] are looking forward to the game.
“We’re training halfway down [to Exeter] so we’re ready and we’ve prepared well. I’m just looking forward to it, to exorcise the ghost of Saturday where we didn’t turn up first-half [against Crewe].
“When I get hurt, I come out fighting, and the lads know that. But we’re fighting together, and it’s brilliant.
"The fire is there. They know they’re in for one hell of a game. Exeter are a good team and have some top players."
“It’s been brilliant watching a group of men going to the depth of their soul, understand what it means to everyone and come out the other side for a brilliant week this week.”
The manager also revealed how a series of meetings with his players over the course of the week has put the Stags in a good position heading into the weekend’s clash.
“A few things I’ve done with the players this week have been different to what I’ve done in management before,” added the Mansfield chief.
“We’ve had meetings with the players and classroom sessions to find out why we do what we do, and who we do it for.
“It’s about who you want to make proud and who’s had that massive influence over your career. You can then start to understand why we commit so much.
“What the players have committed to is beyond my expectation. There’s a similar line that runs through most players in their stories.
“It’s just about opening up and getting men to speak about why they do what they do, and the emotional attachment to that.
“To achieve promotion, it has to be a club as one. We have to be together and have a squad that’s unified as a common cause.
“Promotion and being successful is a memory that money can’t buy. It’s a memory that, when you’ve achieved it, you want more of it.
“We’ve reaffirmed to the group what it means, and it’s certainly the best thing I’ve done as a manager. I’m proud of the group of what we’ve shared over this period.
“It’s totally blown me away if I’m being honest with you. Some of the back stories are quite incredible.”
In midweek, 17-year-old striker Jimmy Knowles displayed a virtuoso performance for Stags’ reserves, scoring four goals past Central League high-flyers Port Vale.
The manager says that Knowles has since trained with the first team, and is in contention to make the long trip to Devon for Saturday’s clash.
“I couldn’t get over to the [reserves’] game on Tuesday. But we have a brilliant communication line open where we talk about young players and the next generation.
“I first clapped eyes on Jimmy against Doncaster, and after the game I said to him ‘you should have got a hat-trick’ – and he was only on the pitch for 20 minutes.
“It really made me understand why I do what I do. When you see someone with that enthusiasm and that smile he’s got, he just loves playing football.
“Greg [Abbott, head of football operations] came back to the club, and we just talked about him. We just talked about his energy.
“He’s trained with the first team today. We’ll probably take him to Exeter, and I told him we might do today. That smile just went bigger.
“Jimmy was thanking me and was absolutely buzzing, so we’ll probably take him down and get him around what we’re doing.
“It’s not just a reward for scoring four goals, it’s that hope that someone like Jimmy brings to the rest of the academy.
“You do earn the right to get in and around the first team if you commit day in, day out, and that’s what he’s doing.”
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