Manager Graham Coughlan says he has been ‘impressed’ by Mansfield’s youngsters since arriving at the club, while explaining why he included three teenagers in the matchday squad for Saturday’s 2-1 win away at Northampton.
Regular first team squad member Jimmy Knowles, 18, was joined by 19-year-old Tyrese Sinclair and 16-year-old Maison Campbell on the bench for the weekend’s victory at the PTS Academy Stadium.
The boss says that the youngsters were included in the squad ‘because they are good enough.’
“They [Campbell and Sinclair] weren’t put on the bench because they were kids, they were put on the bench because they deserved it,” he told iFollow Stags.
“They have been quality for the last few months since I’ve come through the door. Maison Campbell has really, really impressed me over the last couple of weeks.
“We brought him up to train with the first team and he’s really impressed me. Sinclair has come in and he’s been different class – he’s been a breath of fresh air and the environment hasn’t fazed him.
“They are both cut from the same cloth as me – they’re honest, hard-working and their endeavour is second to none.
“If you’re going to come and work with me, you have to work hard and run hard, and these guys are doing that.
“If the senior boys aren’t doing it, the junior boys will. They bring an energy, enthusiasm and youthfulness to our sessions, and I really enjoy working with them.
“Let’s not focus on their age [solely], let’s focus on their age and the reason why they’re training with the first team regularly – it’s because they’re good enough.
“There are no guarantees in football, but I certainly want to see them [Campbell and Sinclair] play more often and in the first team environment more often.
“I’d like to see a couple more of the youngsters come through and cause me a [selection] headache, because I’ve been really impressed.
“The academy has been impressive – it’s pointless having academies if there isn’t a pathway for the kids to break into the first team.
“I’ve always said if I came on this side of the fence, I’d like to open pathways. I’m not opening this pathway because I need to or have to, it’s because the kids are good enough. They add to our training sessions and enhance our squad.”
The boss says he is expecting a more ‘technical’ challenge against league leaders Crewe this weekend, compared to the highly physical affair in the win against Northampton on Saturday.
“Saturday was physical against Northampton, the coming Saturday against Crewe will be more technical,” he added. “But the be-all and end-all in football is if you don’t do the basics right, you’ll be in trouble.
“The basics were spot on from us on Saturday and we showed a totally different side to our game.
“This Saturday will be different as you’ll obviously see more football and a technical side in Crewe, who are quite deservedly top of the table.
“They have some very good players who are dangerous on their day. We’ll have to adapt our training and bring a different game plan. Let’s try and get that key word, ‘consistency,’ into our play and into our results.
“We aim to be good at both sides of the game – physical and technical. I believe you have to be good at both sides of the game in League Two.
“I’m really looking forward to the [Crewe] game and I think it will be a good yard stick – it’s great to have a look at our players to see how far they’ve come and how far away we are as a football club to potential promotion contenders.
“We’ve been here before after we’ve won and I’ve asked for back-to-back victories – that’s what I’ve been asking for this week. That might give us a platform to get going from.
“The mentality is building, slowly but surely, at this football club. It’s onto our next challenge now.”
There was also an update on defenders Kelland Watts and Kellan Gordon, alongside news that recently injured midfielder Alex MacDonald and defender Matt Preston will feature in this afternoon’s reserve game against Grimsby at The RH Academy (2pm).
“Kelland [Watts] took a knock to the head, which was plain for all to see. His neck was sore and with a bang to the head, we have a duty of care to the players.
“Thankfully it wasn’t too serious – it was just a bump and he’s fine to train today. He’s a big strong lad and it was part and parcel of the game on Saturday, sticking his head where it hurts.
“It’s just Kellan [Gordon] left [on the treatment] table but he’s not too far off so hopefully we should have him back in the next couple of weeks.
“Alex MacDonald will play [in Grimsby reserve game] as will Matt Preston. It’ll be good to get the two of them some game time and they’re really looking forward to it.”
iFollow Stags can watch the manager’s interview in full by logging into mansfieldtown.net/ifollow later today.