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Hawkins excited to return

3 August 2022

Club News

Hawkins excited to return

3 August 2022

Mansfield Town defender Oli Hawkins says he’s ‘excited‘ for this Saturday as he aims for a place in the starting line up when Stags take on Tranmere Rovers in the first home match of the 2022/23 campaign.

The 30-year-old was suspended for the weekend’s 2-0 loss at Salford but is in contention to return against Rovers.

After a short break following the end of last season, the versatile performer says he’s ready to ‘get going again’ ahead of the encounter on home soil.

Speaking to the local media in a news conference at RH Academy yesterday, Hawkins said: “It was a quick turnover with time off and then back into pre-season with games [now] coming thick and fast.

“I’m excited to be back here with the boys, the manager, and to get going again.

“I feel like we’ll go into this season a little bit more experienced on certain things we didn’t do very well last season and remember how to cope with certain games.”

The London-born powerhouse added that he and his Stags’ teammates are ‘raring to go’ for the first match at One Call Stadium of the new season.

“I actually preferred it [pre-season] being shorter and getting straight back into it,” he said.

“I think it might take a couple more games to really get going, but we’re all just raring to go for Saturday’s home game.

“I think the season starts on Saturday for us.”

Mansfield have achieved a modern-day record of over 4,450 season tickets sold ahead of the new campaign. The former Portsmouth man is eager to return to a packed home stadium.

“I feel like we’ve just got to do the same [as last season at home] and have the amazing crowd with us on our shoulders,” said Hawkins.

“For us, we just need to keep trying to play football and keep the ball, keep attacking and try to score early goals like we did [last season].

“We’re very strong at home.”

Mansfield’s number 12 was dismissed in the 2021/22 Sky Bet League Two Play-Off Final after recording two first-half bookings, but Hawkins is determined to put that behind him in his first competitive match since the Wembley red card.

“For me on a personal note, after the final, the first few days were a bit tough,” said the defender.

“[With] What I did and get sent off, it was a difficult time for me.

“I’ve tried to get over it as quick as I can and focus on this season knowing that we can definitely do the same again but this time not go to the play-offs and get automatic promotion.

“I’m just trying to stay injury-free, available [and] work on certain mistakes.”

Originally a striker by trade, Hawkins has been used as the middle central defender in a back three in pre-season and believes the system can bring the Stags success.

“If I’m playing at the back [I need to] try and not get yellow cards as much and [look to] make it really productive season [for Mansfield].

“If we can take that same momentum we had at the start of the year and keep trying to win games at home and potentially be better away from home [we’ll have a successful campaign].

“It’s a different position for me, mainly in the middle, but it’s a formation I think can work for us.

“We’ve got the players in the squad to full different positions, and it’ll be a big season.

“You get more time on the ball [in a back three] when you’re trying to pass out.

“It’s definitely a formation we can play.”

When asked if he sees himself operating in defence for most of the 2022/23 campaign, Hawkins said: “I think so, but you never know in the gaffer’s team.

“You can be playing anywhere just because he likes the versatility.

“If I’m called upon upfront or in any other position, I’ll be ready to play.”

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