Mansfield Town boss David Flitcroft says he’s ready to test his sides’ defensive capabilities ahead of the first of four home friendlies against Championship opposition over the coming fortnight.
The Stags return to the One Call stadium for the first time this pre-season to welcome Frank Lampard’s Derby County tomorrow, Wednesday 18th, before they welcome Sheffield United, Sheffield Wednesday and Rotherham United over the next two weeks.
Flitcroft, who is yet to record a victory as Stags boss at the One Call stadium since taking over in March, told iFollow “The opposition we’ve faced at the minute is just about players getting their patterns of play and develop our strategies to attack.
“I think in the next three or four games, we’re going to be looking at the defensive responsibilities of the players, how we defend as a team and how we defend as a group.
“In Derby you’ve got probably one of the contenders to get promoted next season by bringing Frank [Lampard] in and the excitement surrounding that.
“It’s going to be a fantastic game for us, it’s a massive stimulus for our players to play against such quality opposition in all the games coming up.
“There’s still three or four weeks to go [until the season starts] and there’s still a lot of work to do, the next phase is looking at how we get sharper, toning the fitness, the reaction speeds and the shooting drills will all add to what we’ve been trying to do”
Leading scorer Danny Rose is yet to feature in pre-season, recovering from a toe injury which he picked up towards the tail end of last season – Flitcroft confirms he won’t take part in tomorrow’s friendly with Derby County, and will more than likely miss Saturday’s clash with Sheffield United
“Saturday’s too short for him [Rose] we’re probably looking at the week after [for him to be back involved]. It’s really important with Danny that he gets a full week pre-season with us, he’s had the time in the summer to recover but as the lads have been doing double sessions everyday, Danny hasn’t and you can never really catch up – so we have to make sure Danny gets all his work in that the lads have done” Flitcroft said
The Stags manager also spoke briefly about transfer listed defender Zander Diamond who hasn’t featured during pre-season, Flitcroft confirmed he is on the injury list with an on-going back problem which could require further surgery.
Mansfield Town have confirmed that they will send a first team to face Bradford Park Avenue on Thursday evening, rather than send a youth team as first intended.
The Stags lost 1-0 to Vitoria in Portugal on Saturday morning with the senior players played fourty-five minutes each, speaking prior to the journey back to the UK, assistant manager Ben Futcher confirmed to iFollow, it will be a similar case on Thursday evening
“The whole first team will go over [To Bradford Park Avenue] and we’ll look to do something similar as to what we did out in Portugal, two [sides] forty-five minutes to really build up that fitness and train Wednesday and Friday – building into the weekend and the other fixtures which come into play so we can really start fine tuning stuff”
The Stags management included four youth team players within the senior training camp and subsequent friendly, with Jordan Graham, Lewis Gibbens, Tyler Blake and Henri Wilder all playing forty-five minutes each, Futcher added “They all did well nobody let themselves down, it was a massive learning curve for them.
“It was great to have them involved – just them being around the first team squad and training with them, it’s something that we always like to do. It’s been a fantastic trip for them and the fact that they’ve been around the lads all week socialising with them, it’s been a really good exercise”
Of the squad who travelled to Portugal, three faces didn’t take part in the friendly in long-term absentee David Mirfin, Striker Danny Rose and transfer listed Paul Anderson – Futcher confirmed Rose and Anderson only missed out due to injury problems and that both would be involved when fit.
Meanwhile back in the UK, the Stags assistant confirmed that Paul Digby didn’t travel to the Portugal training camp following interest from other clubs, he, along with Anderson, midfielder Calum Butcher and defender Zander Diamond remain on the transfer list.
Mansfield Town manager David Flitcroft syas he’d been impressed by the attitude of young striker Omari Sterling-James, during the clubs training camp in Portugal.
The Stags senior side and youth team are coming towards the end of a week long camp, which will see the Stags face will now play Portugese Primeira Liga outfit Vitória Sport Clube, 11.15am local time, following the cancelation of the match with Dundee United.
Speaking about the young front man to iFollow, Flitcroft said “One player who has impressed me over here is Omari Sterling-James, I’ve been able to focus on him, concentrate on him – I think he’s probably understanding me and futch [assistant boss Ben Futcher] more the more [time] he’s spending in our company
“By his own admission he’s found it [hard work and a professional standard] difficult to be honest in his work ethic. Because of his talent, he’s dodged work at times and got away with dodging work – you can’t dodge work because if you do and take short cuts you don’t get succsess”
Sterling-James signed for the Stags last summer and after failing to make a real impact on the first team was loaned back out to non-league Solihull Moors where he’d previously impressed.
However Flitcroft believes the 24 year old can enjoy a positive campaign with the Stags “He’s made a real impact over the last couple of sessions – it’s been great watching him and spending time with him – I never ever fall out with a player and the door is never closed, my decisions will always be based on how hard somebody wants to work for the football club.”
Flitcrofts praise for Sterling-James comes after taking midfielder Will Atkinson off of the transfer list, confirming that interest in former Stags midfielder Giles Coke has also ended, with Coke not making the trip to Portugal.
One man who has travelled with the Stags however is defender Nathan Cameron who was released by Bury in the summer following a long-term injury, Flitcroft didn’t rule out a potential deal for the centre-half, who was his captain during the Stags’ boss’ tenure at Gigg Lane.
“He’s a great captain, great leader, talker and communicator on and off the pitch – he’ll certainly add value and we’re going to see how he progresses following his injury problem last season.
“We’re looking at him in massive detail every session he does I’m seeing how he reacts with this group of players, but having worked with him before – I know his character, I know what type of lad he is, we’ve left it [contract negations] open ended.”
The Stags will complete their training camp on Saturday with a match against Portugese Primeira Liga outfit Vitória Sport Clube before returning to the UK on Monday, the first team only have home friendlies confirmed against Derby County, Rotherham United, Sheffield Wednesday and Sheffield United – however there are a selection of fixtures labelled as ‘Mansfield Town XI’.
Stags boss David Flitcroft and the players mingle with fans following open training session in Portugal - more excellent content can be found on iFollow
Mansfield Town defender David Mirfin is hoping to re-join his team mates on the pitch, should he successfully come through the Stags training camp without any recurring issues.
The former Huddersfield Town centre-back joined the Stags last summer but has not played since last December when he pulled up injured in the Checkatrade Trophy match at Blackpool.
Since December Mirfin has been under the knife and spent eight weeks on crutches to allow the injury operation to heal, meaning he’s missed nearly eight months of action
Speaking to iFollow “It’s been frustrating, I think it’s probably the worst time any footballer to be injured especially for this length of time.
“I’ve had such a great team around me in terms of the medical staff [at the club] – the lads have been brilliant as well – it’s been good, especially this week [out in Portugal] to be around them full time again”
Speaking about a return to action, the 33 year old who scored on the opening day of last season at Crewe, added “The older you get the more how important and how much you kind of lucky you are to play football for a living, it does want to make you get back even more”
Mirfin has joined the Stags training camp out in Portugal but is unlikely to feature in the friendly with Dundee United on Saturday, front man Danny Rose has been keeping Mirfin company in the medical tent, although Roses’ injury is far less serious as he completes the final phase of recovery following a toe injury, picked up towards the tail end of last season – he hopes to re-join the main group training full time today.
A video of the Stags first team squad training in Portugal can be viewed below, with several more behind the scenes videos on the clubs excellent YouTube and iFollow platforms
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