Mansfield Town manager David Flitcroft has praised the EFL for introducing a new ruling, meaning clubs must name one club-developed player within their match-day squad during every game of the 2018-19 campaign.
The Stags kicked off their new season with a 3-0 win over Newport County on Saturday and named striker Jordan Graham and defender Lewis Gibbens on the bench, with Graham making his debut – when he replaced Craig Davies late on in the second half.
Flitcroft, who has been a big advocate of blooding young players since his arrival in March, told iFollow “Developing players is key, young players give you an energy, they give you an honesty. It’s a new initiative that the EFL have brought in – Lewis Gibbens was our club developed player.
“We’re a young academy. I didn’t want to put a player on that probably didn’t deserve to be put on, to just tick a box or get the paperwork right. So we fought really hard to get Lewis [ready].
“He’s done something like twenty-four-thousand hours with the football club and with our coaches. It’s a brilliant initative and if you look at the England team and the way they performed [At the World Cup] a lot of that team has come from the EFL.
“I think sometimes in the world of Football and Global Football, there is too much emphasis on the Premier League – there’s over 72 league clubs that underpin that and our EFL is superstrong. Probably 90% of that infrastructure of the England squad has spent time in there and has come from there.
“I’m delighted that Jordan [Graham] has had some game time – would I be worried about putting Lewis Gibbens on? No chance, I’d put him on at the drop of a hat – no problem”
Mansfield Town boss David Flitcroft, along with shot stopper Conrad Logan and defender Matt Preston say they’re ready for the new League Two season to get underway, when the Stags play host to Newport County on Saturday, 3pm.
Keeper Logan is now entering his second season for the Stags and after establishing himself as the first choice shot stopper, is keen to keep a regular starting place going into the new campaign
Speaking to iFollow, he said “You’re like a kid at Christmas again, it’s excitement, it’s back to work and back to getting three points. I want to improve on last year personally and as a team if I’m being honest – I had a pretty decent season, I think personally, but I can always get better I’m under no illusions about that.
“The boys have worked a lot of fitness we [the goalkeepers, Logan and Bobby Oljenik] will do different things we’ll do some bits with the team and some bits with the goalkeeping coaches which is different types of fitness – everyone’s embraced it [the fitness] this year, it’s been tough, but fair - there’s been a structure to it and the lads are reaping the rewards to that”
The Stags were beaten just once in pre-season, in their opening friendly during the Portugal training camp, as boss David Flitcroft has implemented a new system playing with three central defenders.
They include Matt Preston who joined from Flitcroft’s previous club Swindon – the 23 year old said the side aren’t getting carried away, despite beating three championship sides on home soil
“There’s a different competitiveness [between pre-season and the league] there’s a different mind-set to it because the League is where it matters. Pre-season is a friendly even though we’ve tried to make it as realistic as we can, you can’t replicate what pressures come with the league – we’ll find out at the weekend if we can take what we’ve been doing in pre-season into the league.
“I feel like we are a very, very strong team, I feel like we are an ambitious team and we want to do the best that we can. Everyone here believes that we can do well – it’s just a matter of showing everyone.”
For boss David Flitcroft it’s been a busy summer with the arrival of five new signings, however apart from the addition of Preston, the Stags boss is still short of a central defender after the trial of Nathan Cameron was ended due to an injury problem for the former Bury captain.
Flitcroft said “We moved on a couple of players, the difficulty is at the start of the pre-season window because a lot of the younger players are going [to train] with the Premiership and Championship squads and then with a week or so to go, it really loosens off – they start looking at the squad size and that’s probably the opportunity that presents itself now to get someone in on loan”
“We’ve had a look at a couple of permanent options but they’ve just not been right in terms of finance, so we’ll look to dip into the loan market on that one”
The Stags kick-off their League Two season at home to Newport County on Saturday, at 3pm
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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