Q & A WITH JACK THOMAS
by Sam Binch
Following the recent release of fans favourite and local lad Jack Thomas, Sam Binch caught up with him to reflect upon his Mansfield Town career, and what the future may hold. Jack made 53 appearances for the Stags, scoring three goals and spanning four managers.
Q: You first pulled on a Mansfield shirt as a very late substitute against Rochdale in April 2014 as a 17 year old. What was that moment like?
A: It feels a very long time ago now, but that was a very proud moment for me and my family.
Q: That was your one and only appearance under Paul Cox for Mansfield, however you did go on to play under him at Barrow where again you probably didn't get the amount of game time you would have liked. What was your relationship like with Paul Cox?
A: Obviously it was frustrating not playing as much as I would of liked at Barrow, but I have a good relationship with him and still speak to him now.
Q: After that brief taste of League Football, you had to wait 10 months for your first start, against Northampton. The team were in the middle of a relegation battle, so Adam Murray somewhat threw you in at the deep end. Did you feel you were ready for the challenge?
A: Yes I definitely think I was ready, I can remember Adam telling me that I was going to go on loan to Hednesford then come back and play every game near the back end of the season, and that is what happened. I loved it at Hednesford but I was desperate to come back and try and help the team.
Q: You made 12 appearances between February 2015 and the end of that season, and played an instrumental role in securing the club's league status. Would you say that 12 game spell was the best of your Mansfield career, particularly that stunning first goal against Portsmouth?
A: 100% that was my best spell as a Mansfield Town player, confidence is a massive part in football and every game I felt like I was going to have a good game.
Q: It's been well publicised that you had a strong relationship with Adam Murray throughout his time at the club. How instrumental was he during your Mansfield Town career.
A: I have got so much to thank Adam for, he was like my football father figure, everybody knows the respect I have got for him and I can't thank him enough.
Q: After the initial successful run in the team, Adam Murray strengthened the squad for the following season, bringing in the likes of Adam Chapman, Mitch Rose and later in the season James Baxendale. Did the competition for places improve you as a player or do you feel it may have stunted your development slightly?
A: If I am being honest I probably took my place in the team for granted, I was reading that summer that Championship teams were interested, so I was young and naive and probably just expected to play every week. But I am a massive believer that football is a squad game and Adam brought some good players in to improve the squad.
Q: The 2015/16 saw you make 36 appearances, the most you made in any campaign for the Stags. Over half of those appearances were as a substitute. Given the form you displayed the previous season, did you expect to start more games or were you happy with the amount of game time you were given as still a young professional.
A: Every player wants to play every game, it doesn't matter how old you are. But I was more than happy at playing 36 games in my first full season in the first team.
Q: That season saw you do the double over Notts County with a 7-0 aggregate score. They must be two of your favourite games to have taken part in as a Stags player?
A: Those two game are massive highlights for me, especially the home game because I started and had a good game.
Q: The start to the following season saw you struggle with a groin injury. In a season in which you went on to make just 11 appearances for Mansfield, with only two starts, how big of a setback was that injury?
A: The injury was a massive setback for me because I missed the whole of pre-season. I made a massive mistake when I came back, the team was struggling so I started to take painkillers and rushed back when the injury hadn't healed because I wanted to try and help the team. But looking back at it, it was silly because it made me look a bad player and I wasn't helping the team because I was still injured.
Q: You returned to the first team picture around October 2016, which was Adam Murray's last month in charge of the club. Casting your mind back to that time, do you think the team were ready for a change of manager or do you feel Adam Murray should have been given more time. Did he still have the support of the dressing room?
A: I definitely think he should have been given more time. If I remember rightly, we had a lot of injuries that season but I am sure we would of stayed up under Adam. From being in the changing room everyday, I thought he had the backing of every player in the team.
Q: Steve Evans took the reigns in November 2016. We'll come on to other matters shortly, but can you recall your initial feelings when Evans was appointed, and any early conversations you had with him regarding your future?
A: Obviously you read and hear stuff and I was expecting him to be this massive screamer and shouter but he wasn't that bad at all. I have never been one to go up to the managers office for a chat, so I didn't really speak to him until he told me Barrow wanted to sign me on loan.
Q: After a handful of appearances, including a start against Wycombe in the Football League Trophy, you were loaned out to Barrow until the end of the season. Steve Evans went on record as saying you had a bright future at the club and that you may have been unhappy with how you had been treated before he got there. How did you feel about going out on loan at that stage with club pushing for a play-off place?
A: I was disappointed to go out on loan, but Steve recruited well in January with Joel (Byrom), Macca (Alex MacDonald), and Ben Whiteman, so it was going to be hard to get in to the team. I wasn't mentally ready to go out on loan with the loss of one of my childhood friends but I wanted to play football. Barrow is obviously a long way from Mansfield so being away from my friends and family at that time was hard.
Q: At the end of that campaign, Paul Raynor told Mansfield 103.2 that he and Steve Evans saw potential in you, and that you would need to show that in pre-season to be in the first team picture. How much of a shock was it after those comments that you were not provided with a locker, or included in the first team photograph?
A: I would be lying if I said I wasn't surprised, having had a locker for the 3 or 4 years before that. I wasn't overly surprised with the photo because I wasn't really involved in the pre-season games. I am happy how I conducted myself through those setbacks though and stayed professional.
Q: With supporters buzzing ahead of the season just gone, with the club seemingly geared towards a promotion campaign, what were your personal feelings ahead of the season? It must have been difficult when the rest of the squad were in such high spirits and you were seemingly on the periphery?
A: It was hard seeing the club with such a buzz because I wanted to be part of it, but I had to be realistic and I knew I wouldn't be involved so I wanted to find the best club I could to go out on loan.
Q: You made five appearances in total, with just one start in the Football League Trophy against Lincoln. Throughout this time it appeared from reserve matches that Steve Evans was trying to convert you into a full back. Was that a role you enjoyed? What do you consider to be your best position?
A: If I am going to be honest, I don't think he tried converting me to a full back intentionally. I just think every reserve game they needed a right back so he put me there. I was pleasantly surprised though because I really enjoyed it at right back but I would say my best position is a box to box central midfielder.
Q: In February 2018, you joined Tamworth on loan for a month. How did you find that loan spell?
A: Tamworth was a strange one because when I joined I was told they would be challenging for the play-offs but it didn't work out like that (Tamworth were in fact relegated). But I wish them the best at trying to come straight back up.
Q: Two weeks after you went out on loan, Steve Evans announced his shock resignation. Could you give us some insight into the players reactions to Evans' exit?
A: With me being on loan I wasn't at the ground everyday so I don't really know how they reacted, but I am guessing it took them by surprise like it did everyone else.
Q: On your return to the club, David Flitcroft was the new man at the helm. You were an unused substitute during his reign and he ultimately released you at the end of the season. How did you find Flitcroft as a manager?
A: I liked David's ideas for the team. It must have been hard for him because when a new manager comes in, it's normally because the team is struggling and that wasn't the case.
Q: There was a lot of talk in press conferences by the players that Flitcroft had completely changed the teams training methods and style of play. Could you provide us with some insight into how his methods differed from Evans? Do you feel he was right to change things at a crucial stage of the season? How did the players react to his methods?
A: Training with Steve would be short and sharp, normally around an hour to an hour and 15 minutes. But David likes to be on the training ground which isn't a bad thing. The length of time spent on the training ground is probably the biggest difference between the two. I never heard any players complain about training but with any manager, some players like training and some players don't.
Q: As not just a player, but a Mansfield fan, it must have been difficult to see a team of players who were sitting in 5th position prior to Evans exit go on such a poor run and ultimately miss out on the play-offs. What was the atmosphere in the dressing room like during the run-in?
A: It was disappointing because with the squad what we had I think we underachieved. The players remained positive because they were playing well but we didn't finish teams off and let them back in to games.
Q: As touched on earlier, your five year spell as a Mansfield player ended a few weeks ago. Was it something you were expecting? How did the meeting with Flitcroft go?
A: I expected to be released, but my meeting went well with David and I wish the club all the the best in the future.
Q: What does the future hold for you? Have you had any offers/what sort of level are you hoping to play at next season? Do you believe you have what it takes to work your way back into the league?
A: I haven't picked a specific level that I want to play at, obviously I want to stay as high as possible but I want to play week in week out because that's when I play my best football. I would like to think I have got what it takes to play league football again because I have shown I have the ability when I have been given the chance.
Q: Do you have any regrets, or anything you would do differently if you could.
A: I honestly can't think of anything that I regret. Except maybe not being so soft and going up and speaking to the manger when something was bothering me.
Q: Favourite goal you scored
A: My favourite goal is definitely the one against Portsmouth, but I also enjoyed the equaliser against Oxford
Q: Favourite game you played in
A: I would have to say the 5-0 win against Notts County, it not very often you beat your rivals like that.
Q: Best player you played with
A: The best player would have to be Sam Clucas
Q: Best manager/coach you played under
A: Adam Murray is the best manager but Coops (Richard Cooper, Development Coach) has to be the best coach. Coops is an unsung hero at the club and I am sure there will be some youth team players breaking through with him being involved with the academy.
Latest | June 2018