BISHOP NOT SURPRISED BY RELEASE + POOR PRE-SEASON
Neal Bishop not surprised by release from Mansfield Town
chad.co.uk, By Stephen Thirkill, Thursday, 21st May 2020
Neal Bishop says he was not surprised by his release from Mansfield Town.
The veteran midfielder was released following the announcement of the club’s retained list - a decision which he says he was ‘expecting’ and has no hard feelings over.
“When I joined I thought at the start that it would probably be me done when the contract runs out, with my age and things,” he added.
“The way the season started and the way it was going, I just wasn’t enjoying it at all. I spoke to the manager when he came in and told him my thoughts.
“I said I wasn’t feeling good and was struggling with tendinitis in my achilles, it was agony and I wasn’t enjoying it any more.
“I was just honest and told him what was in my head. I didn’t want him to think I was just seeing out time and I felt it was the right thing to do.
“The manager was the one telling me to not to retire. He was spot on with me and told me to keep playing. He hinted there might be something at the end of the season if I wanted to keep playing.
“It never really got to a formal thing so I wasn’t really surprised.
“It was spot on, we had a good chat and I certainly didn’t fall out. It’s all been left on good terms.”
And if that turns out to be time on the former Scunthorpe man’s playing career, Bishop knows it’s been a good one.
“It’s been a privilege and an honour to play over 500 Football League games and something I never thought I would do,” he added.
“To play in every league apart from the Premier League is not something a lot of players do. I cannot grumble to be honest.”
Feature interview: Neal Bishop on being haunted by MK Dons failure and why a poor pre-season cost Mansfield Town dear
chad.co.uk, By Stephen Thirkill, Thursday, 21st May 2020
After a career spanning more than 500 Football League games Neal Bishop has some amazing memories.
Making his Championship debut for Blackpool at home town club Middlesborough and winning the League Two title in 2009/10 with Notts County are just two of the many stand-out moments.
But one of his biggest regrets is being unable to clinch promotion with Mansfield Town.
Stags looked nailed on for promotion to League One after going into the final three games of the 2018/19 season needing a win against either Stevenage or Oldham or a point against MK Dons.
Instead they came away with three defeats in a row to miss out on automatic promotion to MK Dons, before exiting the play-offs on penalties to Newport.
And Bishop, who was released by Stags on Monday, admits it is a failure that still haunts him to this day.
“It was just heart-breaking at the end of season to miss out,” he said. “We all know we should have got over the line and that is down to us as players.
“I played the majority of games and take as much responsibility as anyone. It was heart-breaking.
“It is down to us and that disappointment will stay with me for a hell of a long time.
“It was probably a case of wanting it too much by the end of the season.
“I was feeling it, I was shattered and had a couple of niggles. but I wanted to be on the training ground every day, I wanted to play every match.
“Through the season the manager asked me if I needed this day off or that day off, or If I needed a rest for the lesser games, but I just wanted to be out there.
“I wanted to be out there driving the team because that’s what I have always done and maybe it caught up with me in the last six weeks of the season.
“We were desperate to try and get over the line. It is a big big regret.
“I wanted it as much as I’ve wanted any promotion and I’ve still not got over it yet.”
The defeat sparked a major decline in fortunes for Stags with David Flitcroft replaced by John Dempster after he paid the price of failure.
But the following season never got going for Mansfield with Bishop believing the club’s inability to get the correct training and pre-season regime in place was the key factor.
“Pre-season has got to be the basis, it has got to be really hard - you are building a lot from that, not just your fitness but your team spirit,” he said.
“There’s some days where you think you can’t get out of bed because your legs are hurting. Your team-mates get you through it and you build that camaraderie and team spirit.
“You are all working hard for the cause. I think this is the first pre-season in my career when I’ve gone home and said to the mrs ‘I’m gonna have to go for a run’ and get myself a bit fitter in the gym.
“I am not criticising anyone, but I just did not feel fit and it didn’t feel right. I think it showed at the start of the season.
“It wasn’t just one or two, it was probably 90 per cent of us who were way off the pace for a long time.
“If the lads don’t believe in what is happening, standards drop, time keeping was poor and there were things that were really annoying me. It didn’t feel like a professional successful club should.
“I spoke to the manager a few times about it and said things needed to change. Some people will live and die by their own decisions and do things their own ways.”
But the former Scunthorpe man, who is currently completing his Uefa A coaching licence, believes Mansfield are now in good hands with boss Graham Coughlan stamping his authority on the squad.
“The new manager was very tuned in to what was going on and came in with an iron fist,” added Bishop. “I enjoy working hard and I think the majority of people do.
“No-one enjoys turning up on a Saturday, feeling unfit and getting turned over again. You just feel despondent and it felt like that in the dressing room.
“If the manager gets his own players in, he will get them up to speed and get them going and hopefully there won't be a disappointment like this season.
“We played really well that day against Northampton (final match of the voided season) and there were signs of a recovery under the new manager.
“Some of the performances were good and the win over Bradford was a template about what football would be like going forward under the boss.
“Things were pointing in the right direction. Going forward he is going to bring in a lot of new faces.
“There has been a lot of investment in the academy, so he is under a bit of pressure from the board to start bringing some of the young lads through.
“There wasn’t that acceptance of losing, The new manager was really good with me, he said I was back to my old self and playing as well as I have ever done. it is a real shame we didn’t get to see the season out.
Bishop, who is currently plotting his next move in the game, was also quick to heap praise on owners John and Carolyn Radford for all they have done for the club.
“The chairman has invested heavily, the training ground is probably Championship standard,” he added.
“There is an academy there now and the chairman will be expecting results and some players coming through for his investment.
“It is the lifeblood for clubs like Mansfield. The chairman and Carolyn, more than anyone, deserve all the success in the world.
“There are not many owners in the Football League like them and Mansfield are lucky to have them.”
Mansfield midfielder Neal Bishop is one of those who is being let go by his club this summer.
At 38 - and with an offer on the table to remain in football - he acknowledges many players have it harder than him, but is matter-of-fact about what the pandemic is likely to mean for his peers.
"I'm probably relieved I'm at this stage of my career now rather than the beginning or middle because I just can't see the money being around," he told BBC East Midlands Today.
"This summer it's going to be a case of 'we want you but there's your offer, take it or leave it' - there's going to be 10 or 11 players in the same position as you, willing to take less money just to secure a place at a League One or League Two side.
"I hate to be so pessimistic, I just think, realistically, football is going to change for a very, very long time below the Championship."
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