George Lapslie can’t wait to get started after most gruelling pre-season of his career
Midfield ace George Lapslie is hoping the most gruelling pre-season of his life can help him and the other players make an immediate impact on League Two when the new season kicks off against Bristol Rovers a week on Saturday.
Lapslie, who signed full time in January after a successful three month loan spell from Charlton Athletic, ended up with a clean sweep of Player of the Year awards last season, inlcuing the Chad Readers’ Stags Player of the Year, which he finally received after the midweek Coventry City friendly.
And the 23-year-old believes Stags can make a big impact this season and said the dressing room chemistry is among the best he's ever experienced.
“It's all coming together now,” said. “It's all about the intensity of our pre-season training and we're starting to reap the rewards for that.
“It's been a very tough pre-season – the toughest pre-season of my career so far.
"Hopefully we will reap the rewards of it when the season starts.
“It's been quite relentless on some days
" On one day in particular when we went to Allestree Park and then swimming afterwards it was probably the toughest day of my life in terms of pre-season.
“You think you're done and you're not. You just have to keep going and keep going.
“But it is bringing the boys together more than anything. You want to get fit and you're all going through it together.
“Everyone is pulling each other through it and the team bonding and team chemistry at the minute is high.”
He added: “It is tough both physically and mentally – physically more so but, mentally, there are definitely times when you're thinking 'ah, we've still got this to do'.
“But everyone is getting each other through it, we are getting to the back end of it now and I can't wait for the season to start.”
Stags fans returned to the One Call Stadium for the first time in 17 months to see their side boss a young Championship squad from Coventry with some high quality passing and win the game 1-0 – with a superbly-engineered Lapslie goal.
“That's the way the gaffer wants us to play and if we start fast we know the fans are going to get behind us,” said Lapslie.
“I think we are in a good place as a team, not only in terms of performances but also in the changing room.
“The team chemistry is up there as probably one of the best I've experienced. Everyone is really pulling together in the right direction and there are no bad eggs in there.
“Even Ryan Stirk, who had only signed four hours before, the first thing he said in the changing room was that 'the older lads are so good here aren't they?' He said everyone speaks to you and you feel part of the group.
“If someone else comes in, that's what will happen again.
“All the new boys have been top class too – great lads.
"They are a great bunch and hopefully we can now just try to kick on.”
Lapslie said the competition for places is very high.
“You always need that and with the quality we've got there are going to be times when you're not always in the starting XI,” he explained.
“But all the boys know that and, as I have said, we are all pulling in the same direction.
“If we're winning and you're not starting it's not the end of the world.
“It's just about getting three points and getting to the top of that table hopefully.”
As an attacking midfielder, Lapslie has a new competitor for his midfield shirt in the versatile Rhys Oates, who has signed from Ipswich Town and also plays as a striker.
“I would never think my place is going to be guaranteed. Rhys is top class and a great lad as well.
"There will be times when he's playing and I'm not.
“But it won't always be the case as there might be times when Oatesy is playing as a striker or I am playing a bit deeper.
“As long as we're all pulling in the same direction it doesn't matter who's playing, where you're playing individually or who is scoring the goals.
"As long as you're winning, who cares?”
Boss Nigel Clough has brought in three new strikers and Lapslie said: “It is a strong department.
“Baz (Jordan Bowery) is top class for this level. Then you've got the new boys – Hawks (Oli Hawkins), DJ (Danny Johnson) and Oatsy - they all bring something different to the team.
"They are all going to play a massive part in the season that's coming and hopefully it works well.”
After being locked out of the One Call Stadium since February 2020, the returning Stags fans made an absolutely deafening noise on an emotional night against Coventry that surprised and delighted manager Clough and his players.
“The fans were class against Coventry to be fair,” smiled Lapslie.
“I couldn't believe it when they said there were only 2,500 in as it sounded like a lot more.
“We know if we get off to a quick start that is going to snowball and we will get more and more as I know we can hold over 9,000 in here.
“If the fans are like that week in week out then other teams are going to hate coming here and if that's the case then we can hopefully pick up the results.”
London-born Lapslie came through the youth system at Charlton Athletic and made 26 starts for the Vailants, 54 appearances in total, and netted three goals.
For the Stags, he arrived last October and, despite a spell out injured, Lapslie made 32 appearances, only two of those coming off the bench, and scored a crucial nine goals.