David Flitcroft believes new-look Notts County will survive, despite being four points adrift of safety at the foot of the Football League ahead of Saturday’s big local derby.
The Mansfield Town manager has much respect for his Magpies counterpart, Neil Ardley, whose extensive January rebuilding job is already paying dividends.
“I think they will stay up now,” said Flitcroft.
“Neil is a top manager who has gone through adversity and got promotion. He has a lot of experience under his belt and he has drive and ambition.
“It is difficult going into a new job with a set of players who are used to losing and have that losing mentality.
“But they have almost rebuilt the team now. Eight players came in and that will freshen the other players with new competition. They now have hope and optimism as we’ve seen in their recent performances.
“What new players do is bring a freshness and an optimism.
“It’s not happened to them. They have not got those memories of getting beaten earlier in the season.
“So it’s a completely different situation that Notts find themselves in now.
“Neil is a top manager - what he did at Wimbledon was a phenomenal job.
“He has come into a club that was probably in turmoil. He has been patient, waited for the window and now has the players he probably wants.”
He added: “You can see they have had a couple of good results, so they are fighting. Neil now has in his army what he probably wanted 10 weeks ago.
“This is a completely different team. He has been able to bring that many in to stimulate the team and their fans.
“We brought Jorge Grant in here and the quality in our training has probably gone up maybe 20 per cent just by bringing Jorge in.
“Neil is their third manager of the season. So they have players that one manager recruited, players a second manager recruited and now Neil has been able to bring in eight he wanted and has had some positive results.
“Now he can see a way for them to stay in the League.”
Mansfield comfortably saw off Notts 2-0 at home in December, but Flitcroft knows Saturday will be a much tougher proposition, despite over 4,000 away fans making the trip.
“No two games are ever the same,” he said.
“It will certainly feel like a home game with the amount of supporters we are taking and the passion they have for this fixture. The players, as the week progresses, will understand that and what it means to our supporters.
“I saw it at Chesterfield last season when Mal (Benning) scored, it was electric.
“I am a football fan myself so I get what it means to them.
“Our players love playing at home, and to have so many fans at Notts this Saturday is a credit to the town. We have to make sure we represent them.”
On playing derby games, he added: “In any game it’s about staying on focus and staying on plan. You must not play the occasion.
“As soon as you cross over the white line you’ve got to concentrate on your job and take the emotion out.
“We also have to play with bravery. Having so many fans there will allow us to do that.
“You want to win every game and I always have done. I was very competitive as a player.
“I was connected to the fans as I played hard and aggressively. They saw the work ethic I had as a person.
“We need to feel the force and power of our fans and their affection for the team and represent for them.” Mansfield are looking to wipe away memories of last Saturday’s 1-0 defeat at Newport County, but will have to change the side with centre half Ryan Sweeney suspended.
That looks likely to see a back four employed instead of the usual back three.
“I would have liked the game to have been on Tuesday after the Newport defeat,” said Flitcroft.
“But there are things we’ve got to work on. We will probably change the system for Saturday which we will work on this week.
“We need to work on it tactically and make sure we are ready and prepared for the Notts game.
“We have a good week planned for the stadium and we have moved back to the stadium.
“We must make sure the boys take on all the messages for what is a massive game and a key game for both teams.”