Cox praise for ex-Stag Clarke ahead of final game

Paul Cox is looking forward to crossing swords with former Stags star Darrell Clarke, recently appointed manager of Bristol Rovers, on Saturday, saying he was delighted to see Clarke learn his trade at non-League level like himself after Clarke’s highly successful time in charge at Salisbury City.

Rovers will be keen to earn at least the point that will ensure their League Two safety on the last day of the season, but visiting Stags have been in good away form and need to bounce back from two lacklustre home defeats last week.

“I get on with Clarkey really well and it’s been a tough baptism of fire for him there since he was given the reins,” said Stags boss Cox.

“But it will do him the world of good if he comes through it.

“We won’t be friends during the game, but afterwards I will pat him on the back and have a cup of tea and a chat.

“It is pleasing to see good, young English players coming through as managers – the more the merrier for me.

“It is nice to see people do an ‘apprenticeship’ in management and coaching at a lower level.

“It seems to me now that as soon as players pull their boots off they put on a suit and tie and expect to be a manager.

“My non-League days have held me in good stead. You can’t just learn this job overnight. You are always learning facets of it.

“A lot of people turn their nose up at non-League, but look at the amount of people from the highest level who have gone down there and not succeeded. That will tell you how tough it it.

“It will have made Darrell mentally tougher and harder to come into League football.”

Mansfield-born Clarke’s Rovers side need just a point to be safe on Saturday, but Cox will not be doing him any favours with his team selection as the League Two relegation battle comes to a thrilling climax.

“We have got to play our part and we have got to be honourable to everyone else in the league, more so to ourselves,” said Cox.

“Looking at games up and down the country, there are a lot of teams with nothing realistically to play for who seem to have downed tools and there have been some strange results and performances.

“But I am only concerned with ourselves and our last two performances have not been good enough.

“I will be having a good look at training and seeing who looks hungry to finish the season well. I will pick players for Saturday that want to be here and want to be successful.

“We owe it to ourselves, supporters and the football club in general to finish on a good note.

“We have been on a bit of a downer from the last two performances.

“But, being analytical, it is hard to motivate a player when there is not a lot to play for. I understand there are some things I can’t control in football.

“But, overall, if we were to finish in the top 10 that would be out of this world for our first season.”

He added: “You look at the teams with are comparable with and it’s been an excellent season.

“A lot of people outside of this football club have given us glowing references and said how well we have done.

“Inside I think we have a tendency to shoot ourselves which annoys me as the last three years have been absolutely mind-blowing.

“You should always celebrate success which I don’t think we have.

“People tend to just want more which I understand. That’s human nature.

“But sometimes you just have to enjoy it and have a smile on your face as you know the bad times are always just around the corner.”

Darryl Westlake is expected to return from a hamstring injury, but Stags will be without Ryan Tafazolli (hip injury) and Matt Rhead (suspended).

Palalce loanee Lewis Price is also expected to feature in goal again with Stags unable to find a friendly game in which to help Ian Deakin back to fitness and Alan Marriott ruled out for the season.