Midfield warhorse Neal Bishop was finally presented with his overdue Chad Readers’ Stags Player of the Year trophy for 2018/19 this week.
Bishop was a clear winner of the award, but the usual pre-game presentations were cancelled last season with so much at stake and he has been hard to pin down in the summer.
Bishop thanked fans for voting for him but admitted it would feel better if he’d had a promotion medal too.
“I can’t lie - individual rewards would have meant a hell of a lot more if we’d have got promoted,” he said.
“But I massively appreciate anyone who voted for me.
“I would not have voted for me as my job is fairly easy in the grand scheme of things.
“The lads who are the back and the lads who make the difference at the top of the pitch, they have the hardest job in football and that’s why they get the big money – especially the centre forwards.
“Last season is now gone. It doesn’t count for anything now and I have go to go out there and prove that I deserve to play every week now.”
Bishop added: “My own targets are the same as last season. It’s got to be promotion.
“It was gut-wrenching the way we missed out last season and that pain is going to be there until we put it right. There’s no better time than this season, especially with time running out in terms of seasons I’ve got left.
“We are massively aware of what’s expected this season. I think last season’s disappointment has made us refocus to deliver it this season.
“Not just missing out but the way it happened was more than just a slap in the face.
“People may say move on but I don’t really want to. You want to forget it but you can’t. The hurt we felt coming off the pitch at MK Dons.
“Then I missed the game against Newport at our place.
“That sort of hurt doesn’t just go away overnight. The only way to exorcise it is to put it right and that’s promotion. The season still hurts you.”
Bishop said the summer signings added to a settled squad gave cause for hope.
“We have the majority of the team from last season still and we’ve added real quality. There’s no reason why we can’t go one better,” he said.
“You mustn’t dwell on what happened – instead you have to use it as fuel. You need to remember that pain and how it felt at the end of last season to add to your energy and never want to feel like that again.
“It was probably my career low at end of the MK Dons game. Watching them celebrate was like a double slap in the face.
“It’s football and it happens. As a group we never want to feel like that again and that has got to be one of our motivations this season.”