Midfielder John O’Sullivan came off the bench to make appearance number 16 of what has been a frustrating campaign on a personal level against Chesterfield on Saturday, and within two minutes of taking to the pitch he was celebrating his first goal of the season in front of an ecstatic home crowd.
Manager Keith Curle explained the part a series of conversations between himself and his wide man have played in maintaining a positive mindset for a player who had established himself as a key part of the squad th2ough the second half of last season.
“John has skillsets we can use but he’s facing a challenge mentally at the moment, because of the air of disappointment he’s carrying,” he said. “That really started when he was left out of the 18 recently, and he’s had to deal with that.
“I’ve had numerous conversations with him and he’s of the understanding that he’s going to have to earn everything he gets. That means that his attitude has got to be first class every day of the week.
“He has to want to do more, because if he doesn’t make the starting line-up he can’t afford to go back into a negative mindset. His reaction has to be that he wants to prove me wrong. He got the headlines from his goal on Saturday, and now he has to keep one eye on forcing his way into the team.”
“I’ve had quite a few conversations with him about aligning his focus and dealing with his disappointment in a better way,” he continued. “He wants more game time and players can have different ways in showing their disappointment when they aren’t getting it.
“In my opinion he hasn’t been showing his disappointment in the right way. I’ve made it clear that he has to take his opportunities when they come. He has to be a driving force every time he comes onto the pitch, because having an impact in a positive way for the team is a lot better than anything else, particularly when you’re in such a competitive environment.”
And the manager confirmed that the same message applies to every player, particularly if they don’t get the nod for a starting place on a match day.
“If you’re not in the starting eleven we don’t want to see players sulking or moaning,” he said. “You use it as a driving force, because if players are in the team before you, it must mean they’re doing better than you are.
“That’s the environment we’re trying to create whereby disappointment is met by grit, hard work and unity. Mark Ellis has done just that. He’s been on the fringes of the team, but he’s worked hard and he knew the standard required.
“He was part of a solid and aggressive partnership with Clint [Hill] and he did exactly what it said on the tin – head it and kick it. He was the right choice for the job we needed on Saturday and I knew he’d do it well.
“I’ve never had a falling out with Mark and we’ve never had a cross word. That’s how it should be. He wants his game time and he’s been out on loan to get that. He came back with a very good attitude and it’s no secret that we’ve had phone calls asking for Mark’s services.
“He knows that’s been the case, but he also knows it doesn’t suit me to let him go at the moment. It would suit the club financially, because we’d get a contribution to his wages, but it isn’t about that. I don’t want to weaken my options by letting a player go who has attributes we need.”
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