Don’t forget to pop over to Rhys Bennett’s live stream event – under way right now – as he goes online for 12 non-stop hours in a joint bid to raise money for EFL charity partner Mind, and to raise important awareness of mental health issues.
Join Rhys over on his live stream at twitch.tv/rhysbeno91
Donate to Benno's Mind Charity fundraiser at https://streamlabs.com/rhysbeno91/tip
Having spoken to him about today’s online activities this morning we thought it would be remiss not to bug him just a little bit about the football.
And with such a good feeling about the place at the moment, he said: “I think it’s the best changing room I’ve been in. It’s tightest-knit club I’ve been at as well.
“I actually think we’re just all friends. You can kind of see that on the pitch and long may it continue. I think this is a really surreal feeling where the players all get along, the staff all get along, the fans are in a good place, the whole club is connected, and that’s only down to the manager.
“That’s another thing, obviously everybody knows that me and the manager get on but, to be fair, the banter I get from the lads because of that is all playful.
“It was common knowledge that the manager wanted me to stay, but so did a lot of the players. We all want to get promoted together. It’s nice to have that bond with people that I only met two months ago. It is nice.”
“The fans have helped with that as well,” he continued. “When they went on social media to tell me to sign, I’ve never really felt love like that in my career.
“I’ve always had a good affinity with fans, but not like that. When the gaffer asked the fans to get onto me, you can use different adjectives to describe the way he used it, but it was really nice. It did touch me and did massively influence my decision to stay.
“The way things are at the moment there’s a feeling like we need to get promoted. I have a feeling where people show their support for me this much, I have to deliver, and be part of a team that delivers. I feel a sense of I have to give something back.
“It’s hard to take a feeling and put it into words. But I just wanted to say thank you. People are going through a tough time, not even being able to watch their team play, and I’m just so grateful for everyone’s support in the team and manager, and we’ll fight like hell to try and deliver you something at the end of the season. The main word at the moment is thank you.”
Tuesday night’s results saw the Blues nudged down into third spot, but with games in hand and another evening where results proved to be kind.
“We’re in a great position, we know that, but we also know that it won’t be the case when we get back to playing next Tuesday,” he commented. “Teams havefixtures between now and then, and the down side is that if we lost the next two we’d probably even be outside the play-offs.
“That’s how tight it is. There are teams who have bigger budgets who will feel they should be where we are, and we have no right to be inside the top ten, but we’ll just keep doing what we’re doing. We’re the team to beat at the moment, so let’s see.
“Staying top at the weekend when we weren’t playing felt weird, it really did. To sum up how close we are as players our group chat was buzzing at 5pm on Saturday. That shows how much we want to do something special together.
“It’s nice to be involved and part of trying to do something special. The key word for us is hunger in our team. It doesn’t all come down to how much you’re paid, or anything like that, it’s about going out on the pitch and feeling like you want to do it for each other.
“If every player gives an extra 1% because of that, you end up with an extra 11% across the pitch and that makes a difference. Football isn’t won on paper or by budgets, it’s won out on the pitch by who wants it more. That could be the key thing for us over the remainder of the season.”
And that season will kick in again next Tuesday, when the lads face fellow pacesetters Newport County.
“It’s a massive game, they’re having a great season as well,” he told us. “I’m so excited, I just want to get back playing football. These are the games you want to play in.
“When you’re a professional footballer you want to fight for promotions, play top of the table clashes, these are the things that really excite you, make you get up out of bed to go and do that 10k run that I did today, do those exercises.
“Our last game was Walsall and we won’t have played for three weeks, so that is basically like a winter break. I think Peterborough had something similar, they started off on flames against Lincoln, so hopefully we’re as eager as they are.”
Returning to the mental health theme, it’s footballers up and down the country who are being asked to carry on playing to help to lift spirits as we all continue to battle the ongoing virus pandemic.
“As long as my family are safe then I don’t mind going out into the world,” he insisted. “The best thing for my mental health is to be able to play football, because that’s the thing I get up in the morning to do. It’s been that way since I was five.
“This week with us having Covid positives, I think I’ve been tested three or four times, just for my own peace of mind. It hit home a little bit because my sister works in mental health, so she’s a key worker, and she’s going to have the vaccine.
“She sent me a little message which said that if I do have Covid it means she can’t get the vaccine. Obviously that’s just a logistical thing, but it made me stop and think about the fact that if I get the virus and bring it home, it affects my family.
“I don’t want them to get it because of me, so I’m really glad that I feel ok at the moment. In terms of safety, and with the fact we had positive cases, it was the best decision for us to isolate so we could stop the risk of a spread.
“We’re all doing things properly at the football club, but this is the best way to get it under control. Safety should always come first.”