‘Forgotten man’, Lee Mansell says he’s ready to play a role in the first-team squad as they face a hard battle to get into the play-off spot this season.
The 34-year-old has been playing for the League One side since 2014, where Bristol Rovers were aiming to get back into League Two after finishing 23rd in the table, suffering relegation in the 2013-14 season. Mansell scored his début goal on 16 August 2014 against Altrincham. He also scored the winning penalty in the Vanarama Conference play-off final against Grimsby Town where the Pirates won 5-3 on penalties.
However, skipping to this season, Mansell picked up a calf injury just two weeks before the season started and was not fit enough until the end of August. By then, manager, Darrell Clarke had signed Crystal Palace midfielder, Hiram Boateng on a short-season loan and Jake Clarke-Salter and Charlie Colkett from Chelsea on a long-season loan. Also, there were six main midfielders available to play in the first team.
The midfielder had a lot to say about the situation, including he felt “hurt” when he struggled to make it into the starting squad. “I still have the hunger to play and to fight for my place. It has been difficult, but the boys who have been holding down the places have been irreplaceable.”
“The gaffer has been straight down the line with me in saying that he doesn’t see me as a week-in-and-week-out starter.” – Darrell Clarke on Mansell.
He started in the reserves lineup against Cheltenham Town in the Central League alongside other first-team players like Joe Partington and Cristian Montano.
I love Mansell. Not just as a player, but his mentality and his attitude towards the club. He’s 34 years old and he even said in his interview that he’ll keep playing until his body tells him it’s time to stop. He’s been with us since we were in the Conference and it’s special to have veteran players like him who have followed us through the football leagues to where we are today.
Clarke likes to rotate his squad once in a while, however, we know who our weekly players are such as Ollie Clarke, Bodin and Lines. This part of the season is where we find out if we reach the play-offs or not. We want to push ourselves as a club to do the best we can; we were only aiming to stay away from relegation! I still think it will be hard for Mansell to start in the first-team at this moment in time, but he may have that odd start now and then.
I personally think he’ll finish his career on a loan spell. He has the ability to perform well in a first team and may benefit from a League Two club, for example.