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“If you don’t fight you won’t win, even if you have Lionel Messi” – Mark Cooper ahead of Forest Green Rovers’ trip to Mansfield Town

Does it feel at the moment that what is happening in the treatment room is picking the team for you?

Possibly, yes.

I’m not looking for any excuses but we are just looking to get through this period at the minute as best we can by putting as many points on the board as possible until we get the players back that can help us on the pitch.

I agree.

I checked the date of Jordan Moore-Taylor’s operation yesterday, the 26th of February for his arm and the initial diagnosis was six weeks. Are you still looking at that timescale for him?

We’re hoping that he’s going to be available for us to play on Saturday, which will be just over four weeks.

That would be a huge boost wouldn’t it?

Yes a massive boost, he’s a good player and can play in defence, midfield, and he’s an experienced player at this level who has done well at this level. That can only help us.

The latest on Ebou? Is he still limping?

I haven’t seen him yet today. But I saw him on Friday and he was limping, so I think it’s a slow one, it’s a high ankle ligament tear. Low blood supply. He’s progressing but he won’t be available for the next two games.

You emphasised the need to run, and tackle, and do all the physical stuff after the game at Cambridge. Is that because, for the run-in, you feel the margins are getting slimmer?

No, that’s the case for any game of football. If we go down the park now and we play 11 against 11, and put our jumpers down for goalpost, the team that runs, fights, and competes the most will win the game unless they’ve got Lionel Messi in the team. 

And that might not even be enough, that’s only one man against 11.

If you don’t compete in a game, it’s impossible to win.

For whatever reason, we didn’t compete. We were devoid of energy, and for 45 minutes we were passive, we didn’t affect the opposition.

Sometimes that can happen, it was just one of those days. The bonus is we have another game on Friday to try and get back on track.

And actually Mark, at no stage this season have you had a back-to-back defeat, so every time you have lost a game, there has been a response.

Correct, and it’s important that that continues.

That’s the plan.

What’ve you made of Mansfield recently, because their form suggests they’ve been a bit patchy, two wins from 12 is not as many as Nigel would want?

No,and when he came in the effect he had was incredible. He’s a top manager for this level and above, he always gets his teams at it and playing.

Next season I’m sure they’ll be a massive force in the division.

I think it gets to a stage when you’ve played so many Saturday – Tuesdays, I think both physically and mentally your energy can become sapped.

You can pick up injuries, and when there’s not a lot to play for it becomes difficult. They’re still competitive in every game that I’ve seen, they beat Cheltenham the other week didn’t they.

They’re dangerous opposition.

The state of play in League Two

That said, I saw a stat this weekend that said they’ve lost a high number of points from winning positions, so you’re always in the game against them on that basis.

I think you can look for as many stats as you want, and you can find both a positive and a negative.

If we concede the first goal we can say, ‘right okay Mansfield concede goals,’ but let’s not get in that position. Let’s score the first goal and keep going.

So, you hear me talk about it a lot, it’s about who performs on the day. If you perform and your best players perform, and you work hard, you have a chance to win.

If seven or eight players in your 11 step up every week, and be better than the opponent you win the game.

Is your record almost absolutely clean when you score first, do you know?

I don’t know, I don’t know. I don’t try to get too involved in that kind of stuff really, because I just want a team to perform, to be organised, to be energised, and enjoy themselves.

Hi Mark, I just wanted to ask you about energy levels, is the lack of a crowd affecting the players ability to feed off of it?

It can be, but it didn’t affect Cambridge in the first 45 minutes. So like I say, we can make excuses if we want, but we have none. 

We just didn’t compete, we didn’t match the opposition. For the second half we played quite well and should’ve got something out of the game.

There aren’t many teams at this level who can waste 45 minutes, and we’re not one of them. 

What did you say to the players after the game, were you measured?

We are always trying to be measured and constructive, but the players have to realise, if you’re going to play on the team then you have to roll your sleeves and run about.

If you’re not going to play well on the day, the least thing I can do is to stop you playing. If I do that, that’s one less person that can dominate us.

If we have six or seven players who aren’t at it, then you make sure you don’t lose the game. You might draw it, but you don’t lose it.

How did you feel when Wes Hoolahan did his Diego Maradona run? It was frustrating that nobody laid a glove on him.

Great ability from Wes, he’s a top player, but we had three players around him who dillied-and dallied. 

Nobody engaged Wes Hoolahan, we just let him shoot, it was passive defending, we’ve got to be better than that.

Aaron Collins’ chance, you would’ve preferred it to have fallen to someone like Jamille Matt. The hairdressers are now open in Wales, will you be cutting that man-bun off of him now?

Yes, it’d be nice, it’d be nice.

You’ve got to be realistic. Aaron has done great for us this year, if he had scored a higher amount of goals then he wouldn’t be playing for us anymore.

He’s still young and has time to address that. We’re pleased that we have him.

How’s Kane Wilson? I know that he took a blow in the first-half, was it a tactical decision to take him off?

He couldn’t move, he couldn’t run. He had absolutely no energy. I think when you’ve been out for a long time and have that initial burst of adrenaline, you play three of four games and play really well, at some point you hit a brick wall.

That’s what happened to Kane, and he needs to bounce back which I’m sure he will.

The fixture scheduling at the moment is bonkers isn’t it? Mansfield at the moment have 13 games in six weeks, what’re your thoughts on that?

Well that’s because they’ve had issues with their pitch. They’re had lots of games called off haven’t they, and they have to play them all in a short space of time.

It does seem crazy, but that’s this season. I think everyone wants to get it over and done with to look ahead to a proper season next year.

Is that to do with the fact that pretty much every club in the league are picking up injuries as well?

As I said last week, we are picking them up now and it might be someone else’s turn later in the line.

We are desperate to get Ebou, Jordan back. We need to get them back quickly.

Just one more from us quickly, as a fellow Leeds United fan your father Terry played for Leeds, it’s sad news about one of his former team-mates Peter Lorimer?

Yes, my Dad rang me on Saturday morning, and Eddie Gray had rang him early that morning and told him that Peter had passed.

My Dad was upset with that. I can remember when I was a young boy living in Leeds, I had a little goal at the end of the garden and I would pretend I was hotshot Lorimer.

Smashing the ball in the goal shouting “Lorimer,” he was a fantastic player.

Mark, was one of the positives from Saturday the impact that Odin Bailey and Jayden Richardson had off of the bench?

Yes, they did fine when they came on.

The way I see it is when you’re losing a game and you change things there’s no pressure. You need to do that when you start the game. 

You need to start the game on the front foot, and as well as they did for 15-20 minutes, you need to start the game with that intensity.

When you were scheduled to play Mansfield in February you said you might wait to see the pitch before you select your team, does that stance still remain?

Yes, but we haven’t got much choice with the team at the minute if I’m honest. I will work on the team today and prepare them for tomorrow night.

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