Fleetwood boss spoiled for choice

Graham Alexander
Graham Alexander

Fleetwood boss Graham Alexander is spoiled for choice ahead of Saturday’s League One showdown with Bradford City and he couldn’t be happier.

Town have a boost, with Conor McLaughlin and Declan McManus back from international duty.

And Alexander must consider the performance of those who came off the bench on Saturday – Nick Haughton, Bobby Grant and goalscorer Jamille Matt – before deciding on a team to face the Bantams.

With Nathan Pond and Vamara Sanogo the only long-term injury worries, it’s music to the ears of a manager desperate to see men fighting for their place.

“It’s brilliant and I’m absolutely buzzing with it,” he said. “I love it.

“Reintroducing good young players into the squad, having competition for places ... that’s what we’re wanting to get.

“I think there is genuine competition between those players.

“They can only spur each other on to better performances.”

McLaughlin returned from his stint with Northern Ireland on Tuesday and will train with Fleetwood today.

He could return to Town’s defensive trio but faces stiff competition from Victor Nirennold, who impressed on his debut last weekend.

With Eggert Jonsson also fit, Alexander must decide who misses out at the back.

McLaughlin stepping in for Tyler Forbes at wing-back is another option open to the Fleetwood boss.

Lyle Della-Verde and Antoni Sarcevic face competition from Grant and Haughton but it’s up front where the biggest decision lies.

Matt has scored in both his previous Highbury outings and Alexander knows he’s desperate for a start.

“I think Jamma came on last week with a point to prove,” he said.

“He’s probably a little bit frustrated that he hasn’t started the game. Brilliant – that’s what I want to see.

“You can’t be frustrated about not playing and go on and play with a whimper.

“You have to go on and take it by the scruff, and that’s what happens.

“Jamille has to do that again next time – every player has to.

“You shouldn’t be at your best just when you’re battling.

“Even if you’re the only, say, right-back in the whole North West, you’ve got to keep your own standards.

“That’s what the good professionals do.

“We feel we’ve players champing at the bit for that opportunity and Jamille was a great example of that.”

The 24-year-old striker missed the whole of last season with a knee ligament injury and Alexander has been keen not to rush him back into regular action.

But he admits that’s difficult, given the forward’s enthusiasm and ambition.

Alexander said: “He was unplayable when he came on last week.

“He wants to play every game and start every game but he’s not at that level yet fitness-wise.

“But the good thing for us is that we’re having to hold him back. We’re not having to push him.

“He’s desperate to be on that pitch every minute and we’re having to manage him. That’s the perfect scenario.”

Matt has shown his worth by coming off the bench and making his mark late in games –as he did providing an 87th- minute equaliser against Rochdale last Saturday.

But Alexander made it clear it would be “disrespectful” to believe the Jamaican best served Town as a man who comes off the bench.

“I wouldn’t ever want to label a professional an impact sub,” he said.

“If they’re fit to play 90 minutes, that’s what they have to aim for.

“It would be, on my part, disrespectful to say someone’s an impact sub.

“If they’d said that to me as a player I’d have been distraught.

“You want to fight for a start and fight to be on the pitch for 95 minutes.

“And if you’re on the bench, you have to be ready to make an impact.

“You have to come in and take it. Actions speak a thousand words.

“Jamma hasn’t got to say he wants to be in next week – he has to show me what he can offer and then it’s up to me.”