Liam Mandeville is in Darren Ferguson’s good books - despite hustling the Doncaster Rovers manager on the pool table!
The 19-year-old hot shot got his eye in over November with five goals in five games.
And the teenager has not just made himself ‘hard to shift’ from the starting eleven but also the training ground pool table - much to the annoyance of his boss.
“He did beat me at pool,” laughed Ferguson.
“I did challenge him. I still owe him a tenner!”
Ferguson continued: “He’s done really well to be fair. I’ve been really pleased with him.
“The Exeter game has helped him because his teammates have thought ‘he belongs with us’. Once you’ve got that you’ve cracked it a little bit.
“I think everyone has seen he’s got the ability. But I think mentally now he feels in a really good place.
“He looks much stronger physically. Everything’s coming together for him. He’s just got to be, the same as the team, and that’s consistent.
“But I think he can get better and better the boy.”
Mandeville really stepped up to the plate as a 69th minute substitute at Exeter, scoring once and laying on another two for John Marquis to dig his side out of trouble.
His opportunity to fill in for Andy Williams might have gone after he was dropped at Blackpool in late October.
But a few choice words from Ferguson had the desired effect.
“I left him out at Blackpool because I wanted to play a certain formation,” said Ferguson.
“That was a pivotal point for him. I don’t think he was doing it deliberately but I could just see he was quite satisfied with playing a bit of a bit part role.
“I said to him ‘look, you need to get to the next level now’.
“I just wanted to see a bit more aggression from him. Not determination, but that hunger to say ‘Willo’s out of the team for a period of time and this is my chance’.
“He’s now taken it and he’s going to be hard to shift.
“He did well at Oldham, then against Port Vale and he’s obviously taken a lot of confidence from Exeter. I think everyone can see the difference it’s made in him.”