Paul Cox hopes to keep Mansfield Town purring as finishing line approaches
FOR Paul Cox's cat, life is sweet. There is no need to hide behind the sofa or cower in the spare bedroom.
Spring is definitely the favourite time of year for the Mansfield Town manager.
And, when he returns home from work, he jokingly admits he is normally in the mood to lavish some attention on his feline friend – rather than being tempted to give it a kick up the backside.
A club record run of eight consecutive wins – and 12 victories in their last 13 games – has lifted the Stags firmly into promotion contention.
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And Cox's habit of finding a timely run of form at the most vital stage of the season appears to be continuing, as they prepare to face Forest Green tonight (7.45pm).
Mansfield won 16 of their final 20 games last season, to surge into the play-offs under Cox.
And, even during his days as Eastwood Town boss, his side always finished the season strongly.
Now things seem to be taking a familiar path as Mansfield appear to be finding their feet at the right time yet again.
"I do enjoy this stage of the season, I don't honestly know why. We always seem to do well after we come around the final corner and into the home straight," said Cox, whose side beat promotion rivals Grimsby 2-0 at the One Call Stadium on Tuesday, to leave themselves trailing leaders Wrexham only by goal difference – but with a game in hand.
"Right from the moment I started in management at Eastwood it was the same, we were seven points adrift at the bottom and we ended up finishing just outside the play-off places.
"I don't know what it is. But I do enjoy the thrill of competing for a title, for a trophy or for a place in the play-offs.
"Whatever it is, I just enjoy it. I can't explain why. Perhaps it is because I have been down at the bottom, I have scraped around in the relegation places and that is proper pressure.
"This is not pressure, this is something to enjoy. After a game you go for a drink, you have a laugh and a joke.
"I don't go home miserable. Instead of getting in and giving the cat a kick, I pick him up and give him a stroke."
Stags will go top of the Conference Premier outright if they win tonight and, while that position may bring a certain level of expectation, Cox hopes his players will relish the final ten games of the campaign.
"This is the best part of football; the best part of my job," he said. "I enjoy it and the players do as well. I don't know why it is that way, but I am not going to worry about that.
"I have just told them to tick one game off at a time. If we are lucky enough to be in a position, then excellent.
"We are trying to build strong foundations at this football club. We are trying to take it back to the level it should be at.
"That is something you should be able to enjoy."
If Mansfield were to win another eight games on the bounce, it would almost certainly be enough to see them back into the Football League.
But Cox is determined to stay grounded.
"I am not going to lie to anyone, I would rather win eight games on the trot than to be losing matches, of course I would," he said.
"But the main thing is to keep it going. We cannot get carried away, we have to enjoy our football, we have to enjoy having the crowd behind us.
"We have a run of cup finals now and I would love to win every one of those.
"If we could do that, we would give ourselves a chance.
"If it was Christmas I would be asking Santa for ten wins now, that would give us a great chance.
"But there are good teams in this league and we cannot get too big for our boots.
"We will respect our opponents, we will go about our business with focus and we will stay grounded.
"If we can carry on this run, we will give ourselves a chance of being where we want to be. And we will enjoy every step along the way."
And, in all probability, so will a certain manager's cat.