Teenage striker Jimmy Knowles played himself into Stags manager David Flitcroft’s thinking after scoring four goals in a midweek win for Mansfield Town Reserves.
Seventeen-year-old Knowles, who destroyed Central League high-flyers Port Vale, has since trained with the first-team and may travel on Friday with the squad to Exeter for Saturday’s tough away trip.
Flitcroft said: “I couldn’t get over to the (reserve) game on Tuesday. But we have a brilliant communication line open where we talk about young players and the next generation.
“I first clapped eyes on Jimmy against Doncaster, and after the game I said to him ‘you should have got a hat-trick’ – and he was only on the pitch for 20 minutes. He was brilliant.
“It really made me understand why I do what I do. When you see someone with that enthusiasm and that love of the game. That smile he’s got, he just loves playing football.
“He’s brilliant. When you see young energy like that, that hunger, it’s amazing. Greg [Abbott, head of football operations] came back to the club, and we just talked about him. We just talked about his energy.
“He’s trained with the first team today (Thursday). We’ll probably take him to Exeter, and (when) I told him we might do that smile just went bigger.”
Flitcroft said the progress of young players like Knowles was a boost for the whole academy.
“It’s not just a reward for scoring four goals, it’s that hope that someone like Jimmy brings to the rest of the academy,” he added.
“You will earn your spurs. You do earn the right to get in and around the first team if you commit day in, day out, and that’s what he’s doing.”