Mansfield Town forward Omari Sterling-James believes his vastly improved fitness could see him make a real impact at the One Call Stadium this season.
His flash of speed and razor-sharp final pass carved out Stags’ third and final goal in the 3-1 friendly win over Derby County’s shocked Championship stars last night.
Now, Sterling-James, who made 20 appearances for Mansfield last season but spent a chunk of time out on loan, believes David Flitcroft’s summer fitness programme has set him up for a successful campaign.
“It’s a big difference from last season when I wasn’t as fit,” he said.
“I’ve come in most of the summer and that is now showing. I’m feeling 10 times fitter than I was last season.
“I’m proving a point to myself, because I know I can do better than I was doing last season. That’s who I’m proving a point to.
“I now just want more fitness and more minutes and, hopefully, goals will come with it.”
Sterling-James admitted it was hard work last night as Derby dominated possession.
“It was tiring as they move the ball well. You can’t switch off for a second or they can hurt you,” he said.
“It’s literally just about mental strength to make sure you stay on it for the whole course of however long you’re on the pitch for.”
On the goal he set up, with a little help from Lee Angol, for CJ Hamilton, he smiled: “It was a good phase of play.
“We defended the first corner and it went out for a second corner, then I’ve seen it come out and thought I could get to the ball first, attack them, and go for their throat because they were a bit tired by then.”
Flitcroft believes getting the lighting-quick Sterling-James to run at full pelt all the time is the key to getting the best out of the striker-Cum-winger.
“I have to scream at him to sprint,” said Flitcroft.
“Omari is only effective when he sprints. When he jogs around it doesn’t epitomise what I’m about and what the group’s about. But when he runs he can be devastating.
“It was great work for the goal. He’s locked it in, shown great feet, and the pass was sublime.
“He can do that. He’s got that ability. But that ability is only realised when he works hard. That’s what I keep trying to imprint on him day in, day out.
“There was running power in the team against Derby that I thought we didn’t have last season.”