Striker Adi Yussuf hoping for a Mansfield Town start

Adi Yussuf.
Adi Yussuf.

Striker Adi Yussuf is hoping he may get the call to start a League game for Mansfield Town for the first time at Northampton Town on Saturday.

But the Tanzanian youngster is happy to wait for his chance and still in dream land at landing the summer move from Conference North Oxford City.

Boss Adam Murray has hinted the 23-year-old is high in his thoughts for a first start this weekend.

But Yussuf said: “When the time comes it comes, there is no rush.

“I am still pinching myself and can’t believe I am still here. The time will come. I am sure the gaffer knows what he is doing and he has given me my chance here.

“He’s trusted me so I give him 100 per cent trust. It’s a long season so I am sure I will get my chance and when that comes I will take it.

“I couldn’t have dreamt it before last season. Being here is really is like a dream come true. But I am glad it’s happened and I now just want to establish myself in League Two.”

Yussuf, nevertheless, was undoubtedly one of the star players in the Conference North last season as his 26 goals took Oxford to within a single point of the play-off places.

However, he modestly said: “I got lucky at Oxford.

“It wasn’t just me – we had a good team as well so I scored quite a few easy goals which they made for me, so I am really thankful that we had a good team that year.

“They are doing well again this year, I always follow them and see how they are doing. It’s a good set-up and a good manager which really made it easy for me.

“I couldn’t believe it when I got a move to Mansfield, considering the last few years I’ve had with injuries and getting released from other teams.

“I’d been on trial the same summer as I signed for Oxford City, but teams said they didn’t want me - I wasn’t good enough. But Oxford took the chance and then the same year I get a move to the League. I have to keep pinching myself.

“Now I just want to do well for Mansfield Town and hopefully go higher.”

He added: “Don’t get me wrong, I have been through some hard times. But my dad would never, ever, ever let me give up and, to be fair, I have never lost faith. My morals are that if you work hard, anything is possible.

“I just carried on working hard, never lost faith and it’s paid off.”

Yussuf has scored twice coming on a substitute and said the fitness levels and pitches were the two biggest differences he had found in the step-up in standard.

“The standard is obviously a lot higher,” he said. “Everyone is fitter, stronger, quicker and that is what I am trying to adapt to.

“Obviously the pitches are better as some of the pitches I played on last year I don’t think you’d walk your dog on, so it’s easier in that aspect.

“At Oxford we were only training Tuesday night and Thursday night, and there were quite a few people who were doing two jobs. So they were coming in late and tired. So it wasn’t as intense as here where we train every day.

“The gaffer works us hard here and we are running every day, which is good. I am still doing my extra bits too as I am still behind with the fitness as I was only used to training twice a week.

“I have adapted to it now and am slowly getting there.

“Even now it’s still a shock to the system, training hard every day. The body was not used to it.

“I did all right pre-season but then I picked up a niggle which kept me out for a week which obviously put me even more behind. I am always trying to better myself and work hard to get my chance when hopefully I will take it.”

A graduate of Leicester City’s academy set-up, where he played regularly at youth and reserve level, the striker left the King Power Stadium four years ago to join Burton Albion.

He featured on 31 occasions in two seasons with Burton, before spending 2013/14 at Lincoln City. He also took in loan spells with Gainsborough Trinity (loan), Harrogate Town (loan) and Histon (loan) before his move to Oxford City.

Although many of the Oxford players were part-time with other jobs, Yussuf is grateful he was well looked after by Oxford and given every chance to make it without seeking extra employment.

“Oxford were good to me,” he said. “I am from Leicester so they gave me a place to stay and everything I needed to just concentrate on football.

“I will always thank Oxford as they gave me everything to get me where I am now. They gave me an house to stay in and a gym to train at for free. It’s paid off.”

Yussuf said he was learning every day from the other three strikers at the club.

“All of them have different qualities,” he said. “Matt Green is the fittest man I’ve seen.

“He is unbelievably fit and he’s got everything. I see him as an older brother. Every single day he comes and speaks to me and gives me advice and I can’t thank him enough.

“Craig Westcarr is obviously a different striker to me. His quality is that he will never lose the ball and his first touch is always on point.

“Beardo (Chris Beardsley) has a different quality to all of us. The way he holds up the ball is better than probably all of us. All four of us are different and I take tips from all of them.

“All three are experienced strikers and they all come and speak to me. We all help each other which is good.

“The boys are buzzing, especially as it’s a new group. I think we’ve bonded quicker than the gaffer expected. It’s good to be in this position now and there is only room for improvements.

“I don’t think we are at our best yet and we are sixth. I don’t think I am 100 per cent fit yet, so hopefully I will get there and can give more to the team. I am looking forward to the season.”

Yussuf said the biggest influence on his career had been his father – and he celebrated every goal he scored with him.

“My dad and mum never ever miss a game,” he smiled. “If my dad could he would probably come to training as well and watch every training session.

“He has actually asked me if he is allowed to come and watch but I’ve said no as that would just be annoying.

“He comes to every single game no matter where it is. He’s been to different countries – literally every single game.

“When I score I always run up to him as when I score it makes his day and makes him proud. I always thank my dad.

“He used to play professional football in Tanzanier as well in the Arab Nations and that, so it’s literally like me playing for him.

“When times were bad, really bad, and I was at home on my own, he was the only one that was there for me so I owe him and thank him everyday.”

On Saturday’s game at Northampton, he added: “It’s a massive game.

“The gaffer has planned something a bit different for Saturday and changed it up a bit, so we are looking forward to it.

Yussuf will now be hoping he is part of that new plan to beat the Cobblers.