Tom Flanagan described sitting on the substitutes bench as ‘the worst thing about being a footballer’ but hopes his performance against Doncaster Rovers on Saturday will give his manager a headache.
The central defender put in a man of the match display at the Keepmoat Stadium during Dons’ 0-0 draw as he stepped into the breach in the absence of Kyle McFadzean, who was suffering from concussion.
It was just Flanagan’s third appearance of the season, with his only other start coming against Yeovil at the start of October, though he lasted just 33 minutes at Huish Park.
And being an unused substitute 12 times this season is something that the 22-year-old admits is incredibly frustrating, but something he acknowledges is part of the game.
“It’s the worst thing about being a footballer, by a million miles,” he said.
“Everyone thinks you’re getting paid to work short hours, go away on a nice coach to a nice hotel, but we spend all week working hard, then on Saturday, you have to watch other people working hard. It’s the worst thing, but it’s part of it.
“It’s all about experience at the back - if you make a mistake, it’s a goal. I’m trying to gain that experience. I went out on loan, and I’ve come back and the manager has been good to me. People don’t see how hard we work during the week.
“It won’t be a case that I’ve played well this week and I can now take it easy. It’ll be the same every other week.”
Flanagan has found his chances limited this season with the emergence of summer signing McFadzean. Quickly establishing himself alongside Antony Kay as Dons’ first choice central partnership, Flanagan has found his chances limited, especially with Jordan Spence also a capable hand at the heart of the defence.
But competition for places is something Flanagan says is good for the club, and hopes his performance at Doncaster has done enough to earn him a start against Sheffield United in the League Cup on Tuesday night.
He said: “There’s a lot of competition at centre half. I got lucky with Kyle McFadzean getting injured, but that’s football. People always get injured, and you’ve got to be there and ready to take your opportunities.
“I felt I did that, and hopefully I’ve left it in the manager’s hands to see what he wants to do. I feel I’ve given him a headache, which is what I wanted to go. But that’s the same as everyone who isn’t starting, and for those who are.”
Flanagan’s chances of being handed a second consecutive start would’ve been done a world of good had he buried his chance at the Keepmoat Stadium. Dropping to the far post, Flanagan fired a sweetly struck volley back across goal, but saw it come back off the post.
“I was right behind it, the ball didn’t move and it hit the post flush. I thought it was going in, and I’ll admit I did have a little celebration!
“I’m looking to get a goal this season, and it would’ve been nice to get it this early, but I’ll have to wait.”