FEW players are happy to settle for a place on the bench, but if Michael Raynes is left out of Oxford United’s starting line-up at Southend United tomorrow no-one will deal with it better.
Not for the first time in his two-year stay at the club, the defender has started the season doing more watching than playing.
While he played 90 minutes in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy tie at Cheltenham Town on Tuesday night, there is every chance Johnny Mullins, who was rested for the 2-0 defeat, will return against Southend United.
There can often be friction within a squad between the players who feature regularly and those on the fringes.
But while Raynes is as hungry as ever to force his way into the side, the 26-year-old retains a selflessness which has been highly-valued by a succession of United bosses.
“Don’t get me wrong, it’s not nice being on the bench, but it’s your job. You get paid to work hard every day and sometimes you can’t influence what decisions people make,” he said.
“It’s football, you can’t kick off and throw your toys out of the pram.
“It’s not like we’re on thousands of pounds and we can afford to turn down contracts.
“It’s a blessing to be in football and you see a lot of good lads out of clubs.
“You just think there are a lot worse places you could be than behind, in my opinion, two of the best centre halves in the league.
“It’s always for the good of the team – Jake (Wright) and Mulls are different class.”
Raynes has also been hit with some bad luck.
A dead leg saw Mullins left out of the line-up on the opening day of the season, giving Raynes a chance to build on a solid pre-season.
But late in the first half against Burton Albion he was knocked off balance in the air and landed on his neck.
The result was nerve damage which left him unable to feel his feet normally for a week.
Raynes tried to play on, but lasted only a couple of minutes – during which Burton scored the game’s only goal.
He said: “When I first did it, I panicked and I think you could tell in the game I was properly shaken up.
“I was hoping to get to half-time and hopefully the feeling would come back.
“Every time I went to push off I couldn’t feel my toes.
“It was a scary feeling.”
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