Keith Curle on Boxing Day at Accrington
Manager Keith Curle spoke to us about festive season preparation and family time ahead of the Christmas Eve training session on Thursday morning.
“I’m a bit old school at this time of year in that I think players should get a bit of time with their families,” he said. “That’s why I had them in at 8.30am for a 9am start. I gave the players a couple of days off in the early part of the week so they could finish off their preparations for Christmas, and they’ll be able to get back with their families as soon as we finish here today.
“I’ve told them to enjoy Christmas Eve, Christmas morning and Christmas afternoon, but then it’s a shut down come 4 or 5 o’clock. They need to have it in their minds from that stage that they have a massive game the next day.”
“As far as our training session today is concerned, it’s business as usual,” he continued. “The lads have got together to sing a few Christmas Carols in the changing room before we start and I think that’s excellent.
“It’s putting them all in a very good frame of mind and we will then get our boots on and start to prepare for Accrington in the best way possible. I don’t like training the players on Christmas Day unless I have to, but I know that there are other schools of thought where the players are made to come in. I like family time because I think it’s massively important.
“I live my life as a professional and I expect the people around me to do the same. That means they should conduct themselves in the right way. That includes having a glass of champagne with dinner and a glass of wine in front of the telly in the afternoon. However, as I say, there then comes a point where you have to start to think about your job and the importance of the fixture you face the next day.”
“There is an element of trust involved but that’s something we’re sharing,” he added. “I trust them and they trust me. They know the preparations we put in place for them are for their benefit. They get their time off but they know when they come in there’s a demand on them to perform to the highest levels they can.
“The weather has obviously been a talking point for a while now and I’d have to say yes and no to the question of whether or not it’s been a disruption. We’re mindful of it and we tailor our training sessions to suit. It’s pleasing to say the whole squad have been very bright and enthusiastic as a group this week. There’s a demanding element that's growing and that has been created by the players themselves. You tend to get that when things are going well, and it helps to develop a successful environment.
“We’ve come in this morning and it was raining heavily, so we’ll start things with a video analysis of what we did against Notts County, and the same for what we can expect from Accrington. That will allow us to go over the good points from our win at Preston but always having one eye on the threats we know Accrington can cause. The process today allows us to drop a little seed which we will be able to reinforce on Saturday morning at the pre-match briefing.”
“What we know is that the Accrington game will be a very tough test,” he said. “I know there’s a level of frustration from John Coleman that he’s had a couple of games called off and that has stopped their momentum a little bit.
“They’re a young, vibrant group and they like to play on the front foot. I think they’ve been fantastic this season. It’s a collection of young, hungry players who are proving to be reliable. The test for them now is to keep the momentum going. They will be disappointed to have had games called off, even though having those games in hand can be a good thing.
“However, if the games in hand become a couple of defeats it will leave them chasing the pack to get back into the play-off places. Their pitch does hold water, and it can cut up when you play on it, so that can be a leveller as well. They work hard though and they’re a hard team to beat.”
On the comments made by the Accrington manager about United’s home game arrangements following Storm Desmond, he said: “I spoke to John earlier this week just after the comments he’d made appeared in print. He phoned me and he wanted to make it clear that he was in no way, shape or form belittling the impact the flood has had on Carlisle United Football Club, or the people of Cumbria as a community.
“He was very aware of the devastation and the hardship that people are facing and he didn’t feel that came through in his interview at all. It was a longer interview than the segment which was published and all he was doing, in his opinion, was showing concern at us being allowed to play games where there might be an advantage for the opposition.
“I fully understand where he was coming from. He feels everybody should have to travel to Carlisle because it can be a mental challenge for teams to have to come that extra 150 miles or so. It could also become a disadvantage for us if results start to go against us.
“It’s a swings and roundabouts situation and all he was doing was telling everyone what his concerns were. I really don’t have a problem with that. I will reiterate again that he had every understanding and concern for the plight of the Carlisle community and he did not, in any way, mean to be disrespectful to us at all.”
Speaking about the 1200+ fans who will make the trip on Boxing Day, he said: “Our travelling support is out of this world. I've said it before, but you don't just wake up and decide to go to a Carlisle United away game on a whim. There's a lot of planning and preparation and that is why we always go and show our appreciation. It does matter to us and we do care that they come.
“They’ll make a lot of noise and they’ll be looking forward to this. The performance at Accrington last year is gone, that's part of our history and we're now looking forward. There's a different mentality, we have a different group and it's a different football club now. It did have an affect on me and the football club at the time, but we turned it into a positive as quickly as we could.”
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