Keith Curle on contracts, competition for places and a solid group
Manager Keith Curle spoke to us about another good week of preparation ahead of the weekend away fixture at Bristol Rovers.
“It’s been a good week even though it was a little bit dismantled at the start of it,” he explained. “The early part of the week is about getting bodies going again, and the last two days are about working as a group and getting ready for the next game. We tend to come back together on Thursdays and Fridays at the moment, with the amount of travel time we do, and that’s when we really start to focus.
“The players now know they need to train well on a Thursday for them to be even considered for selection. Thursday afternoon is when we have the think-tank at Brunton Park and that’s the opportunity for me to finalise my team selection.
“We have all of the players training with us today [Thursday] and it will be interesting to see who comes through with the bruises and knocks we had. We’re looking solid as a group and I can tell you now they all want to train, and they definitely all want to be involved come match day.”
“Danny Grainger and Antony Sweeney have both responded well to treatment,” he confirmed. “They’ve been given time to let things settle down so it’ll be interesting to see how they perform in training over the next few days.
“We know we’ll be without Michael Raynes, Luke Joyce and Alex Gilliead, and all three players have played crucial parts in the performance levels we’ve seen. They are a big loss, because they’re good players for us, but we’ve had a number of weeks where we’ve been without the likes of Jabo Ibehre and Charlie Wyke and we’ve still been able to perform and get results.
“The good thing is we’ve been able to make sure we’re not a one man team, even though it may have seemed that way through the early part of the season. People asked the question where we would be if we took Jabo Ibehre’s goals out of the team and we were able to show that we had versatility and we were able to adapt as a group. Even without the three we’ve mentioned this weekend we know we’ll still show that we are able to defend, score goals and be creative. That’s a good place to be for any club.”
Speaking more on the return of striker Jabo Ibehre, he said: “He played 45 minutes against Fleetwood on Wednesday and he looked fantastic. I think he needed that game for his own peace of mind because he’s been out of action for a long time now.
“He’s been exceptional in his approach to his rehabilitation programme, and that was with a minor setback, so he’s more than ready to be involved again. That half of football this week allowed him to completely throw the shackles off and it’s like having a new signing in the building.
“He’ll travel with us to Bristol and he adds another edge of competition for places. He now knows the work he’s done has paid off and I’m sure we’ll see him back to his best very quickly. He knows there’s still work to do because with him, Steven Rigg, Charlie Wyke, Derek Asamoah and Hallam Hope it means we have five centre forwards battling for one, two or three starting positions, depending on the formation we choose to go with. That’s good, strong competition and it’s down to me to pick the right combination to help us to get the result.”
“Angelo [Balanta] is another who played 45 minutes and he looked bright and breezy,” he added. “He now needs to be afforded game time in league fixtures to get himself fully back up to speed.”
The bounce game at Fleetwood was a chance for the coaching staff to run the rule over four trialists in a competitive environment.
“The four trialists did very well,” he said. “We won’t highlight who they are at this stage because some of them are out of contract, and we don’t want to alert other clubs about their availability.
“The way they performed shows that Lee Dykes is doing his job within our recruitment process. They’ve given us food for thought and we’ll try to arrange another game for next week so we can give them a different type of challenge. What we say to Lee is that we need these players to bring something different, and we’re getting that. We don’t just want more of the same. We want to be able to have a range of different options.
“Overall it was a very competitive game and I know Fleetwood appreciated the tempo it was played at. We came away with a win and winning is a good habit to have, so it was a very worthwhile exercise.”
But with squad size in min, he told us: “We do have names on the transfer list and they are all still available. On top of that, any player in the last year of his contract is also available. The lads know that and they all relish it. It’s been put to them as a challenge and they know the door hasn’t been closed on anybody’s future at this club.
“People have bought into the fact that if you’re here you need to be performing. If you’re doing that the opportunity will be there for you to play. From there comes a better chance of earning a contract, either here or somewhere else.
“I am mindful that we would like to be running at a squad size of a competitive 22 or 23. At the moment we’re at 26 or 27 and the ideal scenario would be to get some more players game time at other clubs. We’ll keep working away to try to make that happen.”
And on his own contract situation, and speculation surrounding a link-up with Neil Warnock should he get the QPR job full time, he said: “With Neil, we didn’t only work together we were also very successful together. We did well at QPR and at Crystal Palace where we halted the downward spiral of both clubs.
“We took Palace to the play-offs and we went up as champions with QPR, and I had a fantastic working relationship with him. I think he would also say the success he had was because we were able to work well together as a strong partnership.
“It is all just speculation at the moment because Neil hasn’t got the job. He’s the interim manager, whatever that means. A return to the Championship would obviously be nice but ideally that will happen here with Carlisle United. Realistically it could two years to achieve that but, if it happened, it would be a win-win for everybody. That is definitely the ideal situation.
“In terms of my own contract I had a good conversation with the chairman and John Nixon last week. Things were put in writing from that. I’ve replied in writing and that’s where we are with it at this moment in time.
“I can say again that it isn’t about money, it’s about making sure both parties have a full understanding of where each other needs to be, wants to be and can ultimately get to. Rightly so those conversations need to be had, and concluded.”
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