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MANAGER: Walk away with our heads held high

24 September 2015

Keith Curle with reaction to the draw with Liverpool at Anfield

Manager Keith Curle gave us his reaction to the amazing night at Anfield shortly after the last penalty kick had been taken.

“We’ve come up against a very good side and the lads have mastered their nerves and given us a performance,” he said. “I thought Liverpool showed us and the competition a lot of respect with the team they played. 

“We knew that we couldn’t compete simply by playing football. They have a huge amount of quality in their squad and you have to have a game plan. We were always going to need to concede space and work hard not to give them a clear shot at the target. 

“Sometimes you have to ride your luck as well. It doesn’t matter who you are, if you come here you need that on your side. I thought the way we applied ourselves meant we earned the luck we got.”

“I’m feeling very proud,” he continued. “We told the players before the game that no matter what the result, we wanted to leave Anfield as a united group. I think we’ve done that and, because of the nature of our performance, I think we’ve made a few friends as well.

“I have to say that I couldn’t have asked for more in terms of commitment. One of the mental aspects we’ve looked at this week was the Liverpool team sheet. We tried to hammer it home that it didn’t matter what team they put out, it was about us performing as individuals. To a man, everyone in that changing room performed and dealt with what they came up against.

“We needed that extra bit of effort tonight and we got it. As I say, we knew we would have to concede ground and the question then was whether or not we could frustrate Liverpool. We wanted to keep them shooting from distance and the shots they had were off target more often than not. 

“There’s no way we could come here and play a game of - you have it, then we’ll have it. We had to let them have possession then take the opportunity to get forward as soon as it came. If people had told us before the game we would go to Anfield, play a very strong side and take them through extra time to penalties, I’m not sure many would have believed it. 

“Everyone had to leave everything they had on the pitch for us to do that. A lot of people at the club, from the players to the staff and people behind the scenes, can be proud of what they’ve done to make this the type of night it was for us.”

“Another pleasing thing was that we didn’t fold when we went behind, which is an easy thing to do at a stadium like this,” he commented. “We’re encouraging the players to face their challenges and they do that better when they stick together. We can perform and we can score goals, and there’s a belief we can do that anywhere, as we’ve shown here.

“There’s no need to console anyone because we got beat. They’ve stretched a team of top class players, they’ve handled the occasion and they’ve set down a marker. The pleasing thing is I know there’s still more to come from all of them.

“The lads who missed the penalties are fine. They know there is unity in that dressing room and they’ve come here and done us proud. The team sheet Liverpool put out could frighten a lot of teams, but we dealt with it and the players have earned the praise they are going to get. 

“I used to be a penalty taker and I know that if you have to ask someone if they want to do it then it’s not the right thing to do. We had five people who wanted to take them and it’s always a lottery. The main thing is that we’ve come here, done the club proud and now we can walk away with our heads held high.”

On his team selection, he said: “There aren’t many managers who would be able to leave out the top scorer in the country. That was a tactical switch with the idea of bringing Jabo on late in the game to try to help us grab the winner. 

“I don’t owe the players we’ve collected together in that dressing room anything. Every decision I make is for the betterment of the team. It’s important the players understand that every day is an opportunity to express themselves and get into that team. We want to be progressive as a football club and we don’t settle for ‘well done’ and leave it at that. We want points and we want to climb the table.

“The hard part of my job starts now because we play Newport on Saturday. It’s important that we follow up what we’ve done today with three points at the weekend. Yes, we’ve come to Anfield and taken one of the best clubs in the country to penalties, and that’s something we have to embrace. We also have to use it as another building block. 

“Training on Friday will be important. We have to refocus on what is an important game against Newport and we also have some players who didn’t make the 18, because of the way we wanted to approach Liverpool. This game has gone now so we embrace the performance and immediately look to how we get ourselves together for the next one.”

And on the unbelievable support from the Blue Army, he said: “Our supporters are phenomenal. Their commitment is unbelievable. You simply don’t support this club on a whim. 

“You need to be committed because the distances involved in following us are huge. The flip side to that is that every player who wears their shirt, and every member of staff who wears the tracksuit, has to show the same kind of commitment going the other way. Anything less isn’t acceptable.”

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