Keith Curle on Portsmouth and quality in the squad
Manager Keith Curle spoke to us ahead of the long trip to Portsmouth as the squad gears up for the big season opener on Saturday.
“I’m ready for it,” he said. “It’s been a long summer as far as I’m concerned because I haven’t been around football. Putting the players together has been very exciting but you do want to be out there and watching them do their work during competitive games.
“It’s about bringing a squad of players together and creating a team ethic. People talk about team spirit but unity does grow and become stronger when you start to win football matches.”
“Personally I think going to play them is the best start we could have had,” he commented. “Portsmouth are rightly the favourites to win the division comfortably because they have the biggest budget by far and they get the biggest attendances.
“That gives us a fantastic opportunity to go to face the best the division has got. It allows us to compare ourselves against them on day one. We’ll be able to see what we’re about and what work still needs to be done.”
“Paul [Cook] has made some good signings but he will know we did our business very early and that we’ve had a lot of time to work with our new group,” he continued. “He’ll know we competed very well in the games we had with them last season and he won’t take anything for granted.
“There’s a level of expectation down there and they will have to handle that. They’ll be trying to get momentum early and they will want to make Fratton Park a fortress. I don’t think it will be an open or expansive game and we will go there to try to nullify them and stop them from playing.”
On the expectation levels faced by his own team, he said: “It’s there and we’re embracing it. The aim of every club at the start of every season is to get promotion. I don’t have a problem with that and, in fact, I buy into that.
“I’ve got to aim to win the division first and foremost but it’s a long season and we will look to finish it well. When it comes to it I’m here to raise expectations and to make the team perform. I like winning football matches and I want those expectation levels to go up, because that will mean we’re doing well.”
And on the Blue Army, who will once again turn out in numbers at Fratton Park, he said: “The travelling support we have as a club shows a lot about the character of the fans who take their time to make these trips.
“I’ve said before that you don’t just support this club on a whim. There’s dedication and planning, and there’s a huge amount of optimism there as well, and the least we can do is be a competitive outfit for them.
“We know they will never let us down and we do everything we can to pay that back.”
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