Keith Curle ahead of the Rochdale FA Cup gameManager Keith Curle spoke to us about Saturday’s meeting with Rochdale as FA Cup fever returns to Brunton Park.
“The players have got a good focus about them and it’s another game we’re all looking forward to,” he said. “We’ve done our homework on the opposition as usual and they’re a good team with good energy. They move the ball well.
“They’ve been better at home than on their travels, but it will be a good chance for us to test ourselves against a team riding high in their division.”
“It’s an opportunity for us to progress in a cup competition we’ve got good recent memories from,” he continued. “There’s nothing to be scared of, it’s a game of football with two teams and two sets of players who will try to implement their styles of play so that they can be successful.
“I think it will be an entertaining cup tie because both groups will try and get the ball down and play. They’re a pressing team and they’ve got good dynamics. Sometimes their willingness to go and close a ball down can leave them slightly exposed.
“We think they’ll come here to press us as much as they can. We’ve got players who are good enough to play round that and cause problems. That’s why we’ll look to get forward quickly as well, so there should be plenty of swings and roundabouts within this game.”
“This is a different test to the one we faced at St Albans,” he commented. “This will be more of a game of football and Rochdale need to be respected. “The first 15 or 20 minutes will be vitally important and neither side will want to give anything away. That’s something we’ve been very guilty of, but we’ve been fortunate in that we’ve made it work in our favour.
“Rochdale are riding high in their division on merit but the beauty of this competition is that nobody knows what will happen. Thinking about that game at St Albans, it was four minutes in and we were a goal down. All you start thinking to yourself is – please, no, not us. Don’t let us be the weekend headline.
“Mark Gillespie had to make a fantastic save to stop us from going two down. It’s football, it’s the FA Cup, and literally anything can happen. The ideal scenario would be for us to win comfortably and then get a big draw in round three.”
“That’s when it becomes about the financial rewards,” he said. “We’re a business and it’s a lot easier to do things if you have the availability of money. The revenue and finances from a good cup run are obvious to everyone.
“When you’re trying to be successful momentum is a big part of it. We can’t decide which games we win and when we perform well. Every time a player is asked to represent me and the club they are expected to put in a performance which is worthy of the shirt.
“The players are aware of the rewards of a good cup run as well and that adds a bit of pressure and tension. Rochdale will come here thinking that if they make sure they don’t get beat they can take us back to their ground, and they’ll then become the obvious favourites.
“If they do sit back it will put us on the front foot but, likewise, if they come at us we’ll be able to deal with it. It’s a distraction because it’s not a league game but it’s another opportunity for us to represent our football club in a fantastic competition. Gaining more momentum from winning games is what we’re all about. Getting to the top of the league was hard, staying there is even harder.
“The things we’ve been doing to get there, we need to do more of. We’ve reached top spot and now we want to pull away. Every game brings a different focus but the players are enjoying their workload because they know they’ve got answers.”
The game on Saturday brings a return to Brunton Park for popular wide man Joe Thompson, who joined Rochdale this season having spent last year with the Cumbrians.
“Joe is an excellent character and I’m really pleased he’s doing well,” he said. “The one thing you’d say about him through his time with us is that there was an uncertainty in how he would perform - from us and from himself. The cancer scare he had knocked his confidence massively but I have to say he applied himself very well and he integrated with the group easily.
“In my opinion all he lacked at that time was confidence in his own ability. He came to us as a wide player but I saw him playing more as a centre forward, or wide of a front three. In that role he could come off the line and cause havoc. The goal he scored at Plymouth typified that.
“It’s no surprise he’s been playing up front at times for Rochdale because he’s a fit lad. I’m pleased that we played our part in his progression back to where he is now as a football club because we knew he could play first division football. I’m very pleased for him because he’s one of the most likeable characters you will ever meet.”
Returning to the fold from a two-game suspension this weekend is United winger Jamie Devitt, who missed out recently following his sending off late in the home game against Exeter City.
“There was a genuine apology from Jamie after the game because he knows he let himself down,” Curle commented. “That’s something he has to change, and financially it’s been dealt with by the football club because he’s a player who has been unavailable due to ill discipline. We need to eradicate that kind of thing.
“What we know about him is that he isn’t a loose cannon in any way. He isn’t aggressive, but he is a passionate young man. I’ve told him before that he needs to channel it because it doesn’t matter how many times he rants and raves at referees, he’s not going to change their minds.”