Keith Curle ahead of the Accrington gameManager Keith Curle spoke to us at his weekly press conference ahead of Saturday’s big game against Accrington Stanley.
“I think Accrington will be vibrant, energetic and full of confidence and belief,” he said. “They’ll enjoy playing on a big, open pitch and on the fantastic playing surface that Brunton Park offers.
“It’ll be up to us to nullify the threat and then implement how we want the game to go. The last time we played them up here John Coleman felt that we wanted it more than his team did. We need to make sure we replicate that.
“We gave Everton a head start on Sunday, which we didn’t want, and that took the thrill of the cup tie out of it a little bit. We’re back to league business this weekend and we want to be difficult to beat. Ultimately we know that if we give Accrington a head start like that we’ll be in for a difficult afternoon.”
“Accrington haven’t taken me by surprise at all this season,” he added. “I think they’ve done exceptionally well. I think they’re very competitive and there is a lot of energy about the team.
“They’ve got a good manager and a good coaching team and they’ve built a group of players who believe in how they want the game to be played. The interest and speculation they’ve had in some of their better players has helped them. They know they’re under the spotlight and the players are enjoying it.”
Speaking about the games in hand to be played through a tough schedule of games, he said: “I’m no different to any other manager or coach. I’d rather have points on the board than games in hand.
“We have the potential to get the maximum points out of those games and it will see us in good stead if we do that. We’re playing teams who are in and around us with those games so it’ll be a great opportunity to close the gap if we can do things properly.”
“We’ve had the spotlight on us over the last few weeks but the message to the lads has been that’s it’s now back to business,” he commented. “The players did well to be able to put on a spectacle that was well supported at Brunton Park and I had a chat with them on the pitch, after the full time whistle, to make sure they knew it was because of them that the turnout had been so good on Sunday.
“They enjoyed their day, but they now know that this is the run-in towards the end of the season. It’s about how successful we want to be and I can tell you that we want to finish as high as we possibly can.
“We had a double training session yesterday but it wasn’t done as a punishment. It was purely to enhance the work ethic we already have at this football club. You don’t become successful by accident. You have to plan and you need to be prepared in every way possible to make sure you can be successful.”
“There hasn’t been an adrenalin drop in any, way shape or form this week,” he insisted. “There’s a sense of disappointment from the players that they didn’t perform the way they wanted to, but they then saw what Everton did to Newcastle. That makes you look and realise what a quality team like that can do if they’re on their game.
“The volume of support and the atmosphere generated was fantastic last weekend, even to the extent that Roberto Martinez mentioned how impressed he was with how the club conducted itself behind the scenes, and with the way the team was supported. It impressed him, and you’re talking about a manager there who goes to a host of top Premier League clubs week in and week out.
“The incident which is being dealt with by the police thankfully didn’t affect that. Hopefully the powers that be will be able to take the appropriate action because we don’t want that kind of thing inside Brunton Park or, in fact, anywhere in society.”
“As I say, the cup run has been and gone and it’s important for us to get back to being in focus for the league games,” he said. “There are a lot of points available and a lot still to come from this squad. As long as I’m manager at this football club we will keep striving to improve in every department.
“It’s a tough schedule but I know from my playing days that I’d rather be playing games than training. We’re at a football club which likes to prepare in the right way so we’ll make sure we’re ready, however thick and fast they come.
“Within the top reaches of the table we’re the only one who hasn’t gone on a consistent run of winning five or six games back-to-back. I’m more than happy that we have the squad in place to make it happen. We’ve become a hard team to beat but we know we need a win. Once we get that the challenge will be to follow it with another one.”
And on players available for the tough run of games, he said: “Danny Grainger [ankle], Luke Joyce [groin] and Basten Hery [hamstring] are all close. Tomorrow is probably a little bit too close for them but it could be a gamble I’m willing to take if we feel it’s warranted. That will come down to my conversations with Dolly and the players later today and on Saturday morning.
“We have players coming back to full fitness within ten days or two weeks and that will give us a competitive squad of somewhere near 24 players. Touch wood that will be enough to see us through. Ultimately I know that what we have in the dressing room now is much better than what we had last season.
“That gives me a massive feeling of pride to think of how far we’ve come in such a short space of time. I want to improve results continually and I’ll do that first and foremost by making sure I’m happy with the environment and the people within that environment. Again, that comes down to recruitment and making sure we get the right people through the door to help us along.”