Keith Curle on friendlies and the EFL Trophy draw
Manager Keith Curle spoke to us about the draw for the EFL Trophy draw which puts United against Oldham, Fleetwood and Blackburn in the group stages which kick off at the end of August.
“It puts us against teams from higher divisions,” he said. “That will give us a good opportunity to test ourselves, particularly now that the competition has a new format.
“The changes have been introduced as a pilot scheme this season and our club has embraced that and said – let’s give it a go and see how it works. The knock-out stages will make it slightly more competitive and that should create a little bit more interest.
“They’ve given us something back in the early stages by cancelling out the extra time so that any drawn games will go straight to penalties. That puts pressure on the players taking the penalties to get the win that way, which is a good thing.”
“Our club has good history in this competition and it’s important for us to be able to embrace it and show that we’re not scared of change,” he continued. “The idea is that it promotes more game time for younger players across the divisions and that can only be of benefit to us as well.
“As I say, we are embracing it and we’re looking forward to it. Each game is another opportunity for the players to represent Carlisle United and go out there to put in good performances against teams from higher divisions.”
On the Barrow and Bury friendlies, he said: “We knew that Barrow would offer us a physical test. They’re a very committed team who are direct and who play on the front-foot, and that’s how they will see their season panning out.
“We’ll get tests of that nature within our division and the pleasing thing is we didn’t shy away from it. We stepped up to the challenge physically and we were able to deal with the large majority of balls which came into our box. From that point of view it was very pleasing.
“At Bury we were up against a team that likes to get the ball down and pass it, play and move. The training facility they have at Carrington is an aid to the way they want to play football. They pop the ball around and they move it very quickly and we’ll come up against that style of play as well, particularly early in the season.
“We wanted that type of opposition to make sure we were able to maintain and retain shape and have a failsafe position we wanted to fall back into. In addition to that we want to know we can use the ball in the right areas when we have it.
“Overall they were two very different types of test and that’s why we scheduled and designed it that way. A good thing for us on Tuesday was that we started to see the tempo we’d been asking for come through.
“Pre-season has got to be a progression because the players still won’t be at full match fitness, even when you get into early August. That usually comes after 15 or 16 games when you will then see the league table really start to settle down.”
Next up for the Blues [the new home strip will be worn for the first time on Saturday] is the trip to face Bradford City on Saturday afternoon.
“They gave us a great game last summer and that’s why we decided we would like to play them again this time round,” he explained. “I think it will be a very competitive game again and we can only benefit from playing teams from a higher level who ask different questions. That’s what pre-season is for.
“These next 10 days are a chance for the players to show they are ready. Every day is game focussed and we do everything at match tempo. The sessions we put on are designed to work on the little areas where we think we can improve.”
“In terms of where the group is at the moment, I’m very happy with them physically,” he concluded. “The attitude of the players, with some of the challenges we’ve thrown at them, has been very good.
“The one thing we would say is that we’d like to be hitting the back of the net more and I’d like to see us become more of an attacking threat. That will come because first and foremost we’ve got to get the shape of the team right.
“I’m happy but there are things which need fine tuning. I don’t think we’ve seen everything the players have got to offer yet, but that’s what makes it exciting. We’re nowhere near the finished article and it would be disappointing if everyone was showing exactly what they’ve got at this stage. You’d worry they would dip from there.
“There is a lot more to come from a lot of our players and I think it’s going to be an exciting season that will see us entertain and excite the crowd.”
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