Keith Curle on a slightly different approach to trainingUnited boss Keith Curle revealed this weekend that a different approach to training had helped to lift the cloud of negativity surrounding the club ahead of the trip to Huish Park on Saturday.
In-depth analysis sessions of recent fixtures were punctuated by a series of eight classic comedy clips, which included sketches from the Two Ronnies and Only Fools and Horses, and which had underlying messages which allowed the coaching staff to get some key points across.
“We kept ourselves very much contained as a football unit last week because we wanted to create an environment where the players were comfortable with what they were being asked to do,” he explained. “Anyone who saw what we were doing would probably have been very surprised because we kept it all very low key and as light-hearted as possible.
“We had plenty of time to get our football messages across on the training pitch and we also did a lot of video analysis and extra work. We made sure we weren’t overly critical and, to help with that, we also decided to make it humorous.
“There was a lot of negativity around, understandably so, because of the horrible run we’d been on and I knew I needed to get rid of that. We had some important work to do, we never lost sight of that, but I selected a series of classic comedy clips to go along with the coaching stuff which I felt were guaranteed to raise a laugh, but which also had a subliminal message behind them.”
Following a recognised routine, the squad watched the Crewe footage at last Monday’s first session before the manager took the opportunity to begin to lift the mood.
“The interesting factor from the Crewe fixture, having watched it back with the players, was that we all agreed that we’d started the game well,” he told us. “We then looked at some of the things which weren’t so good and at the reasons why that had been the case.
“Having thought about what I wanted to achieve last week I knew there was no way I wanted to dwell on negatives for any longer than was necessary. That’s why I completely changed the tone, after having been over the footage, by then showing the lads the comedy clips.
“We watched them all, had a laugh, and then we went out for our first session of the day on the grass. When we came back in we got together again and looked at what messages we could take from the clips and perhaps bring into what we’re doing out on the pitch.”
“One of the clips was from Only Fools and Horses where Del Boy tries to act cool only to then fall through an open bar hatch,” he continued. “The message we were able to take from it is that you have to be aware of what’s going on around you all the time. The picture is changing constantly during a game and if you don’t remain on top of that you end up looking like a fool.
“Another of David Jason’s clips was the one where they’re going to clean the chandelier. Again, it’s one of the funniest things you’ll see, and we were able to highlight from it that communication has to be good and accurate every step of the way or huge mistakes can be made. Basically, ask yourself if you’re completely ‘on message’ and that you understand fully what’s going on. If you don’t, clarify it.
“With the Two Ronnies it was the one where Ronnie Barker was asking for four candles. The subliminal message within that was to make sure we’ve listened and asked the relevant questions rather than just allowing ourselves to crack on in the hope that we’re right.”
Other clips used on the day were from Mr Bean when he met and head butted the Queen [concentrate on what you need to do and don’t just do things because others are, or have]; Mr Bean when he sees a £10 note trapped under a car wheel [everyone wants what you want and it’s up to you to make sure you get it – in football everyone wants to win as much as you do]; Inbetweeners driving past the bus stop [saying sorry, sorry, sorry over and over isn’t good enough – take responsibility for your actions]; You’ve Been Framed when a man is thrown through a window as he tries out a child’s toy [expect the unexpected and take nothing for granted]; Trigger and Rodney trying to guess the name of Del Boy’s baby [never assume anything, find out as much information as you can to be better prepared].
Speaking more about what some might see as an unusual approach, he said: “It isn’t something I’ve done before but I knew I needed to get a reaction from the group in a different kind of way.
“There have been nerves around because of the results and overall I’d say it helped us to relax the players at a time when we were asking more of them. Everyone knows that we’re focused on creating a professional environment but I’ve been around changing rooms for 30-odd years now and I know what makes people tick.
“People who don’t get regular face time with me won’t know that humour plays a big part in how I manage players. Used in the right way, and at the right times, it can add a lot and help to put the players in the frame of mind and the place where you want them to be.”