Keith Curle ahead of the visit of Crewe AlexandraManager Keith Curle confirmed at his Friday afternoon press conference that he’d taken the squad back to basics as he looks for a return to winning ways when Crewe make the trip to Brunton Park on Saturday.
“It’s been a good week,” he said. “We’ve been able to go through video analysis in detail, with plus and minus points, and we’ve been able to work with individuals and units on all aspects of the game. We’ve done that with the defence, midfield and forwards because we’ve accepted that the basics have to be done properly before we can then go on to be progressive.
“There are a lot of factors which have come together which have meant we are on the disappointing run we’re now going through. It happens to all teams and we’ve found that things which were second nature at the start of the season have suddenly become the most difficult things to do.
“That’s why we’ve had to rebuild the foundations and reinforce the beliefs and pillars which had got us success earlier in the season. We’ve looked at things we were doing well and we’ve implemented them out on the training ground this week. The minimum requirements of hard work, controlled aggression and doing the job you’ve been given to do are what put us in a good position and that has been our starting point.”
“The signs are there that it’s starting to click again,” he added. “There’s been a good level of understanding from the players and the emphasis now is on the fact we have an eight game season coming up. Every single one of them is a cup tie and we’ll prepare the players with the maximum amount of detail we can give them so that we give ourselves the best possible chance of taking three points from all of them.
“Within that there are players who have got eight games to try and get into the team. They’ve got to put in performances to try and extend their stay at the football club. There are targets within this run of fixtures, but the overriding target is that we want to try and win all eight of them.”
“We’re still in a great position and we want to make sure we approach them all without looking to make any excuses,” he continued. “It’s been said before, but this is an honest group and they don’t want to hide behind anything. They know that certain individual decisions have been the wrong ones to make, but you’re going to get that.
“There isn’t a single player who gets through a season without making an elementary mistake. The pleasing thing is that we’re able to rectify them by doing what we’re doing, and that’s by getting back to basics. We’ve given the players some things to buy into and a clean slate.
“Confidence has taken a slap because we’ve got a changing room where it’s been like day and night. We’ve gone from being undefeated in well over 20 games, with the winning mentality that comes with it, to wondering where the next win is coming from.
“The answer to that is that it comes from doing the simple things very well. If we tighten up on that we’ll start to see our good, creative players shine again. We do acknowledge that injuries and suspensions can disrupt momentum, particularly if they come in large numbers at the same time, and the introduction of new players brings different dynamics which everyone has to adapt to.
“As a collective you have to work hard to develop a style of play which suits what you’ve got and we’ve had a good period of time to do that with the new additions we’ve seen this week. We know exactly where we are now squad wise, because the window on signing players is completely shut, so it’s up to us to find the best team, formation and shape to win us games.”
Speaking more about the character within the group, he said: “It’s there in abundance and it’s something we want to build on. Nobody has tried to hide or bring what I call trash to the table. They’re all very willing to hold their hands up when they’ve made errors so what we need to do now is create a culture whereby they are all thinking that the next thing they do is right.
“We know there will be mistakes, that’s the nature of the game, but what we want to see is that the next thing to happen after the error will be the right decision at the right time. We need to see the supporters buy into that as well, so that they’re applauding a cheering a player who got something wrong the minute he does the next thing right.”
Looking at the recent additions made to the squad, he said: “All of them are here to add competition and the challenge we’ve given them is to see whether they can do enough to get into the team and earn a contract for next season. The door is open for them to do that.
“We have a squad full of different attributes now and their next test is the Crewe game tomorrow. It’s there for all to see that there hasn’t been enough emphasis on our attacking prowess in recent games and, whoever is picked, we want to see that back again. We’re on a bad run and we need to change it with a performance level that warrants us winning the game.”
With defender Tom Miller having to leave the pitch with just nine minutes on the clock last weekend we wondered if he’d become the latest addition to the injury list.
“Tom wants to play tomorrow,” he said. “He’s been taking medical advice and he’s been told to resume training next week.
“Jason Kennedy and Jamie Devitt are both back out on the grass. Jason is waiting for an update from the specialist to be given the all-clear before he can resume contact, but we are getting more in the way of good news on the injury front at the moment.”
And looking ahead to tomorrow’s game, he told us: “Crewe have done well with results this month and they’ve come through a rough period where, as a club, they were picking up the wrong kind of attention for a lot of reasons. They’ve dusted themselves down and regrouped and they have a young manager in charge who I know really well.
“I signed him a couple of times and he went on to play international football, which he should be very proud of. As a human being he is a really good man. The type of character he has is very much in the Michael Raynes mould. He has a strong, dominant personality and he plays to his strengths. I was glad I had him in my changing room and I’m sure his team will have the same hunger and desire he has.
“They’re playing with a freedom where they’re able to express themselves at the moment. Their players can all handle a football, they play as a counter-attacking team and they haven’t really got that physicality that people would say was typical League Two.
“They’ve got very good movement and players with an eye for goal. They’re a decent team and they will pose us problems. Likewise, we’ve got some key players who are ready to perform. It’s a game where we will have to be committed, brave and willing to push ourselves to get the best out of our performance.
“As I say, we want the fans to get behind that as well. It is an eight game season and the focus from everybody has got to be on what the football team does between now and the end of the season. We want success and I want the supporters to be part of helping us to get it.”