Keith Curle ahead of the trip to PlymouthWe caught up with manager Keith Curle at the team’s midweek training base in Bristol as preparations continue for the away game at Home Park on Saturday.
Speaking first about the decision to stay down in the south-west following Tuesday’s Cheltenham game, he said: “The club runs a very tight financial ship whereby everything has to be justified, and rightly so.
“The owners listened to why I felt it was important for us to stay down here and the pleasing thing is that they backed me on it. They understood what I spoke to them about when I explained the rationale behind giving us the best opportunity to prepare fully as we look to pick up more points.
“Now, there are no guarantees that will happen, but by doing things this way we’ve actually done everything we can to increase our chances. That’s all you can ask for because what we don’t want to do is come out of the games and start to talk about ‘what if we’d done this’ or ‘if only we’d done that’ and things like that.”
“We know, as a club, how much travelling can take out of you so, if you face a situation where there are long trips back-to-back, as we had this week, you want to do everything you can to ease the burden,” he continued.
“I have it in my mind that we looked like we’d lost some of our legs when we got to the last ten or twelve games last season, and that was down to the amount of travelling we’d done. As I say, we want to do everything we can to help to take that element away.”
“The other good thing about staying down here is that we’re getting some quality time with the group,” he added. “Being able to keep them together without them dispersing here, there and everywhere after the game on Tuesday has been vital.
“Every coach will tell you that it’s really important to get good and meaningful contact time with your players. This is a great example of getting a chance for us to maximise that. Players learn and absorb things in different ways so we’ve been able to cover a number of angles, in depth, and at whatever pace is required.
“It allowed us to have a series of good debriefs about the last two games, which included an opportunity for the players to give us their input. Another important aspect is that we’ve been able to get to know more about the personalities of some of the newer lads, which will only be of a help to them going forward.”
“They went out as a group to watch the football on Wednesday night but the most important thing about this week is that we’re here to work,” he insisted. “There’s a relaxed atmosphere but we’re here for a reason.
“I know Bristol really well but I’m not here to go sightseeing or to visit family. I’m here to get some important work done and my time is being spent with the group doing whatever we need to do to improve and make ourselves better as a collective.”
Speaking about the reaction he’s had from the group following the disappointment of the result on Tuesday night, he said: “They’re all hurting. They don’t like getting beat, even if it comes from a deflected shot late in the game.
“There’s an understanding that the conditions weren’t suitable for the brand of football they want to play, but they also took on board some of the messages they needed to get from the overall performance.
“What we’re looking for now, as we go into Saturday, is the level of performance which got us into the top three in the first place. We’re going to make sure everyone is in a good frame of mind and that they understand the game plan and the roles they have within it.”
“Plymouth are an extremely good side but they won’t be happy with their recent results either,” he told us. “They’ll be a threat because of that and we’re going to have to work hard to nullify the attributes they bring to the table.
“It’s going to be a day where our key players will have to make sure they do their bit and that they stand up to be counted.”
United head into the weekend fixture at Home Park four points behind the Pilgrims as things continue to tighten up at the top end of the division.
“We see this as another opportunity to show that we deserve to be one of the top teams in this league,” he told us. “Take this fixture out of the equation and there are still plenty of big games to come between now and the end of the season. Our league position means that’s going to be the case every Saturday, and we have to get used to it.
“Now isn’t the time to shy away from the challenge and the players know that. We know we have key individuals missing through injury, but this squad is still good enough to more than match any team in this division. We just need to make sure we believe that and we go out to put everything we’ve got into every performance between now and the end of the season.”