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MANAGER: We very nearly signed Hallam in January

11 May 2017

Keith Curle on Ibehre, Kennedy, McQueen, Hooper and Hope

As the squad got together for a very lively Wednesday afternoon training session manager Keith Curle revealed that he hopes that Mike Jones will remain the only absentee once we get to the 6.30pm kick off time on Sunday evening.

“We trained later today [Wednesday] so I asked for everyone to be in for half eleven,” he explained. “The changing room was full by quarter to ten because the players want to be seen to be here and involved.

“That’s the environment we want. They want to be noticed and they’re doing everything they can to be included when the team sheet is announced.”

“With our injuries, we all know about Mike Jones and I know he’s gutted that he’s missing out,” he said. “The pleasing thing is that he’s with the squad as much as he can be and he’s there to join in with creating the good atmosphere, as well as to offer opinions on the serious matters. That tells me a lot about him.

“Both Jabo [Ibehre] and Jason [Kennedy] could be involved at the weekend. Jabo has been nursing a spasm and that’s why we told him on Saturday to come off the pitch as soon as he felt anything at all. That’s exactly what he did.

“We listened to advice about Jason as well, and by not using him it gives us another week where we can get him even more ready. He’s back in full time training now.

“Jabo is between the physio and the strength and conditioning coach as we speak. We’re finding out how far we can push him and, with both of them, if they make it through that will be excellent. If they don’t, we still have a very healthy changing room. Decisions on both of them can be left as late as Saturday so they’ll be given as much time as possible.”

And with Alexander McQueen’s short-term contract coming to a close on 2 May the manager also confirmed that the defender had been told that he could move on just over a week ago.

“I had a conversation with Alex and he’s been told he won’t be getting a contract offer for next season,” he said. “He was initially brought here as a project from Tottenham and he was involved in close to 30 games during his first season. That was fantastic progression.

“He openly admitted he listened to the wrong advice in the summer and that delayed his return to us. That meant he put undue emotional pressure on himself because he didn’t want to fail. That kind of mindset stops you from expressing yourself.

“I believe he has all the attributes which should allow him to ply his trade in at least the division above. In the right place he could feature in any League One team and I hope he’s able to pick up from where he started with us.

“I’ve told him that I genuinely hope he gets out there and proves me wrong, and that he reaches the potential levels he should be hitting. His next progression has to be playing competitive football regularly. As I say, hopefully that’s what will happen. The only other thing I would say to him is to make sure the advice he gets suits him, and not them.”

Another player spoken to on Wednesday was former-Rochdale youth product James Hooper who joined the club on a short-term contract in March.

“I spoke to James after the [Wednesday] training session had finished and I thanked him for his time with us,” Curle commented. “I told him he wasn’t going to be offered a contract with us for next season. He’s another good lad and I’m sure he will now find a club where he can develop and grow into the game.

“Part of my job is that I have to make tough decisions where I tell players that for the betterment of their own careers they need to move on to take up another challenge. I’m mindful of the fact that a lot of players up and down the country are going to be released and made available.

“I want to give those in that situation here the best opportunity to go and get themselves fixed up elsewhere. I think it’s only right and proper to tell them as soon as I can so that they can find out what options they have.”

And with those clubs not involved in the play-offs already making their released lists known, one notable name which cropped up this week was that of Bury striker and former-Blues loanee Hallam Hope.

“I have to say, we were very, very close to bringing Hallam here in January,” he said. “He chose to stay with Bury because the manager at the time gave him assurances that he was in their plans. The regime has since changed and that has seen him become available.

“He’s a player who hasn’t fulfilled his potential in my opinion. I think there are goals in him and a lot more to come. He will get offers from other clubs but as and when the time is right, and if I’m able to get the opportunity to speak to him, I’ll stake my claim to explain why I think he could potentially work for us.

“A lot of it will come down to how quickly he wants to make a decision. It’s something we will try to pursue but if it’s a case of him saying he wants to wait and see it will be a ‘no’ from me.”

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