Keith Curle on the good feeling within the squadUnited boss Keith Curle spoke about the good feeling around the club ahead of what is a big weekend of football.
“We have a very competitive squad with good focus and a group of players who are enjoying the performance levels and the results at the moment,” he said. “There are obviously areas we still need to improve on and where we think we can get better, but if we look back at the last four or five games we’ve had chances to have won all of them.
“Because of the nature of the beast we’ve had goals scored against us that we don’t like. Obviously we want to create an abundance of chances and limit the opposition to very few, but the way we play means it doesn’t always happen like that.”
“We’re in a good place because we’re in sixth position and it’s in our hands,” he continued. “We’ve been through a free scoring start to the season, where were winning almost every week, but we’ve also been through that mini-blip where we didn’t have natural goal scorers in the team.
“What you have to remember is that if you take that type of player out of any team at any level it will affect the fluidity of what you’re trying to create. When you’re faced with that you have to come up with a plan B and, on some occasions, a plan C. As you get players available again you start to find that you can go back to what your first plan was.
“That’s where we find ourselves at the moment. We’re pleased with the players we’ve been able to get back at a crucial time, even though there are still concerns about the number of injuries we’ve had this season as a football club.”
Speaking about the current excellent form being enjoyed by striker Jabo Ibehre, he said: “He’s enjoying his football and he’s ‘got his juice back’ as he calls it. The kid wants the ball and he wants to score goals and he’s no different to any other forward in that he’ll have peaks and troughs.
“When he first came here he stepped onto the pitch knowing he was going to get opportunities and that he was going to score. He’s in that same run of form now and there are times within periods of the game at the moment where he and Jamie Proctor are unstoppable. That’s an excellent asset to have in your armoury.”
And on the news released this week that second years Morgan Bacon, Jack Egan, Jordan Holt and Cameron Salkeld had extended their stays with the club by twelve months, he said: “It gives them the opportunity to stay with us as they get a little bit more time to develop.
“Financially they haven’t come into the first team budget and it’s a pilot scheme the club is trying to introduce to give players a chance to develop within the ranks of the football department.
“The club is very keen to develop home grown talent and sometimes you give players the opportunity to have an extended stay to find out if they can take that next step. It’s bridging the gap from youth team to first team level whereby getting a pro contract is putting one foot on the ladder.
“This is not so much that, it’s more a case of giving them a leg up to getting that first foot on the ladder. We will now find out if they can develop technically, tactically, mentally and emotionally to earn a place within the first team squad.”
“The evolution of the scheme will be to have a fully-fledged development squad,” he continued. “The key to that is not to make it a knee jerk reaction and to make sure you put that together properly. You need facilities, coaches, games, a training venue and a plan for it to work properly and for it to bring the development of the players you want.
“I firmly believe that the best way for young players to develop is to play games. Last season we had players who were quite close to being offered contracts, but they weren’t. What you hope then is that they go out there and prove you wrong.
“That’s exactly what happened to me. I was released at 16 and told I wasn’t good enough, and that stuck with me. It was the motivation I needed at a time when I got a slap in the face and I went on to have a not too bad career.”
“The decisions on these four lads are a joint decision from the youth department and the football club,” he concluded. “The youth coaches see these lads more than I do and they’ve seen something in them. From that the club have embraced the thought of a development squad and that’s what we will look to do with them.”