With 14 games of the season left to play, manager Keith Curle insisted that the changing room has not given up on hopes of a place in the play-off places despite having suffered a frustrating run of results.
“We’ve lost a couple of games recently where we know we could have taken all three points [Notts County and Wycombe Wanderers] and that is hard to take,” he admitted. “What we don’t have is a changing room that moans about it.
“There’s accountability in there and what we do now is work even harder, because the level of performance we’ve had in those games shows we’re not far away. As ever, and we were saying this when we were top of the division last season, there are elements of our game we can still improve.”
“There are factors beyond our control which affect things as well,” he continued. “I can give you five reasons right now why we’re stuttering at the moment, when you look at the likes of Jason Kennedy, Nicky Adams, Luke Joyce, Danny Grainger and Tom Miller being missing through injury.
“Some of those players would get in any team in the top ten, but they’re unavailable for selection for us. That’s why your plans do sometimes get disrupted, and that’s when you have to find another way through.
“Situations like this show that I’ve got more work to do and that I have to work even harder, which I’m prepared to do. The easy thing to do would be to moan about things and turn everything into a negative. Yes, things are negative, because we haven’t had the results we want, but that means we have to do more to turn it round.”
And he acknowledged that the frustrations felt by the playing staff were bound to spill onto the terraces, with some fans growing impatient having expected a real push following last season’s play-off exploits.
“I love the job I do,” he commented. “Even on the back of a defeat I’m looking forward to the work that needs to be done. We will always have areas we can improve, and that’s what I enjoy getting my teeth in to.
“I don’t want my job, and the job I do, to be based on a popularity poll. There are a lot of elements to being a football manager. I know I have to take criticism if we aren’t getting the results, and I accept that.
“Does it affect me? Well, I prefer it when we’re in the top six and everybody is in a buoyant and upbeat mood, but my job at the moment is to bring the smiles back. The grumbles of frustration are because we aren’t in the top seven.
“The expectation was there at the start of the season for that to be the case, but it doesn’t always happen like that for you. It’s excellent to be the manager of a football club, but it’s a job you have to do through difficult times as well. This is a more difficult time and I’m enjoying the challenge of getting all of our fans back onside.”
But does the uncertainty of his current contract situation, and the position of his out-of-contract players, add to the frustration?
“I’ve been in that position myself as a player and it can become a factor, if you allow it to be,” he admitted. “Players can show a desire not to go and hurt themselves, or to give the extra yard, because they’re fighting for their careers.
“That means they don’t want to pick up an injury when they don’t have the comfort blanket of a contract. Part of my job as a manager is to make sure the players are aligned and committed, and I think our performances show they are.
“At times we need more quality and better decision making, but that doesn’t detract from the fact that these players want to win every game for us and they’re giving us their all. That’s the minimum we accept at this club, whatever the situation.”
“If it was down to me I’d sit myself down and give myself a three-year rolling contract,” he joked. “Planning for recruitment, transfer windows, contracts and development would be done well in advance, but that’s in the ideal world.
“We’re not in the ideal world and we’re in a situation at the moment where we’re stuttering along with our results. There have been some fantastic foundations put in place, but things aren’t quite going our way right now. We need to change that, and that’s when we’ll see the smiles again. The rest will look after itself.”
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