‘Now is the time for my players to grow up’
AFTER HIS BRUTAL CRITICISM, CARLISLE BOSS KEITH CURLE SAYS:
IT WOULD have been easy for Keith Curle to ignore The Football League Paper’s calls this week. In all honesty, we wouldn’t have been surprised in the aftermath of the hullaballoo caused by the Carlisle manager’s brutal criticism of his side in the wake of Monday’s 3-1 defeat at Accrington Stanley.
In a nutshell, the former Manchester City captain told BBC Radio Cumbria that some of his players didn’t deserve to be professionals, they were weak and didn’t have the ‘male genitalia’ for the battle.
In a world where managers often prefer to blame referees and are loathe to publicly criticise their players, Curle’s honest words made headlines in the national media.
Yet rather than hide away or wait for the dust to settle, Curle is happy to speak to us. Perhaps it’s not an opportunity to set the record straight – as he doesn’t deny what’s been reported – but it does give him the chance to explain how his players reacted to his outburst.
The 51-year-old said:“The players agreed with me – they didn’t want me to defend them because they knew it was an unacceptable performance.
“The goals we conceded were embarrassing and people have to know it’s not acceptable. The one thing the players have to show is character. If you do that, the fans will back you individually and collectively.
“If you don’t run about or are scared to get on the ball, you deserve to be criticised.You aren’t scared when you pick up your wages.”
There are a whole host of clubs fighting for their lives at the bottom of the Football League with just four matches left to play.
Yesterday’s 1-0 home win against Dagenham & Redbridge left the Blues in 20th place, six points above the drop zone.
It gives them valuable breathing space and Curle is confident he will ultimately keep Carlisle in the League, but he is wary of any complacency in the camp in the run-in.
He said: “We’ve got the ability in the changing room and people say ‘You are too good to go down’, but good teams can get relegated. We are where we are for a reason and I have to be honest. You can’t keep praising people. You can’t say, ‘You put in a poor performance, you didn’t do your job, well done’.
“You need to get a reaction and now it’s the time for the players to grow up and show what they can do. Potential goes out of the window – now we need to deliver performances.
“Players will come out with excuses, but now they’ve got to show what they’re made of. If what I said has put us in the spotlight, excellent.We need results.”
It’s been a tough season for the former Mansfield, Chester, Torquay and Notts County boss. He took over a Carlisle side on the crest of a slump. Relegated from League One, the Blues suffered a hangover on their return to the basement.
They failed to win in their opening eight league games of the season, earning just three points. With the club bottom of the league, Curle got the call to take over from the sacked Graham Kavanagh.
“The ideal situation to take over at a club is when the manager has been poached to go to a higher level because of the work that he had been doing,” he said.“You are picking up a team that’s in good spirits.
“The easiest thing is to put the icing on the cake. For example, Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink picked up a club with a lot of things in place when he took over at Burton – the foundations were in place.
“But I came into a club on a downward spiral. We then won three of the first four when I took over, but that just masked the problems.
“As time goes by, you find more and more reasons why the club are where they are. You have to deal with them – you have to put
out the fires.”
Before his weekend blast, Curle had also had run-ins with some of his players. Back in January, he publicly revealed that he wanted Alex Marrow to leave, the midfielder himself wanted to leave and there was a stumbling block over the money he was owed.
In February, Billy Paynter and Gary Dicker went to the Professional Footballers’ Association to appeal against a club fine after they reportedly refused to do extra training sessions put on for those not in the first team.
It all makes you wonder if Curle needs the hassle and aggravation of being a boss at the wrong end of the football ladder.
This is, after all, a former England defender – capped three times – who played for the likes of Man City, Wimbledon and Wolves in a career that spanned more than 20 years and 700 games.
But the man who worked as a coach under Neil Warnock at Crystal Palace and QPR is adamant that he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I love it – this is what I do,” he said. “For this season, the remit was to keep Carlisle in the league, no matter how, why, where and when.
“Some people will finish midtable and be ecstatic, but that’s where they were expected to finish. I’ll get more job satisfaction if we stay up because I came to a club with no expectation – they were staring relegation in the face. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy.”
The run-in doesn’t look comfortable for the Cumbrians. They visit pacesetters Burton on Wednesday night, host play-off chasing Plymouth Argyle next Saturday, travel to another side in the play-off hunt, Stevenage, the following Saturday and then finish off with a home match against…
Ronnie Moore’s Hartlepool on Saturday, May 2. That could be a final day clash with everything at stake for both sides.
“I said a while back that I didn’t think Hartlepool were going to finish bottom,” he said. “Every team can go on a little run and go three or four games unbeaten. With other teams faltering, that’s put them back in it.
“We’ve got some massive games coming up. Burton beat us 4-3 at our place, but we could just as easily have won 5-4. Plymouth were on a great run when we played them and they won 1-0, but we ran them very close.
“Stevenage came to our place and we beat them 3-0. The defeat they suffered was a springboard for them. They went on a good run on the back of that and now we need to go on a little run.”
Carlisle were famously saved from Football League relegation by a last-gasp goal from keeper Jimmy Glass in 1999.They eventually fell through the trapdoor in 2004, but returned a year later.
A decade on, they don’t want to go back – and Curle is desperate to keep them there. When he steps out into the Carlisle streets, he bumps into fans.
“They say to me, ‘Make sure those players are wearing that shirt with pride’,” he added.
CITY GENT: Keith Curle in his Man City days in the 90s
GOING DOWN: The Cumbrians
suffered relegation last term OUTSPOKEN: Carlisle manager Keith Curle wants a reaction from his players and, inset left, the Blues are dejected as Oxford’s Kyle Vassell celebrates a late winner against them at the end of March