‘Now is the time for my play­ers to grow up’


The Football League Paper - - ADAM VIRGO - By John Lyons

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

PIC­TURE: Ac­tion Images

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

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