LET’S GO AGAIN
Carlisle United boss Keith Curle targets another promotion push
THE sound of ecstatic Exeter City players whooping and hollering last season will ensure Carlisle United do not suffer a play-off hangover.
That’s the message of Cumbrians boss Keith Curle after his side suffered play-off agony last term.
In an incredible play-off semi-final, Exeter came out on top 6-5 on aggregate, with Jack Stacey’s dramatic stoppage time strike proving decisive.
It earned the Grecians a trip to Wembley (where they lost to Blackpool), but it was season over for Carlisle.
Curle told The FLP: “I made sure the players listened to the celebration of success in that Exeter changing room.
“The players were disappointed, but when you hear someone else celebrating you need to use that as a driving force for your own situation.
“We also went out proud of what we had achieved and we knew we had given a very good team a test to the maximum.
“As a viewing spectacle, it would have been worthy of the final.”
Indeed, the Cumbrians could be proud of their sixthplaced finish last term. Doing better this time around won’t be easy.
The likes of Mansfield, Luton, Coventry and Swindon are more highly fancied, but Curle sees that as a challenge and not a problem. “There’s a tendency that the favourites are the people who spend the most money,” said the 53year-old.
“Luton have paid a quarter-of-a-million for a striker (James Collins) and Mansfield have been outbidding everyone, but the games aren’t played on paper.
“As a club we have overachieved over the last few years. Our finishing position has been above our finances.
“We are striving to overachieve again. The structure we have got is an incentivised one. The club want to spend more if the players are successful on the pitch, which is the right way to do business.
“I don’t mind paying out if players have earned it and we have got packages in place to reward them if they do well.”
Former Manchester City and Wolves defender Curle has reshaped his squad over the summer.
Goalkeeper Mark Gillespie has stepped up to League One with Walsall, while striker Jabo Ibehre has moved to Cambridge United.
Defenders Shaun Brisley (Notts County) and Patrick Brough (Morecambe) have also headed out of the exit door, as has midfielder James Bailey (Yeovil).
On the incoming side, the ex-Mansfield, Chester, Torquay and Notts County boss has been busy.
Goalkeepers Jack Bonham, 23 (from Brentford) and Shamal George, 19 (Liverpool) have both joined on halfseason loans.
Strikers Hallam Hope, 23 (Bury), Sam Cosgrove, 20 (Wigan) and Richie Bennett,
25 (Barrow) will give them extra firepower, while experienced midfielder Kelvin Etuhu, 29, has also come in from Bury.
Centre-back Tom Parkes, 25, has been snapped up from relegated Leyton Orient.
Curle said: “I feel we’ve not only brought in good players, but characters with the heart and desire to succeed.
“It’s not all about how much money you are going to pay them. All the players had better offers financially.
“I have a conversation with the players to get a feel for them, their ambition and desire, and they get a good understanding of my ideas and how I see them fitting into our game plan.
“I’m honest about their frailties and why they are playing in League Two. It gives them something to strive for.”
One of Carlisle’s problems last season was replacing the goals of striker Charlie Wyke, following his midseason move to League One Bradford City.
It’s not surprising that he’s hoping that Hope, a previous Carlisle loanee, can help fill the void.
And the former England international doesn’t hide his delight at capturing his man.
“I chased him more than I chased my current girlfriend!” joked Curle. “Hallam started his career as a centre-forward, but he’s been used in wide areas because of his work ethic and his ability to do that.
“Part of the reason he came to us was that I see him as a centre-forward. He wants to play up front and I’m giving him the opportunity.
“He’s got a point to prove to himself first and foremost – and he’s got competition for a place because we’ve got four strikers, but he can
READY FOR BATTLE: Carlisle United manager Keith Curle and new signing Hallam Hope BITTER PILL: Carlisle players in despair after Exeter’s last-gasp play-off winner