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Archived News from April 2003

DEFIANT CURLE CALLS ON FANS TO `STICK WITH IT`
16th April 2003 16:22



CHAD, 16 April
STAGS boss Keith Curle has urged fans to stick with it as the club faces a 'do or die' Easter.
After Saturday's 5-2 defeat at Bristol City, Stags will probably have to win all four remaining matches, starting with Saturday's visit of Barnsley - this season's 'Amber Day' for fans - and then Monday's trip to Blackpool.
But Curle, who has turned Field Mill training into a boot camp this week, remains defiant of Stags' impending fate.
And he has also given his players a hard time in the changing room and on the training field, warning some will be quickly shown the door if their level of commitment does not improve.
"I won't give up until we need four points with one game left," he said. "We need an extra player this weekend and that has got to be the fans.
"We need them now more than ever. It's win or bust and it's vital they don't desert us now.
"Win both games this weekend and we could be right back in it.
"When I came here we beat Blackpool, Barnsley and Stockport in three successive games. So there is no reason why we can't beat Barnsley, Blackpool and Tranmere.
"I always give my players achievable targets and that is an achievable target.
"All I can say to the fans is don't give up on the shirt.
"We have been talking about what if this happens and what if that happens for a few weeks. Now it is blatently obvious we have to win, win, win. The trick is keeping that belief in the changing rooms."
Curle revealed on Monday that central defender Rhys Day battled on bravely with a broken jaw for 85 minutes at Ashton Gate while Adam Eaton did well to get through 45 minutes in extreme pain with a hernia.
Day is now out for the season while Eaton is a doubt. And Curle said he wished he could have that same level of commitment from each member of his squad.
Without naming names, he accused some of them of not giving their all in recent weeks and the result was an extreme training regime this week with players being run hard from 8am to 5.30pm since Sunday morning.
"There seems to be a lack of mental toughness on the pitch by certain players," he said.
"So I have decided to test them physically this week and see at what point people are going to give in.
"John Gannon and myself can help improve them ability-wise. But we can't give them desire, courage and commitment. That has to come from the player themselves.
"Individuals have been spoken to in recent weeks. But we are all in working hard this week as we are a team.
"It is not being done for the sake of it. This is being done for the beneift of the players and most people would say they are simply doing normal working hours for most folk.
"The rest of my squad should look at the efforts of Rhys Day and Adam Eaton for the cause last weekend.
"Rhys broke his jaw early on but played on. That is the type of desire I want and I have to say Rhys went up a hell of a lot in my estimation. I was very proud of him.
"Several times during the game he went up for challenges and I could hear the pain he was in. The same goes for Adam who tried to soldier on but had to come off at half-time.
"I need to get every last bit I can out of every player. But the disappointing thing is I get the feeling some players have not got that same level of commitment which is someting I won't accept.
"It's all about the carrot and the stick. I tell players what they have got now and what they could potentially get. You do have to deal with people individually. But John and I set a minimum standard for all players which some are not reaching.
"If that does not improve then, obviously, they are going to go.
"If certain things are not going right for a player on the day, he still has to be offering the team something and I don't feel everyone at this club is 100 per cent behind me."
Day will now be sidelined for up to six weeks, though at least he will not need an operation to plate his jaw as was first feared.
"It is a massive blow to lose Rhys as he had been doing well and showed signs of being the type of player we knew he was going to be," said Curle.
"Adam will see a specialist this week to decide if he can play on or if he has to have the operation he needs now."
Ahead of the big weekend in front of them Curle is also nursing a slight groin injury while Lee Williamson is having treatment on a calf problem.
Curle will need little extra information on Barnsley ahead of Saturday having played with them earlier this season.
"Their main threat is their strikers," he said. "Dyer and Sheron are proven quality and need to be looked after.
"I know Barnsley very well and they like to play the game the right way. But they will be feeling the pressure as much as everyone else down there and that does affect performances."
The game has been designated Amber Day by the Stags Supporters Association with all home fans asked to join in.
The SSA's Dave Morris said: "The timing of this years AMBER DAY couldn't be more perfect as Stags need the fans help more than ever.
"We must all think positively and get behind the side, starting on Saturday when we want everyone to turn up wearing something Amber.
"It doesn't matter if it's an old shirt, coat or even a comedy wig. We just need to turn the stands into a sea of amber and yellow."
Curle will hoping for some of the spirit his side showed in the last hour of the game at Bristol this Saturday.
"We were not that far behind Bristol City," he said. "But we shot ourselves in the foot conceding an early goal and we didn't start playing until we were 2-0 behind.
"Craig Disley's goal was a lifeline before half-time and then he has missed a great chance to make it 2-2 which was crucial as they've gone straight down the other end and made it 3-1.
"Again we pull it back to 3-2 and this is where we nneded that mental toughness to keep it at 3-2 for 10 minutes and leave the home side with a nervy finish.
"But not us! We let them go down and get a fourth, then a fifth. It's just naivity.
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