CURLE INTERVIEW FROM CHAD
We will turn on the style - Curle
CHAD website, 17 Jun 2003
Chad Sports Editor John Lomas asks Stags boss Keith Curle 10 pressing questions as the new season approaches
Mansfield Town will turn on the attacking style in Division Three next season - and they have their sights firmly set on a top six finish.
Player-manager Keith Curle briefly came under fire from Field Mill fans for playing 'a long ball game' as it became obvious the club were about to lose their season-long relegation battle.
But with 2003/04 fixtures out tomorrow and players back in training in eight days, Curle whetted the appetite for next season as he exclusively answered this series of questions for the Chad.
How much did relegation hurt you and how much of a spur will that be for you this season?
“Obviously relegation hurt me, the players and the fans very badly.
“Being realistic it was always going to be an uphill battle to stay in the division with the situation we inherited here.
“John Gannon and myself are on a learning curve and the frustrating thing was that we got out of the relegation zone twice which was an achievement in itself.
“Now we want to put that right and do well in Division Three. We didn't disgrace ourselves in Division Two and, although the disappointments tend to stick in people's minds, let's not forget how we gave established Second Division sides like Chesterfield, Notts County, QPR and Barnsley a good game of football as we'd always promised we would
“But in crunch games when we needed something, it didn't materialise.
“Certainly those defeats at Cheltenham and at home to Peterborough were the two most painful to accept when you see that two wins would have made a massive difference.”
It has been well publicised how costly the numerous late goals you conceded proved in the end. Is that Achille's heel a priority for you to sort out?
“We have to be more responsible near the end of matches. If games were played over 85 and not 90 minutes then we would have had another 13 points.
“We don't need to go hell for leather for a second goal if we are winning 1-0 with five minutes to go. Let's be professional and take the ball to the corner.
“If we can concede fewer set pieces and keep a few more clean sheets, it's got to be a winning formula as I think we have goals in the side.”
Accepting there are some big clubs in Division Three, a few of which have plenty of cash to spend, how well do you realistically think Stags can do within the constraints of the club next season?
“Realistically we are capable of finishing in the top six. I know there are clubs with money to spend - look at Northampton.
“We know going straight back up is a hell of a job. But we have a very capable dressing room who are a year older and wiser.
“We want to be up there in the shake-up and, at the same time, continue the development of our youngsters.
“We finished the season with two 17-year-old central defenders and a 16-year-old up front and I think 11 of the players we ended up with in the squad have come through the club's youth ranks which is tremendous.”
There was some critisism of you late in the season when you were accused of resorting to a long ball game which upset the many purists among the home fans. What style of football are you planning to play in Division Three?
“The whole thing about us playing 'long ball football' stems back to one game when we were well beaten at home to Peterborough and then had a fans' forum scheduled in midweek which was very bad timing for us.
“I don't think this would ever have started if we'd won that. But I can understand fans were frustrated that we had lost a very important game like that.
“No one accused of us of long ball football against Notts County or Chesterfield or Swindon or Stockport.
“I think some of the passes played against Peterborough we down to desperation by players wanting to do well. They were desperate to get the ball forward against a side who had not come to attack us and would have been happy to leave with a 1-1 or a 0-0.
“They didn't want to take that extra 10-yard pass to get into a promising position. They just wanted to get the ball in there in one pass.
“I can promise supporters that next season I want to see us playing attacking-minded adventurous football.
“But people have got to realise that when we took over last season the club had conded 53 goals in the first 20 games and we had to make sure we kept the ball as far away from our goal as possible before we gradually educated players about damage limitation and not taking risks in dangerous areas.
“I do want to see my full backs getting forwards and being attack-minded as long as they are responsible with their defensive duties.
“And the next fans' forum will be held after a win!”
Being player-manager is a very difficult dual role. Do you intend to play on next season?
“I have no intention of hanging up my boots yet. But it isn't easy doing both jobs and if I can get the right players in and everything is going well then I can leave my boots on the touchline.
“If things aren't going well then I will be out there as required - perhaps for the last five minutes of games!”
Your first taste of management ended in relegation. What is your current relationship with the supporters and do you feel they are fully behind you?
“The fans were magnificent last season and I know if we start well and are playing the right way then they will all be quickly back to watch us.
“I think they understood the situation we inherited and we did at least give them hope and restored some of the club's pride - particularly in the local derbies against Notts and Chesterfield.”
Have you sat down with the chairman and discussed what budget you have for players for the new season?
“We have spoken and I understand, in the current financial climate we have constraints to work under.
“We just have to be patient at the moment. I have a list of players I want to bring here but I have to be realistic.
“It's a case of getting the right ones who are good value for money. If that type of player will come here we will push the boat out for them as far as we can.
“We are certainly short on experience in that dressing room. But we do have enough in the talent and ability stakes. They just need to be more disciplined not to lose games when we are in the driving seat.
“Also I am not going to start wasting my time publicly saying I am going to offer such and such an amount for a player when I know I won't get him. I want to be realistic.”
Although Iyseden Christie enjoyed a good scoring streak mid-season, Chris Greenacre proved a hard act to replace last season. Is a proven goalscorer a top prioritity on the transfer front?
“Ideally we need a couple of strikers who can get us at least 15 goals apiece next season if we are going to do anything.
“I do have some talented strikers already at the club and it would be lovely to have Colin Larkin available for the majority of the season this time around.
“We have got plenty of legs but what we are lacking up front is maybe more of a physical presence in the final third. It would be ideal if we could get that stype of players in this summer.
“I want to see more goals from all departments next season and I certainly want to see us scoring more from set pieces.
“We do need a greater goals contribution from the centre of midfield though I was happy with the returns from our wide men.”
There are rumours flying around town that one or more of your current playing staff are on their way out before the season starts. Any truth?
“None at all. All players we have here under contract are in my plans.
“Obviously, like any club, if the right offer came in for a player than you would consider taking it. But that isn't the case so far.”
Chairman Keith Haslam has long said there is no reason why a place with the catchment area of Mansfield could not support a First Division club. Would you agree with that?
“Definitely. Our first job here was to lay some proper foundations which I believe has now been done.
“Everything here is geared for being professional and successful.
“If we do start climbing the ladder and getting as far as Division One you want to get there knowing the club's foundations are such that you can stay there.”
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