SANCHEZ: CURLE CAN WIN FIGHT
SANCHEZ: CURLE CAN WIN FIGHT
Evening Post, 10 January 2003
Wycombe boss Lawrie Sanchez faced a similar battle when he took over as his former Wimbledon team-mate Keith Curle does now at Mansfield. He tells IAN WILKERSON what Curle can expect - and why there are so many ex-Dons in Second Division management...
When Lawrie Sanchez took over at Wycombe Wanderers in February 1999, prospects in Division Two looked bleak.
The Adams Park outfit had 23 points on the board with 18 games left and looked dead certs for the drop with 11 games left, eight of which were away.
But, when Neil Emblen netted a winner at Lincoln City with just seven minutes left of the season, they had achieved their aim - and by winning seven of those 11 games, including six of the away matches, they condemned York City instead.
That leaves Sanchez well qualified to analyse Mansfield's chances of staying up as he pits his wits against his former Wimbledon team-mate Keith Curle at Field Mill tomorrow.
So much has happened since Curle arrived at Plough Lane just after Sanchez had sealed an FA Cup victory over Liverpool in 1988, that it seems like ancient history to the Chairboys boss.
He said: "He came in just at the end of that Crazy Gang era, but it seems such a long time ago now.
"I remember we got him to the club with money we got after winning the cup.
"He was playing for Reading and I am prepared to take a little bit of credit for his signing.
"It was my local club and I used to pop down there and watch them quite a bit so Bobby Gould asked me what I thought and I said that he could definitely do a job for us.
"At that time, you didn't spend a lot of time talking about tactics and such like. It just wasn't that sort of environment.
"We just loved playing and got on with it."
Curle is the latest to join the list of former Dons employees in Division Two management.
Wally Downes is at Brentford, Ian Holloway is at QPR, Sanchez and his assistant Terry Gibson are at Wycombe, Curle is at Stags and Glyn Hodges at Barnsley.
Then there is Crewe manager Dario Gradi, who managed the Dons between 1978 and 1981, Cardiff owner Sam Hammam and, had he stayed in charge at Cheltenham, Steve Cotterill could have been added to the list.
But Sanchez, who took Wycombe to the semi-finals of the FA Cup two years ago, believe it is no coincidence.
He said: "It is amazing that the Second Division seems to be a playground for ex-Wimbledon players in management at the moment.
"There are so many connections and it seems like every week I am coming up against someone I used to play with.
"At Wimbledon, we had a certain way of playing and I think that had a bearing on things.
"What we did at Wimbledon was based on very small resources and a great team spirit and we showed that you don't have to be the best player in the world to achieve things.
"Sometimes if you have only played at Manchester United, you find you can only manage a team full of the best players, because that is the level you are used to dealing with.
"You have to think about other ways and working hard as a team."
Sanchez believes Curle can keep the Stags up - but the rookie manager faces a real challenge.
"When we played Mansfield early in the season, I thought they outplayed us and we were very fortunate to get a draw," he said.
"But we showed the defensive problems that have hit them all season.
"Now Keith is there they look to be a different team because they are less gung-ho. Obviously, three wins on the bounce helped a lot.
"It was no disgrace to go down at Brentford and Crewe, because they are two of the best teams in the division, but Keith will want to get back to winning ways.
"Last year, we were sixth at this stage of the season and expectations were very high, especially after the cup run, and there was lots of talk about the play-offs.
"We fell away in the second half of the season and that left a lot of people disgruntled, me included.
"But we have had a few changes and I have brought some of the younger players in just to invigorate things and I let some go, including Sean Devine.
"Mansfield are definitely facing a tough task.
"When I started the job, we had 23 points with 18 games left and I know just what it was like.
"It was a real battle and we didn't get out of the bottom four until seven minutes from the end of the season.
"Keith knows they are in for a long, hard fight.
"Those early nine points would have worked wonders for confidence and they will be looking to push on from there.
"Really, they need the sort of form you see from a promotion side.
"Keith is still playing and, in this league, you are able to coach from the middle of the field.
"Players of the quality of Keith and Carlton Palmer should have no problems doing that and having the opportunity to organise can be like having an extra man."
And, after another meeting between two members of the Crazy Gang, will there be time for a swift drink afterwards?
Sanchez says it depends.
"I'll have a drink with him if we win, but I won't hang about to listen to him gloat if we don't. I'll be straight on the bus," he said.
INJURED TRIO READY FOR ACTION AGAIN
Evening Post, 10 January 2003
Stags boss Keith Curle has been boosted by an injured trio returning to training yesterday in preparation for the clash with the Chairboys.
Colin Larkin has recovered from his hamstring injury and Andy White has made progress with his ankle, and both should be available for selection.
Craig Disley has also made a return after struggling with a groin strain but Bobby Hassell is unlikely to feature.
Curle said: "Bobby is still suffering with a calf injury and, although he is desperate to play, we will be looking to give him another week."
The match is the last of Adam Eaton's loan spell from Preston North End but Curle is looking to extend the deal.
MANSFIELD (probable): Pilkington, Gadsby, Curle, Day, Eaton, Lawrence, Curtis, Disley, Corden, Christie, A White. Subs: Larkin, J White, MacKenzie, Williamson, Clarke.
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