Former Mansfield Town manager Keith Curle is currently at odds with fans and players at Northampton Town after saying he has his side playing ‘ugly’ football as he does not trust them to carry out ‘the simple basics’.
Stags head for Northampton for a crucial game in the promotion race a week on Saturday where the Cobblers fans have been upset to see their side lose two on the bounce and only get through a recent eight-game unbeaten run playing dogged, gritty football with little to entertain them.
“People have been saying we’ve played ugly, but we’ve had to play ugly because I don’t trust the players to go and get on the ball and pass and move,” said Curle
“So we’ve had to go direct, get after teams and flood areas.
“What you then find is that, when a team doesn’t do that, we come unstuck because we’re not as good at ball manipulation and getting it down and passing it.
“The worrying thing is, the players think they are good enough but they’re nowhere near where they need to be. It’s just not good enough.
“We’ve had to step back our training in terms of where we want to go because players can’t do the simple things and the basic things and they think they’re too good when you pull them up.
“Also, we had players at half-time saying they had fatigue after 45 minutes. It’s 45 minutes and you’re telling the physio that you’re fatigued? No chance.
“It’s a very simple game but unfortunately we have a changing room there that do not focus on the simple things and before we go onto the next level, we have to make sure the starting point is right.
“To be honest, we’ve been working on things in training and we’re not good at it. We’re not good enough at getting the ball down and passing and moving, the simple basics.”
Curle’s comments are unlikely to go down well with his players but that doesn’t faze him.
He added: “I don’t need to fall out with players, but I’ll show them where the bus stop is.
“We will look at the videos and we’ll do the fundamentals of football - pass, move, pass, move, appreciation. If you ignore those things, you cannot turn the page.
“If you get a team that don’t want to get on the ball and don’t want to receive the ball and help the person on it, you become very static and that’s what we became on Saturday.”
Curle sent out a stark warning to his players over their futures.
“You get the feeling that some of them think the season is over,” he said.
“Well, every day this week we’re in at 9am because this season isn’t over. It’s not over for me and it’s certainly not going to be over for the players.
“The pressure for a footballer comes at the end of July when they haven’t got a contract but at the minute they are all still under contract and getting paid. They need to perform and they need to perform on a daily basis.
“Hopefully the players still want to put in performances that will either continue their journey here or earn them a contract elsewhere.”