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Archived News from December 2002

4th December 2002 21:33

Evening Post, 04 December 2002

New Mansfield Town boss Keith Curle today vowed to play his part in shoring up the worst defence in the league - at the age of 39.

But he will not be able to make his debut in the FA Cup Second Round clash with Crewe Alexandra on Saturday because he has not been registered in time.

Curle admits he will not be able to perform instant miracles at Field Mill - but asked Stags fans to give him a chance.

The former England, Manchester City and Wolves defender was introduced to supporters at a fans forum last night and was due to be unveiled as the new Stags boss at a press conference this morning.

John Gannon, currently director of the centre of excellence at Field Mill and Curle's former team-mate at Wimbledon will be the new number two and Paul Holland will have an input into the first-team while retaining his role in charge of the youth team.

Stags are currently six points from safety at the bottom of Division Two, having conceded 53 goals in their 20 league games this season.

Curle, who played for his country three times, said: "I am not going to lie to anybody because I don't have a magic wand. The only thing I would ask of the fans is to give me a chance.

"It is not a case of me laying the law down. I, basically, told the players yesterday I will show them respect and I will treat them as professionals and like adults but I need them to act like adults. If those things are adhered to, then we are going to have a chance.

"I hope to play after Saturday because I can't play this week. You need to be registered seven days before. If there is competition for places and we are keeping clean sheets then I might not be able to get into the team.

"My fitness level is not that bad and I am going to have to have match practice.

"I don't think the task is daunting. I'm excited about it. It is blatantly obvious where the problems lie at the moment and it is an area I have specialised in throughout my career. I'm hoping that the players respond and the club moves forward."

Curle has played for a host of managers since starting his career as a teenager at Bristol Rovers more than 20 years ago, but he is determined to stamp his own personality around the club.

He said: "I have learned a lot of things and the first one would be not to react - to take stock - but I am going to be my own person. I have got a lot of admiration and a lot of respect for lots of people I have worked with. I have got my ideas and my own thoughts and, as and when the time is right to implement them, I will do."

He is delighted with the management team he has assembled around him.

He said: "John Gannon is coming in to help me and Paul Holland will be helping on the professional side as well but the one thing the club needs at the moment is stability.

"Paul is doing a very good job with the youth team and the centre of excellence is going well. That structure stays in place. He is going to continue doing the youth side of things but also helping me out a bit as well.

"I've known John for about 14 years. I have got a lot of respect for him and I have played against him many times. I was aware he was at the football club in the job he was doing and it is a case of all hands on deck.

"He is a local lad, he knows a lot about Mansfield and he knows a lot about what Mansfield people are like and their expectations. He knows all the people around the football club that I am going to need to know."

Curle had been spotted at Stags matches over the last few weeks but insisted it was not in preparation for him replacing Watkiss.

He said: "I've only known the chairman for just over a year when I moved up to Sheffield. I was introduced to him because of the football circles we move in and we got on well.

"I came down and watched a couple of games, not as his guest but purely for my own interest."

Curle will miss the chance to play in the reserves against Scarborough this afternoon as the game has been called off.

The Yorkshire side were only able to muster six players and the new boss is now likely to make his debut in the league meeting with Blackpool on December 14.

Evening Post, 04 December 2002

Many of the assembled Stags fans at last night's fans forum must have left thinking about Keith Haslam's financial affairs.

Others would have wondered whether new boss Keith Curle would have sufficient financial backing to bring in the players he wants or whether there was ever a chance of having a supporters' bar in the West Stand.

All that was buzzing round my head was why does Haslam have the theme to Mission Impossible as his mobile ring tone?

Surely, after watching a season when 53 goals had already gone in the Stags net after 20 games, he hadn't given up already. Because Stuart Watkiss would still be in a job and we would be contemplating which watering holes in Exeter and Carlisle would be worth a visit next season.

No, this was the chairman's chance to demonstrate he was doing something about it and his new manager was paraded in front of the punters in what was a packed Hospitality Suite at Field Mill.

Team Mansfield chairman Colin Dobell, whose task it was to bring order to the proceedings, stood up with whistling microphone in hand and summed up the mood.

"We only usually get about 30 people. Something must have happened at the club this week."

It's been a busy old time at Stags the last few days but, after all the to-ing and fro-ing and all the discussions about compensation that caused the confusion in the first place, the general faced with the task of keeping Mansfield Town in Division Two had arrived at the scene of the battle.

I had waited outside for him earlier for ten minutes as the bracing wind gusted from the floodlit pitches where the after-work social kickabouts were in full swing and accompanied by a couple of blokes in the manager's coats, waving their hands around a la Glenn Hoddle, giving it plenty.

Truly, a scene of footballing dreams.

It was bracing and, eventually, Haslam, John Gannon and Paul Holland arrived with Curle in a neat designer pale blue shirt that would probably set me back a week's housekeeping, obviously dispensing with the idea of anything so unmasculine as the woolly jumper and thick overcoat his interviewer had decided were the order of the day.

This is just the man to get sleeves rolled up and leave the ghostbusting of the spectre of relegation to be somebody else's problem.

A friendly smile accompanied the handshake and we had a quick chat before he took his seat and the first problem arose.

With a panel of Alan Meale MP, Haslam, Curle, Gannon and Holland, it soon became evident that the two people who were set to field the questions shared the same Christian name, a confusion I can see getting out of hand now whenever I ring Sandra on the Field Mill reception.

"My question is directed to the new Keith," said one, "the younger one," an observation that was greeted with a raised eyebrow by the man who had given the new Keith the job in the first place.

It soon became clear, however, that after the initial introductions and welcomes, there weren't going to be many questions pushed in his direction.

Even when Andrew Saunders asked a question of the chairman and of Paul Holland at the same time, Curle was in charge of passing the microphone towards the youth team manager.

But, despite the apparent uncomfortable nature of it all, Curle shone through and said he was excited about the task ahead of him and promised that, although he didn't have a magic wand, he would do his best and hoped the fans would support him.

He thanked the fans again and left and enthusiastically shook whichever hand that was placed before him as he made his way to the door.

But there was now a smell of blood in the air.

Released from the sort of embarrassment of asking difficult questions in front of the new kid, some of the crowd moved in for the kill as just Haslam and Meale remained.

Much of the old ground was covered again with the subject of Haslam's loan, of which he said 'more than 50%' had been repaid, the issue of the new centre of excellence building was discussed and questions about the chances of a new Bishop Street Stand and bars in the West Stand were fielded while he was also enlightening everyone that more than £70,000 had been spent already this season in paying off players Watkiss wanted rid of.

Normal service had been resumed as the chairman batted off observations from the floor and his answers were greeted by the usual groans and a level of audible discontent. This went on for a good hour.

It is the season for people to reply 'oh, no it isn't' to 'oh, yes, it is.' But the same questions were asked and Haslam managed to defend himself in a more forceful way than an England tailender avoiding a Brett Lee bouncer.

"Football has changed," he said, talking about the end of the transfer system but in essence, describing the last few days at his own club.

But, for the beeping of Mission Impossible to be replaced by Things Can Only Get Better, there is plenty of work for Curle to confront.


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