Cobblers boss Curle looking forward to Paddock reunion as he heads to former club Carlisle United

Keith Curle stands in front of the Brunton Park Paddock
Keith Curle stands in front of the Brunton Park Paddock

Keith Curle says he is returning to former club Carlisle United with his head held high - and that he is hoping he gets a warm reception from the Brunton Park 'Paddock'.

The Cobblers boss was in charge of the Cumbrian club for three-and-a-half years between 2014 and 2018, lifting the club from relegation battlers to play-off challengers.

Keith Curle was manager at Carlisle United for three-and-a-half years

Keith Curle was manager at Carlisle United for three-and-a-half years

He left the club by mutual consent at the end of the 2017/18 season, having guided United to a third straight top 10 finish, before moving back into management at the PTS Academy Stadium a few months later.

The high point of his time at Brunton Park was reaching the play-offs in 2016/17, losing to Exeter City in the semi-finals, and in all he managed 207 Carlisle games, winning 79 and losing 66.

It is a time of his career that Curle remembers fondly, and one that he is also very proud of.

"I was there for four years, and had four fantastic years at the club," said the Cobblers boss.

"They are going through a period of change and transition, but there are still a lot of people there that I have a lot of time for.

"The chairman, Andrew Jenkins, then there is John Nixon and Nigel Clibbens, and they were instrumental in the work that I was able to do when I was there.

"Lately, I think there has been criticism of the bonus structure that was put in place, but what I would say is that bonus structure was based on success.

"We managed three top 10 finishes, a play-off finish, we played against Liverpool and Everton, the likes of QPR and Derby, and selling players as well.

"We created a changing room that had players that were assets to the football club and able to play at a higher level, but sometimes you need to have a balance of what you want to bring into the football club, and where you want to go.

"I thought we had the balance right when we were there, with three top 10 finishes, increasing attendances and increasing revenue."

Curle is also looking forward to meeting up with the Carlisle faithful again, especially those who stand in the terrace behind the dugouts - and area at Brunton Park known as the Paddock.

"I think the biggest challenge I will face is not reacting to the Paddock," admitted Curle.

"They have the Paddock up there where I think they buy their tickets just so they can get in earshot of both the home and away team managers and have a pop!

"But I had four fantastic years representing the football club, and never had an altercation with the Paddock, and I don't see that changing."

Carlisle go into the clash against the Cobblers on the back of three straight defeats in Sky Bet League Two.

They have claimed just three points out of the past 15 available to them, and manager Steven Pressley is under pressure to get a result against a Town team that is five places and four points above them.

They are expected to include three former Cobblers in their line-up in Byron Webster, Hallam Hope and Jack Bridge, and Curle knows his team has to be wary of the challenge that lies in wait tonight.

"Carlisle have got quality, and going forward in the attacking third they can be creative and they can score goals," said the Cobblers boss.

"Individually and collectively they have got strengths, so we know we need to stop them from playing how they want to play, and we need to enforce our style of play on them.

"We have to earn the right to play our way."