Cobblers boss Keith Curle has explained how he intends to go about trying to coax the best out of striker Kevin van Veen after describing the Dutchman as a ‘complex’ character.
Van Veen’s ability has rarely been in doubt since he signed for Northampton back in January but he’s struggled to produce the goods on a consistent basis, particularly towards the end of last season when he was in and out of the team.
The 27-year-old started the current season in good form though and stated that he would score ‘20 plus goals’ this term after netting against Carlisle United in Town’s second game, and he backed that up with a brace against Cambridge the following week and then a well-taken penalty at home to Cheltenham.
But van Veen then went through a dry spell before Tuesday’s Checkatrade Trophy clash at Oxford when he reminded everyone of his talent with a wonder strike on 55 minutes, smashing into the top corner from all of 25 yards after winning the ball back.
Curle has only worked with him for a short period after taking charge of the Cobblers last week, and while he’s been impressed by the striker’s potential, he believes it will take time to develop an effective relationship.
“Kevin is a complex character but he’s a complex character who’s got ability and part of my job is forming a relationship with Kevin whereby I appreciate and respect what he can offer me,” explained Curle.
“Likewise, he’s got to respect my position and respect the fact I am going to put demands on him and it’s a case of can he enjoy having those demands put on him?
“I won’t ask him to do anything that I know he can’t do. I won’t go and ask him to go and play centre-back or in goal, but there are elements of his game that I think I can improve.
“It’s about building a relationship, not just with Kevin but with all the players so they get that understanding and that honesty from me.
“If I speak to somebody in a slightly raised tone, it’s not personal. It’s professional and it’s a demand.
It’s done with honesty and with respect, that’s how I start a relationship off and that’s where I am at with Kevin at the minute but there’s more to come from him and there’s a lot more to come from a lot of players.
“What you find is that players who can accept demands and challenges for their improvements will go higher and further in their careers.”
When asked to elaborate on what he means by ‘complex’, Curle continued: “He reacts slightly different to individual situations but I’ve got respect for that.
“I walk into the changing room and, including the staff, there’s probably 32, 33 personalities and I’ve got to be able to adjust to those personality, bearing in mind that I have my own personality that they’ve got to adjust to as well.
“It’s done with honesty and with respect, that’s how I start a relationship off and that’s where I am at with Kevin at the minute but there’s more to come from him and there’s a lot more to come from a lot of players.
“They’re getting the understanding and it’s always easier to learn when you get praised and the players were praised on Tuesday for the simple things that they did well.”
Van Veen had a new strike partner for Tuesday’s game at Oxford when Daniel Powell joined him in attack as Cobblers again went 3-5-2, winning the game through Aaron Pierre who netted the winner 10 minutes after van Veen’s leveller.
Curle added: “One of the learning tools I bring in is self-appraisal from the players. There’s six, seven, eight potential formations and within those formations I ask players where they see their favoured positions.
“Part of the detail that I got back is that Powelly sees his favoured position in a lot of different formations as a centre-forward.
“He’s got all the good characteristics for it, he’s got the physicality for it and on Tuesday he put in a performance that showed he can cause teams problems playing up front.”