Keith Curle admits he’s having to battle his natural instincts in an attempt to keep a lid on his frustration as he undertakes the delicate process of rebuilding Cobblers’ brittle confidence and creating the right environment for players to express themselves.
Following relegation from League One last season and then a torrid start to the current campaign, winning just one of their opening 12 games in all competitions, Town’s confidence when Curle replaced Dean Austin in October was at an all-time low.
I’m in charge of managing the environment we’re playing in and sometimes it goes against my nature because I do like to be honest, but there’s a time not to be honest and to massage the environment I want to nurture.
The former England and Man City centre-back arrived at the club with the reputation of a no-nonsense, straight-talking manager that would ruffle a few feathers, but there’s been little of that so far – at least in public – and he says it’s for a good reason.
“I took over a group of players where the large majority were relegated last season and then struggled at the start of this season and you have a new manager and you get into a habit of losing games,” he explained.
“What you then do is you have to manage the environment. There’s a level of frustration within myself because some of the simple things we’re doing, or trying to do, we’re making them look very, very difficult.
“But if I show my frustration, then players will go back into their shells so I’m trying to keep a measured approach with them because I can’t afford for them to go into their shells.
“I want to ease them out, tempt them out and give them that confidence and that belief that, if they make a mistake, I won’t jump down their throat, as long as they’re trying to do the right things.
“If they do the wrong things at the wrong times, the likelihood is that I have another player available that can take his place.”
While the results have largely been positive since taking the reins, Curle is keen to keep his emotions in check so he doesn’t discouraging his players from having the belief and freedom to play their best football, even if it means withholding some frustration.
He continued: “I’m in charge of managing the environment we’re playing in and sometimes it goes against my nature because I do like to be honest, but there’s a time not to be honest and to massage the environment I want to nurture.
“We’ve got some good players but I’m aware they’ve been on the wrong end of a lot of negative results and you find that all it takes is one or two bad passes for some players to go into their shell.
“What I’m saying is that you need to come out of it and you need to be expressive. I don’t mind making mistakes if we’re trying to do the right thing.
“The players are starting to appreciate that. There’s still a fear factor that I’m going to blow any minute and my head’s going to come off, but I’m trying to reassure them that I will keep encouraging them if they do the right things at the right time.
“If you do the wrong things at the wrong time, I’ll have a word. It’ll be a quiet word but it will be honest and factual of what’s required.”