It is hard to believe now in these crazy days of £500,000 per week wage packets, but the £2.5 million paid by Manchester City for Wimbledon centre half Keith Curle was actually a record transfer fee for a British defender as recently as 1991. Learning his trade in lower division football with hometown clubs Bristol Rovers, Bristol City and also Torquay, Curle came up the hard way before establishing himself in the top flight for an extended period which also saw him appear for England (playing out of position at right back) in the disastrous Euro 92 campaign. Curle went on to make a total of 840 appearances including 3 full England caps in a professional career which lasted 22 seasons.
His move into coaching began in 2000 with a move to Sheffield United under Neil Warnock, a connection which has continued at frequent intervals with some success. His first foray into management came at Mansfield in the middle of the 2002-03 season but he was unable to save the Stags from relegation to the Third Division. His first full season saw Mansfield lose the play-off final on penalties to Huddersfield, who had beaten the Imps in their semi-final. His spell in charge at Field Mill ended in sorry fashion when he was dismissed in December 2004, allegedly for bullying a youth team player. Almost two years later, Curle won his case for wrongful dismissal; not only did the judge award undisclosed damages, he also branded Mansfield’s disciplinary process ‘a sham’.
Undistinguished spells with Chester and Torquay were to follow before Curle was reunited with Warnock at Crystal Palace in October 2007, reaching the Championship play-offs at the end of their first season. He remained on Warnock’s coaching team when he moved to QPR in 2010, winning the Championship title in 2011 and promotion to the Premier League. When the management team was dismissed in January 2012 with Rangers struggling near the foot of the table, Curle moved back into management with Notts County the following month.
Although County missed the play-offs on goal difference at the end of that season, the side embarked upon an astonishing run of 22 away games unbeaten to set a new club record. Almost unbelievably, Curle was sacked a week after that run came to an end because chairman Ray Trew considered the club’s position in League One to be unacceptable – they were a massive five points outside the play-offs. The change of manager did County no good, as they fell away to finish 12th before being relegated two seasons later. Be careful what you wish for, Mr Trew.
In September 2014 Curle was appointed by current club Carlisle, recently relegated from League One, and sitting bottom of League Two after a dreadful start to the season. He kept Carlisle up by a comfortable 9-point margin before taking the club into the top half in 2015-16. That promising season was followed by this season’s play-off semi-final defeat to Exeter, which suggests that Carlisle may be well-placed to launch a challenge for automatic promotion next season. Whether Curle will be at the helm is currently uncertain, with discussions about his long-term future ongoing.
Despite some well-publicised battles with alcoholism, Keith Curle has established himself as one of the most experienced footballers and managers in League Two. By the end of 2016-17 season, he had racked up an impressive total of 1,200 first class matches as a player and manager.
P = Promoted; R = Relegated; SF = Lost in play-off semi-final; F = Lost in play-off final; PO = Won play-off final; D = Demoted.
Figures are league games only; cup matches and play-offs are not included.
League position shown is either the position at the end of the season or the position at the time of departure.
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? Vital Lincoln City (@VitalLincoln) May 29, 2017