Keith Curle has had his man management skills tested to the limit this season as he attempts to turnaround Cobblers’ fortunes and set them on the right path again.
After taking over in October when Town were just outside the relegation zone, Curle has needed to tread carefully and gradually restore confidence, which had reached an all-time loan when he was chosen as Dean Austin’s successor.
What you do as a manager is find the right people to boot up the backside and the right people to give a cuddle to.
The Cobblers have won six, drawn eight and lost three of Curle’s 17 league games in charge, totalling 26 points – the 11th best record in League Two during that period.
But he’s encountered plenty of hurdles since taking over, including going on a run of just one win in 12 games prior to Saturday’s 3-0 victory over Carlisle United.
“The important thing to remember is that the players have had a difficult time with the relegation season, then a change of the manager at the start of this season, not performing and not being where they expected to be,” said Curle.
“That does have an effect on the changing room. It’s a case of coming in and sometimes mollycoddling, sometimes caressing and sometimes kicking players up the backside.
“What you do as a manager is find the right people to boot up the backside and the right people to give a cuddle to.
“Everything we do is about progression and within the next three or four days, there’ll be an opportunity to sit down with a bit more clarity and say ‘look, this is the plan, this is where we were at, this is where we want to go and this, in my belief, is the way to do it’.
“I knew Saturday was going to be a very, very important interview for me because the supporters want us to do well and they want a competitive team out on the pitch. I fully understand that and I’m fully aware of that.”
Curle now wants the focus to be on the players currently at the club and not those who have left, such as Matt Crooks and Kevin van Veen.
“It’s about enjoyment and understanding with regards to what we need to do,” he added. “The focus now is about the performances of the players that went out onto the pitch and it’s important to talk about the unity that the players who are here showed.
“I didn’t leave any opportunity for the players to understand just how important Saturday’s game was for me and I told them during the week that the mindset is that we don’t come off that pitch with anything other than a positive result. The reaction we got tells you that players are on the bus.”