Keith Curle is a manager that we haven’t crossed paths with in a long while, but he is one familiar to Imps fans.
He sparked a bit of a debate ahead of the season when he described us as big spenders, but his recent assessment in Cumbria media about are style of play are fairly accurate. He’s an interesting manager, perhaps one who is not able to find the ‘next level’, but he has carved out a decent managerial career.
He first managed at Mansfield, taking over in Division Two in 2002. He couldn’t stop them being relegated, and that set him up for his first double header of Imps action. It was December 13th 2003, and to spoil his one-year anniversary Peter Gain and Richard Butcher cancelled out a Liam Lawrence penalty. When they visited Sincil Bank later in the season it was an Imps whitewash, 4-1. Again they had only a Liam Lawrence penalty to show for their endeavours, whilst Taylor Fletcher (2), Francis Green and Simon Yeo gave us a convincing win. Both sides qualified for the play-offs, both were eliminated by Huddersfield.
That season he carved a niche as a pantomime villain by rolling out the age-old ‘long ball Lincoln’ routine before and after the matches. Of course, he was right, but it still made him a villain in our eyes.
The following year his Mansfield side finally earned a point against City. Adam Murray and Alex-John Baptiste scoring at Field Mill, whilst Gareth McAuley and Simon Yeo bagged for City. By the time Mansfield travelled to Sincil Bank, Curle was gone. He was controversially sacked in December 2004 after allegations that he bullied a youth-team player. In August 2006 he filed, and won a case for wrongful dismissal against the club and was awarded undisclosed damages. The judge in the case cleared Curle of any wrongdoing, and described Mansfield’s disciplinary process as a “sham”.
In May 2005 he joined Chester, and his second game in charge was a visit from the Imps. Again the score was 2-2, Nat Brown and Gary Birch gave the Imps a 2-0 lead, but Ben Davies pulled one back. In the last minute Paul Morgan was sent off for a professional foul, and Michael Branch netted the penalty. It’s fair to say Keith Curle’s sides get a lot of penalties against City!
On December 10th it was time for the return leg, Curle bringing his Chester side with three straight wins and unbeaten in six. Former Imp Marcus Richardson gave them the lead before Dean Keates was sent off for City, but three goals from the ten men sank Chester. Richard Logan, Paul Mayo and Derek Asamoah securing the points. That started off a horrendous run for Curle. He went 12 matches with just one win and one draw, leading to his February dismissal.
He spent a year out of the game before joining Torquay on 8th February 2007 as head coach. His first game on the bench? Lincoln City away. Stevland Angus was sent off as we won 1-0 thanks to a Mark Stallard goal in the first half. That was the final time our paths have crossed, leaving him still looking for a win over Lincoln.
His full record in matches managing (or as Head Coach) against City is played six, lost four and drawn two. His teams have scored seven past Lincoln, conceding 14.
Keith Curle is one of the more experienced managers at this level, and since his failures to beat Lincoln he’s had good spells at Notts County and Carlisle. He has got one facet of our approach nailed down, but I suspect Lincoln will be a different prospect at Sincil Bank this season. I don’t expect Keith Curle to get his first win as a manager against Lincoln City just yet.