Carlisle in no mood to act as lambs for Liverpool slaughter
Keith Curle dashed back to the hotel, switched on the television, and watched as the last few balls were drawn in the League Cup draw.
His Carlisle United team, struggling in League Two, had just won at Championship club Queens Park Rangers and he wanted to know their reward.
"I saw the last eight or nine balls being drawn out, but we were not among them," recalled Curle.
"Then they showed the draw again so I scanned down. You find you haven't got a home draw so you scan the away teams. I found Carlisle and looked opposite.
"'Oh dear', I thought, 'we have got Liverpool away'. Then you think: 'Excellent, we have got Liverpool away.'
"The first thought is: 'How are we going to beat them?' Then you think of the rewards: the finance, the chance to play in one of the great arenas. Even if it was an Anfield Legends XI, it would be an occasion."
Curle's players feel the same about tonight's tie even though they squandered a 2-0 goal lead against 10 men at York last Saturday.
Curle (below) said: "I think they had some thoughts on Anfield and tried to save their legs, so they did only half the job - they passed but did not move."
That blip apart, Carlisle's form since the draw was made has been good, taking them from a relegation battle to the brink of the play-offs.
"It has been a good distraction. I have squad of 25 and everyone wants to be involved. One player has a broken bone in his foot - and even he has had a fitness test," added Curle.
Liverpool be warned, Carlisle are the highest scorers in all four divisions with veteran striker Jabo Ibehre England's leading scorer with eight goals. They are, said Curle, bonus goals.
"I said to him when he came in: 'I don't need to count how many goals you score; I need you to play as a centre-forward'. The work he does outside the box for the team has been phenomenal, that has got him his goals."
Anfield brings a reminder for Curle of the value of a hard-working striker.
"Most of my memories of the place are of chasing Ian Rush.
"His desire and work rate were phenomenal, he used to close down the whole back four and enjoy doing it."
Last Saturday was Curle's first anniversary in charge at Brunton Park. In his fifth management job, it is only the second time he has survived a year.
Such is the turnover, more than half League Two managers have been in place less than he has.
"It's scary, isn't it? You get a lot of managers starting off who have a philosophy how they want to get the game played, but very quickly you learn it is about results, which is what I did when I first came here. I knew I had to get results.
"That wasn't hard to identify as they were adrift at the bottom and needed to go on a run to survive. Then you create a foundation to build on which is what we are doing now."
Carlisle can be sure of one thing - Liverpool will not be taking anything for granted, having gone five matches without a win.
However, first-team coach Gary McAllister is convinced that the Reds are on the right path and claims the synergy between the new coaching staff, which also includes former Bournemouth manager Sean O'Driscoll, is strong.
The former Liverpool and Leeds midfielder: "We are getting to know each other. Day by day it is getting better, the dynamic is getting closer.
"When the heat is on you tend to come even closer. As far as I can see it is working well and I am enjoying it.
"We need to give the fans something to shout about and this match . It is ideal to get a little run going.
"But we are thoroughly aware it is not going to be easy. They are not going to come here and roll over."
McAllister knows all about the worth of the League Cup having been a member of the Liverpool side that won it in 2001 and then kicked on to follow up with FA Cup and UEFA Cup successes.
He said: "Winning it, that was the start. In the early rounds you gather momentum and then there is greater belief. It led on to a really good season."
Changes are likely but McAllister suggested these may be kept to a minimum.
Christian Benteke will miss the game with a hamstring injury and that could, so Danny Ings could get a chance to start up front. (© Independent News Service)
Independent News Service