KEITH Curle has warned his players to expect the toughest pre-season of their careers.

The Latics boss had already planned the summer programme before finalising and signing the two-year-deal to extend his tenure at Boundary Park.

Curle sent the players away at the end of last season with a fitness schedule that he expects them to adhere to so that they can hit the ground running when they return to training towards the end of June.

But he said that is just the start of the groundwork that is needed to establish the fitness levels that will be needed to make them a side that is capable of challenging in the top half of League Two, as intended, next season.

“The players that are signed on now have got their off season programmes and plans and in the meetings that we had at the end of the season,” Curle explained.

“Physically and mentally it will be the hardest pre-season they’ve had because I put physical demands on players. Mentally I challenge players.

“When they think they’ve done enough I’ll get one or two more physical exertions out of them, because that’s the type of character that I am. I prided myself on physical attributes when I was a player and also going into coaching I like getting that extra yard out of players.

“I like getting that extra bit of effort that when they think they’ve done enough there’s more, and that’s what I need. I need players to give me everything that they’ve got, and that starts in pre-season.

“The players that come back, the players that we sign will have the hardest pre-season that they’ve had, but it’s how I work, and I enjoy it.”

And Curle feels that work ethic will help to raise standards, which he feels have not been high enough, with hard work the minimum requirement from his players both in training and on matchdays.

“The supporters, I know from previous times, they expect hard work, they expect that commitment and that passion and desire to represent this football club, and they’ll accept nothing less,” said the head coach.

“Don’t shy away from it, enjoy it, because the higher you go the demands get higher. Personally I don’t think the demands have been high enough here, and that’s my job, to put demands in and get excellence out of these players and the best that they can be.”