Keith Curle says he left Carlisle United in much better shape than when he arrived as he prepares to return to Brunton Park tomorrow.

Curle, United's manager from 2014-18, brings his Oldham side to Cumbria for a crucial clash at the bottom end of League Two.

The Bristolian's tenure at Brunton Park saw Carlisle escape relegation in his first season before finishes of 10th, seventh - including a play-off semi-final - and 10th.

While Curle improved United's fortunes on the pitch, the Blues' spending under his reign has been the subject of debate, with some club bosses having referred to the bonus scheme in operation at the time.

Carlisle having since reined in their outgoings - but start the weekend second bottom in the fourth tier.

Curle said he retains plenty of fondness for United and said: "I still speak to a lot of people at Carlisle. I had four very, very good years there and I enjoyed it.

"When I took over the football club they'd just been relegated, four points adrift and everything was doom and gloom.

"[We] stayed up the first year, comfortably, and then had three top 10 finishes and a play-off semi-final finish as well, and with that there was a lot of work done behind the scenes by a lot of people who probably didn't get the credit but it was very much appreciated by myself.

"It was a club that had to unite. There were lots of distractions regarding the ownership of the football club, the running of the football club, the investment in the football club that was something that had to get monitored.

"We drew with Liverpool away [in the League Cup] and took over 5,000 supporters. Had a full house, 18-odd thousand, against Everton in the FA Cup, so the support's there and it grew and it grew, and I've got to say I left the place in a lot better shape than it was when I took over."

Curle is back at the helm of a club in crisis with Oldham operating under a transfer embargo and with Latics fans protesting against owner Abdallah Lemsagam.

They sit one place above Carlisle on goal difference.

On the current embargo, which prevents Oldham even signing free agents, he said: "At the minute every football club's under a transfer embargo because the window's closed."

He hopes to be able to improve the squad in January, adding: "We've already started identifying areas within the team that we think we can improve. But that's an ongoing situation that happens at every single football club, we're always striving to improve."

The 57-year-old believes he can steer Oldham away from danger amid challengng circumstances at Boundary Park.

"Can I keep this football club up? Yes. But part and parcel of that is the same as at every football club, there's changes, and I'm not scared of change," he said.

"It's part of the industry that the players know there will be changes. Since I've been here there have been a lot of changes.

"Am I scared of making change? No. Do I know where we're at? We're not where we want to be."