From the News & Star (with grateful thanks)
Chris Lumsdon: Carlisle Utd's lost fans will be gone for good without real change
It was certainly an interesting post-match discussion on BBC Radio Cumbria on Saturday. Other than the times when the Keith Curle debate was raging, and the period when Neil McDonald was being linked with the job, it was the liveliest and busiest debate we’ve had for a while
We were inundated with texts and tweets, the majority probably aimed at the board, with a few others saying the players should be doing more.
Everyone can see how poor Carlisle’s form is at home and a number of people are of the opinion that, no matter what your view of the board, players still need to hold their hands up and accept they could be giving more.
That can’t be avoided. At the same time, it is telling that, instead of the manager coming in for lots of stick after a run of five home games without scoring, the tone of many of the messages after the 1-0 defeat to Yeovil was, ‘What did you expect?’
People feel they saw this coming. They saw the farce that went on towards the end of last season, the way the club lost players, some messed about with their contracts, and the time it took to change manager.
Nigel Clibbens, the chief executive, admitted at that stage that it wasn’t ideal and it has turned out that way. Because of this there is a lot of sympathy for John Sheridan, who came in late, at a time when a lot of targets will have moved on, the budget had been cut and it wasn’t the most attractive situation to be in.
It was a far cry from two summers earlier, when a lot of that strong recruitment was undoubtedly done the previous winter, with approaches made and certain things lined up and all but secured.
Sheridan didn’t have that luxury. He had to put a team together in a short space of time and though the season started quite well, everyone knew that a few injuries and suspensions would test the squad severely.
So, as much as I agree that the players should take responsibility, supporters see the bigger picture and that’s why many are aiming their criticism at the board, and why many are voting with their feet, Saturday’s attendance seeing a further drop below the 4,000 mark which is really worrying.
You can’t expect that to pick up in the short term. We have tried rallying calls before, including times when the team were doing well under Keith Curle, but crowds didn’t go up dramatically.
The more I think of it the more I believe the days of 6-7,000 have completely gone. We are never going to find an extra 2,000 from anywhere until there is a change of ownership.
I was stopped in the street in town on Sunday by someone who wanted to say that he was never going back. He is not alone, yet those of us who saw this coming years ago, and pointed it out, were accused of being negative.
The other issue at the moment is that, while falling crowds will hit the regime in the pocket, we have Edinburgh Woollen Mill propping them up.
So what, in all honesty, is the way forward? This is the ideal situation as I would like to see it. EWM come in with a view to take over the club. In the short term they loan money to help the club tick over, knowing that the owners won’t, in Andrew Jenkins’ case, or can’t, in the case of the others, put any more in.
There is then slow, steady progress to a takeover. Jenkins becomes life president, John Nixon and Steven Pattison leave, and there is a real sense of a new way forward.
Is this where we are heading, though, in reality? It has been a while now that EWM have been involved, and any enthusiasm about their role is turning into frustration at the lack of an obvious plan people can see.
Lots of supporters have speculated about Philip Day’s approach to this, noting the way he has come in and saved other businesses in the retail world when they have been at their lowest.
At Carlisle United, though, the risk of going to their lowest ebb gives no promise that things can be turned around in the same way. Go down into the National League and the job to get back up is huge, when you look at the number of clubs at that level who are having a go. Supporters would find it even harder to stay on board and gates at Brunton Park would also be down to 2,000.
So, if EWM have any plans to step things up, then they may need to be brought forward, because we are in dangerous territory now: running the risk of losing more supporters and enthusiasm, and another generation of fans.
If they do want to take over, say so. If they don’t, say so. At least then every supporter will know where they stand.
On the pitch, the eventual return of players like Danny Grainger, Hallam Hope, Tom Parkes and Jamie Devitt – who came back as a sub on Saturday – will make it a completely different team. Over the course of the season, I feel Sheridan will have enough at his disposal to see us alright.
It is in the other areas where the problems lie, and if certain things have been brushed off over the years by the existing regime then you just have to hope that the new people there, like EWM’s John Jackson, and director of football David Holdsworth, recognise that things are much more pressing, and can’t keep going on like this.