The Curle situation

With this BoD, who knows what's happening? This is what Jon reckons:

 

Comment: The longer the wait drags on at Carlisle Utd, the more damaging it risks becoming

Keith Curle: the wait goes on

The longer this goes on, the less decisive it is going to look. Not just to fans - the most important group in all this - but to players.

And not just the ones on Carlisle United's books, wondering what the hell is going on. But also those elsewhere, who will be heading into the marketplace soon and asking themselves if the Blues will be a forward-thinking or a confused place in 2018/19.

There are words and there are actions. The words, from the top of Brunton Park, are that United are a "well-run club", respected by people throughout the game, a place that goes about its business in the right way.

The actions now need to follow that self-satisfied talk. The actions need to put Keith Curle out of his misery, if that is the intention - or alternatively make it clear that he will be offered a further stay.

The actions need to show evidence of weeks and months of contingency planning, and a decision that backs this up.

The actions need to show that "very quickly" - United's promise on when they will sort all this out - means exactly that, not one more vague timescale on something at Carlisle that stretches on, to nobody's satisfaction.

Looked at kindly, we may still be in the period when things need to be tied up, finalised, made formal, signed off. If Curle is to be let go, there may be more serious talking to be done before a clean cut can be made.

Likewise with a successor, presuming United have one in mind. If the man is in employment, there may be obvious reasons for delay. Even if he isn't, terms can take time to sort.

If, on the other hand, they are going to surprise many supporters and retain Curle, public pronouncements by both sides recently suggest that outcome would not be a cinch, either.

Pitching things correctly, setting the appropriate tone, doing right by the individuals concerned, joining hands in perfect harmony: all possible considerations right now. 

If, however, United's leaders woke up on Monday morning and only started the process of urgently discussing this, it would be not just worrying but potentially damaging.

If the powerbrokers inside the boardroom were not already clear by full-time on Saturday who favours which solution, and who is going to lead things from there, every minute spent getting to those decisions now is time wasted.

It is time eaten away from the planning for 2018/19, and the critical period before that campaign starts.

It is true that assessments of the current Blues squad may well have been made in the shadows by those keen on the position, whether they have shown face in the directors' box or not, and also which additions they might like to make.

No serious candidate should come into this cold. An appointment that drags, though, still runs the risk of missing targets that a more pro-active League Two operation will already have lined up.

United, we have been told by Curle more than once, were behind the eight-ball when it came to last summer's recruitment, because of their involvement in the play-offs. Others whose seasons did not go into extra-time nipped in early with targets.

However true that may be - losing a play-off semi in 2017 didn't stop Luton building a stronger side this time, though they had more wealth to reinvest - then these are the hours and days when United could get ahead of the game, provided they are decisive.

It appears plain that Carlisle are not going to have the financial power of some, or the same spending reach they had themselves recently. Whoever rebuilds the team will have to operate inside certain limitations, not to mention a shortened transfer window.

Again, though - these should not be fresh developments to anyone either dealing with the situation or hoping to step into it. The fine detail, maybe not. The broad picture? It's an open secret.

Hence, United should be ready to go, if not now, then imminently. Plans should be shaped, requiring the pushing of a button to set them off.

Scratch the last two games of this season. All they are good for is to give players 180 more minutes to impress, a manager the chance to experiment, the club to settle upon the best possible mid-table position, and all involved to send fans into the summer with at least something to hold.

If points are not the only priority at Port Vale and against Newport, people will live with that if there is evidence of direction.

If Curle, though, is asked to lead the team into one or both with the cloud of uncertainty still over his head, it would be unfair to say the least.

Yes, there is the remainder of a contract to honour, and Curle has stressed he is prepared to do just that.

Asking him to do so on a tightrope, though, would be no way to treat a manager who, whatever the opinion-split, saved the club from non-league in his first season - and hence directors from a much more brutal reckoning - and has not led a single campaign since which you could describe as bad.

Yes, this one could and should have been better. For all that Curle has said about United "overachieving" based on their budget, there are others in and around Brunton Park who feel 10th, or thereabouts, is not good enough in a third full season of a manager's reign at a club of Carlisle's standing and spending. Arguments about playing style and recruitment go on. The case for giving someone else a chance is duly made.

Again, though, one would hope the club would by now be clear on their conclusion, either way.

Regarding players, there is also the naive and the real-world way of looking at things. The naive is that everyone who is out of contract this summer continues to sit on his hands, happy to see how things play out.

The real world: that agents will be talking, that players will be acting on unsettled feelings already, that some may even be shaping an opinion about whether they would want to stay at a belt-tightened Carlisle if they are offered anything that doesn't match current terms.

What has been going on recently is not much of an invitation to commit to the struggle. One or two, it is understood, are thinking along those very lines.

What else, in this, could United be waiting for? If it is investment, or a clearer showing of Edinburgh Woollen Mill's hand, then nothing so far has led us to think dramatic change is just around the corner.

Nigel Clibbens, the chief executive and the man one would expect to have applied the most strategy to this situation, repeats that there is "nothing new" to add regarding EWM's financial support. Publicly, Philip Day's firm retain their "no comment" stance.

No obvious grounds, then, for thinking this a major factor in who the Blues choose to sit in their dugout - who, before then, has to arrange friendlies, lure targets, conjure other pre-season thoughts, get their head around whatever United want to do with their academy, and generally acquaint themselves with the club and its culture.

Some of that would go for Curle himself, given the noises about a change of approach. It would certainly go for a fresh pair of eyes.

These, then, are the formative days of 2018/19, right now - the first days of the rest of Carlisle United. Each that passes without a strong conclusion puts that future in a tiny degree more peril. So those who are called directors, those who describe themselves as custodians, must do what those labels say. Actions not words.

There is time to get this right; of course there is. But not as much as it may seem.