Lumsdon's speaks

With thanks to the News & Star:

 

Chris Lumsdon: My meeting with Carlisle Utd co-owner - and the need for yet more answers

Chris Lumsdon talks to John Nixon in a previous campaign

A number of people will now be aware that a meeting took place between myself and John Nixon last week.

Initially I was contacted by the club with the message that John wanted a chat. He wanted to tell me what his FA and EFL roles were about, to explain what his involvement at Carlisle United is these days, and so on.

At first I declined the offer because, having had previous meetings with John, I have been left disappointed when certain things were said but, in reality, things have got no better or different at the club.

I didn't think I needed to go through that again. Being brutally honest I don't really care what those FA and EFL positions entail - I just care about Carlisle United. Having said that, and I have also said this to John, it is excellent that the club are represented in those footballing circles, that they have a voice there. It can only be a positive, provided it isn't to the detriment of Carlisle.

It was said again that John was still keen to meet, so in the end I agreed. I said that it would be on my terms, so not at Brunton Park - and also on the condition that I could have my say about the club once John had made his own points. John was willing to come to me, so we met last Friday.

John began by telling me everything he does for the FA and EFL, and how many days a week and month he commits to that. It sounds like he is very good at that sort of stuff, enjoys it, is proud of it and regards it as very important.

I then had my say, and raised the position of Carlisle United compared with 10 years ago, when he and the current owners took charge - the fact attendances had dropped so much, the fact a lot of people are unhappy right now, and that season-ticket sales are currently down.

It was suggested that the meeting wasn't to discuss those things, but I stressed again that I wanted to have my say. I then went on to the manager situation, and mentioned all the emails I have been sent, and all those I gather have been directed to chief executive Nigel Clibbens, about certain candidates many supporters don't want, others that they do, and the type of manager they would prefer the club to go for.

John was quick to tell me that he isn't in the club all that much, and that the appointment would come from a six-person vote at board level, of which he is only one part. He said everyone with a vote was asked to produce their top two from the main candidates, and all came up with the same people.

We then got onto the suggestion a manager was close to being appointed. John said: "We are at the altar; we just need the 'I do'." I put some names to him which he wouldn't confirm or deny, which was fair enough. He then said we had to trust their judgement and the process.

I was honest in my reply to this and told him that I didn't trust those on the board to come to the right decision. I asked if they had anyone with strong football knowledge on the panel, who knows the game and is aware of up-and-coming coaches and managers? I didn't really get an answer to that.

John was at pains to say that he was just part of the process, only one of the six people. In terms of narrowing the process down further, he added that, when the votes came in, he looked at the CVs, and researched the candidates further, including looking on Wikipedia. John then wrote a sentence next to each candidate with his own thoughts, and that went into the mix.

The impression I took from that was that six were shortlisted, two came forward from that, and the deal looked set to be done with one in particular. John kept checking his phone throughout, waiting for that 'I do' it seemed, and I went away from the meeting expecting confirmation later that day, or on Saturday.

That didn't happen, and I have since been told things about how the David Hopkin situation unfolded from various people with connections to the matter on all sides of it. If people choose not to believe it, that is for them, but I wouldn't put my reputation on the line lightly in passing those things on.

People in football talk and, if your club is divided in any way, things will always come out. That is just the way it is. Nobody involved has been in touch to say I have got anything wrong in what I have shared - that it was close, but then certain things changed, and Hopkin went cold on Carlisle as a result, hence we are still here today wondering what will happen next.

Another point John made was that, at most clubs, if one of their representatives was at the FA Cup final, shaking hands with the teams as a dignitary, people would be happy for them, whereas he gets a lot of negativity.

My response was that, yes, we should all be proud of it - and would be, if the house was in order at Brunton Park. I was just looking for that little glint from him that, yes, maybe certain things haven't been done right in his time at Carlisle. I also pleaded with him to recognise that this managerial appointment is massive.

He mentioned that his own family gets a bit of stick. I said that, for his own sake, he could help himself and listen to the supporters on this.

He also referred to a "minority" of people who are critical about him and the board. This is where I feel heads need to be taken out of the sand. It will only be a minority in the end because so many fans will have left, and all that will be left in the ground are those who will go whatever the circumstances.

Regarding Hopkin, it would appear to be a very long shot now, in light of Livingston's statement yesterday. If the deal was going to be done, it would surely have been done by now. If that had happened, and we were talking about Carlisle having landed an ambitious, promotion-winning manager, I would have praised the board to the hilt.

I told John this, when he mentioned how, when talking about the media, he doesn't listen to the radio or read the paper but had been told that I "hated" him.

I don't hate him. I don't "hate" anybody, and I told John that, if he wished, he could listen to what we say after every game on BBC Radio Cumbria and get a more balanced view. I wondered whether the same people also told him about the times we have praised the club.

This idea that we are always "negative" seems like paranoia and, deep down, the knowledge that things actually aren't going well.

If it is indeed time to move on from Hopkin, what now? Have the club contacted the other candidates again? Is there a Plan B? Is there anything in other things on the grapevine, about investment, or the potential for a director of football as part of the new operation?

Hopefully, whatever the big picture, things can come to a head soon, and those making the calls can finally reassure supporters, because at the moment you can understand why people are worried.