Carlisle United 2019-20 Season Review with Kyle Sprout, Ross Parkinson and Jonny Brough

Carlisle United have another year in League Two ahead of them, so Gabriel Sutton spoke to three Cumbrians connoisseurs. Kyle Sprout (@Kyle_SP7), Ross Parkinson (@parkinsonross) and Jonny Brough (@JonnyBrough) all give their views on the Blues.

Since reaching the League Two Play-Offs in 2016-17, Carlisle United have got a lot of things wrong structurally – there have been a lot of question marks over player recruitment, the handling of contracts among other boardroom issues. How does the club go about rectifying these problems? Are you optimistic that it will do so?

Ross: Thankfully the fact we have been trying to set our finances straight since the Keith Curle era actually stands us in good stead going forward. We absolutely had to sort out the losses we were incurring year on year and hopefully we are in a good place to stay afloat during this pandemic. Lessons appear to have been learned on the one=year deal policy (that it doesn’t work0 and Beech seems to understand the division so I trust him to get the right players in.

Jonny: I think the problems stem back from the sacking of Greg Abbott and our subsequent relegation into league two. For our first campaign in League 2 we appointed Graham Kavanagh as manager, his first managerial role. The board entrusted Graham to complete his own recruitment which led to sizeable contracts on players such as Billy Paynter, Gary Dicker et. al. Following a drastic start to the season, Keith Curle replaced Graham and guided us to safety that season.

It appeared Curle was ‘forcing’ out a lot of these signings and begin his own recruitment drive which in hindsight were huge coups for the club with the likes of Nicky Adams, Mike Jones, Charlie Wyke, Jamie Devitt joining us. It is rumoured these the player contracts were on a lower base salary but included high bonuses should the players/team perform well. Although we did reach the play-offs, another season in League two resulted in the beginning of budgets being slashed.

Although Curle was later replaced by Sheridan, the board choose to hire a Director of Football (David Holdsworth) given our accounts reported losses of c. £500k per annum. Whilst a DoF has been appointed to try and safeguard the club financially, it has led to us implementing a one-year policy for signings and has led to a greater focus on our youth/academy. Whilst this has been a positive with the likes of Jarrad Branthwaite and Josh Dixon emerging, the quality of our playing squad has diminished year on year and I can’t see that changing any time soon until new owners are introduced.

As a factor behind the above issues, it seems only fair to mention the geographical challenges that Carlisle face – it seems like the Scottish market is the one area where you can gain an advantage over your divisional competitors. Do you think the club should try to exploit that as much as possible?

Kyle: Personally I’m a bit reluctant for us to target the Scottish market, we’ve had some excellent players from the SPL, Scottish Championship, and Scottish League 1, however, those who we have taken from these leagues have often struggled in their first season: Rory Loy being the prime example & I’m not sure fans will give the player the time to adapt – arguably our biggest problem with Christie Elliot. I’m also not sure this appear in Chris Beech’s recruitment ideas if we look at our January signings. Theres some cracking players we’ve let go who I think could come back to Carlisle and do a job who ended up in Scotland including: Josh Todd & Jordan Marshall.

Ross: The problem with the Scottish market is that the talent for the most part isn’t there. We’ve had a few come down and very few have worked out. Both Iredale and Elliot struggled last season, although there were contributing factors as I think anyone would’ve struggled with how they were exposed playing behind McKirdy and Thomas. Elliot even admitted that he was unable to step up to the standard. Previously Richard Offiong came in from Hamilton for £75k and that didn’t work out.

I’d rather we signed players on ability rather than how close they live.

Jonny: Scotland works geographically however as the quality of the leagues aren’t necessarily comparable to the English set-up it has been very hit/miss for us in the past. We previously relied on loanees from higher divisions during our campaigns in League 1 which led to the likes of James Chester (then Manchester Utd), Ben Marshall (then Stoke City) and James Tavernier (then Newcastle Utd) feauturing for us which seemed a big success. I feel setting up a network with some of the Northern teams (Newcastle, Sunderland, Man Utd, Man City, Liverpool, Everton) etc. could be beneficial. Chris Beech has obvious links to Rochdale however i’m unsure what ‘networking’ he may be able to achieve.

Had the League Two season ended in late November, when Chris Beech took charge, Carlisle would be 21st with 10 defeats in 19 league games – had it started at that point, though, you’d be 14th with five defeats in 18. How has Beech gone about shoring things up?

Kyle: Its very difficult to say in all honesty, Jarrad Branthwaite covered over a lot of the cracks towards the end of Pressley, and the emergence of Aaron Hayden, who will be a massive player for us next season helped a lot.  Part of it is going back to basics in all honesty, Pressley tried to play a high pressing high intensity game, the reality is we didn’t have the midfield for it and our full backs were exposed. Arguably its down to 4 factors:

– Consistent system, (Pressley went between 4-3-3 & 3-4-3 (or a variation of a 3 which often ended as a 5 when teams attacked us)

– Recruitment (We signed players who weren’t going to set the world alight, but we’ve got solid hard working professionals in Nick Anderson, Callum Guy, Alessandra and then young lads like Omari Patrick & Kayode who want to work hard and make it as a pro)

– Emergence of Hayden

– I do also feel part of it is down too players settling in: G Jones (fantastic L2 RB) had only a few games before SP went, Webster finally found some form which would let you believe he was a pro footballer) etc.

Ross: He basically stopped asking poor league 2 defenders to be Baresi. Pressley, one of the nicest blokes in football but not a good manager, had grand ideas but never seemed to understand that he needed the players to be able to do them. He also brought in Aaron Hayden from the cold. He’s proved very good and is a potential captain for next season. Nothing too fancy. Just head and kick it away. All you need at this level. Anderton has helped too.

Jonny: The obvious changes have been at the back. Beech instantly put his faith in Jarrad Branthwaite at CB who performed really well until he departed for Everton. He also put his faith into Aaron Hayden, a player Pressley signed and never really gave a consistent run in the team.

Since his introduction he has been a mainstay in the side and has become a very popular player amongst the fans. Both full back areas have also been overhauled. Whilst Pressley opted for a ‘high pressing / intense’ style of football, Beech has opted for a much tighter back four to try and minimise the amount of times we are exposed on the counter-attack. This has led to Christie Elliot being replaced by Gethin Jones and Jack Iredale losing his place to Nick Anderton.

Whilst both are more limited going forward they appeared to be more robust defenders. This has led to much better and more consistent defensive performances but it has hindered our attacking threat which is reflective in our results. Losses have been converted into draws, however, the challenge will be trying to be more positive in our approaches to games and converting these draws into 3 points within the new campaign.

Adam Collin has started all 37 league games and he’s made the third-most saves in the division with 123 – he’s kept a highly-rated stopper in Marcus Dewhurst out of the side since January. Dewhurst is going back to Sheffield United, Louis Gray has also been released and it doesn’t even look like there’s a goalkeeper in the existing youth team squad – so presumably at least two stoppers is a major priority?

Kyle: Adam wouldn’t of stayed if we’d offered him a deal from what I’d heard and understood, whilst he’s from Penrith originally, he’s now based further down south (Mansfield region I believe), but I think it was the right time for him to go for both parties – he’d made a lot of saves but I’d argue we potentially at times this season (early doors certainly) had the worst defence in L2. Beech has hinted at a return for Dewhurst.

But I’d imagine wed be targeting two GK’s, wish Adam all the best, but its the right time for him to go personally,   Id imagine well get a Dewhurst and an experience Pro Keeper to battle it out, arguably a case that Dewhurst would of been utilised earlier had the form of Webster not been so questionable.

Ross: It was probably the right time for Collin to leave. He was good for us but was straining his relationship with the fans on Twitter and his form was at best poor prior to the pandemic. The talk out of the club is that Dewhurst is likely to return again next season (supposedly been the plan all along). In my opinion we should also be looking to re-sign Joe Fryer from Middlesbrough. He was hugely impressive on loan for us a couple of years ago before breaking his leg and hasn’t had a look in at the Riverside so may be available.

Jonny: ​Collin won the majority of the club awards last season and single handled saved us losing a vast amount of points. Collin is 35 and I would imagine he has another couple of seasons in him at this level. I don’t think many would have argued with keeping him for another season (he’s local, was our club captain, a good mentor for the younger lads, solid keeper at this level) but some of his comments on social media seemed at times negative/toxic towards the club and led to a lot of fans losing faith in him towards the back end of the campaign.

Dewhurst was brought on loan in January but I dont feel like he was ever going to be our starting number one for the second half of the season. This makes me wonder whether we have something lined up next season – gave him a trial period at the club to get use to a first-team environment with a view of a season-long loan for the 20/21 season?

Gethin Jones gained lukewarm reviews from Mansfield but he seems to have found a home in Cumbria and you’d imagine he’ll accept the offer of a contract extension. Is he proving an intelligent, adaptable operator for your lot? 

Kyle: I really hope he signs the deal (he turned down 18 months in January though so worry hell be looking for more money elsewhere), but I have nothing but praise for Gethin, solid defensively, and consistent. He’s just a very solid L2 / L1 Footballer, with the right attitude, you can’t ask for much more.  I do think with the right coaching and a home as such a full season under his belt might let him push on higher – so fingers cross he stays.

Ross: Jones is unspectacular but a consistent 7/10 every week. That’s all you need from a full back in league two. If you have a team of those sort of lads you’ll be in or around the playoffs at least.

Jonny: Gethin Jones has become very popular with our fan base. He’s a consistent performer at this level, a 7/10 every game type and has proved his versatility by filling in at both left and right back. I’d hope we will have him under contract for next season as he’s been impressive during his spell with the club.

You could argue that Jones is the first good full-back Carlisle have recruited since Danny Grainger in 2014 – Christie Elliott and Jack Iredale have both left the club since joining last summer. Could this open a door for Charlies Barnes and Birch in the academy? 

Kyle: I think both are going to be playing 2nd fiddle, I feel defensively in Nick Anderson & Gethin Jones we have our best full back pairing since Tom Miller and Danny Grainger (Jones & Anderton are both arguably stronger defensively). I think Barness & Birch will be given a chance at somme point and its up to them to take it. One things for certain, there’s nothing our fan base like more than getting behind local players.

Not sure we will see Birch at FB yet, maybe a bit further forward from the reports coming out at the end of last season (Potentially a LW short term). Not sure if we’ve ever had a father and son represent the club either (Charlie Birch’s dad Mark played for the club).

Ross: Think those lads may get games in the EFL Trophy next year. Would expect Anderton to be first choice Left Back and Jones (if he signs) at right back. If Jones decides to leave I’d expect us to sign another right back rather that go with Barnes. Neither Iredale nor Elliot proved themselves capable for us.

Jonny: We haven’t seen much from either Barnes or Burch so it would be hard to comment on whether they can break into the first team for the upcoming season. Beech recruited Nick Anderton at left back and is under contract for next season, so depending on Jones’ contractual situation, i’d imagine they will be our starting full backs for the next season.

Byron Webster has started 32 league games this season – I’m surprised he’s been able to stay fit for that long after an injury-hit couple of seasons. Does his perceived lack of pace concern you at all, or do you greatly value the experience he offers this defence?

Kyle: If you’d of asked any Carlisle fan before mid December, they’d of driven Webster to any club who wanted him, seemed so error prone and cost us a lot of points, but he’s steadily improved, if he can pick up from his form at the end of the season hell be alright. I think beech modifying the way in which we play helped a lot. TBF to Byron as well his positioning was exemplary so pace wasn’t an issue, the issue was making mistakes.

Ross: He was directly at fault for almost 30 goals this season. In my opinion one of the worst centre backs we’ve ever had. Did improve towards the end of the season, which is likely why he got a new deal, but really couldn’t have been much worse. Don’t think many fans would mourn if he moved on.

Jonny: Byron had a very mixed campaign in my opinion. He is an obvious leader and it can’t be underestimated how much of an impact he has been on both Brainthwaite and Hayden. However his consistency and concentration have been the biggest hinderances for us rather than a lack of pace/injury record. This led to him being mocked during most games at home under Pressley as you were always expecting some form of glaring error which led to a goal.

An obvious highlight that comes to mind is the last minute ‘air kick’ away at Port Vale when Skelton was interim manager which led to us losing the game. However he started to come into a bit of form within his last few games, even winning a couple of MoM’s along the way. Clearly a good charachter and a solid defender at this level on his day, he just needs to try and make sure its on a more consistent basis for us.

You managed to sign Max Hunt on a two-and-a-half year contract from Derby in January – he seemed to have a decent run towards the end of the season and perhaps the lockdown came at the wrong time for him. With Nat Knight-Percival released, are you hoping to see more of him, Aaron Hayden and possibly Liam Lightfoot next season?

Kyle: Max got in due to Byron being suspended and or injured, he’s very much the case of a young lad finding his feet, he struggled in some games but was commendable in others, I think hell start as 3rd choice CB and its up to him to remove Byron.

I don’t see Aaron Hayden being removed from the team, if he continues the way he played since he got in id be worried hell be bought by another team. Tbf to max he came in as Jarrad Branthwaites replacement (or was the CB in before Jarrad was sold) so their was a lot of pressure. Lightfoot again similar to Birch and Barness, I don’t believe Beech won’t give them a chance, its up to him to take it but id imagine hell start as 4th or 5th choice (maybe relish ahead).

Ross: Hunt looks a good player. Will need time to adjust as his positioning can be a bit all over the shop but I’d expect him and Hayden to be the pairing before the end of next season. Would be surprised if Lightfoot gets a lot of football. Possible see him on the bench a few times.

Jonny: The nature of Max Hunt’s signing was a real surprise for many fans. As aforementioned, we have adopted a one-year policy when signing players, so signing Hunt down to a longer-term deal shows how much faith the club have in his potential. With the exception of injury/suspension, Webster and Hayden were deployed as our centre-back partnership under Beech and Hunt didn’t really feature. Knight-Percival was out of favour so I would expect Max to provide real competition at CB this next season with the departure of Knight-Percival. Fans haven’t seen a lot of Lightfoot so he’s certainly one to watch also.

Kelvin Etuhu and Mike Jones have been great servants to Carlisle. Given their recent injury issues though, and the current economic climate, do you agree with the club’s decision to release them?

Kyle: Etuhu – Yes, Jones personally yes, most fans will be against the decision cause Mike was desperate to get us to L1, but I think its a case of all good things come to an end, and I’m sure Mike will be picked up by another L2 club and he’s someone you can’t but wish the best too. The upset from our fans came as he’d become probably our most relatable and longest serving player.

Ross: Etuhu was probably our best midfielder but you cannot rely on him being fit and he was a big earner (having signed during the Curle era). Jones did well last season but had already taken a pay cut to stay and was still one of the big earners. Beech released him as we would’ve been asking him to take another cut and that’s not fair on him. We suffered last year though not having a mobile enough midfield. Hopefully that will change with the likes of Callum Guy and rumours that Elliot Watt may be returning too.

Kelvin Etuhu performed brilliantly under Sheridan and looked one of the leagues best defensive midfielders on his day. However he suffered a serious hamstring tear which kept him out of the back-end of last season and meant he has not featured at all this season. Presumably on a ‘decent’ salary as he was a signing under the Keith Curle era/ pre Holdsworth era, I’d suspect a lot of fans wouldn’t argue with him being released, although his performances in the 18/19 season won’t be forgotten.

Jonny: Mike Jones has been a great servant for the club. Blighted by a persistent ankle injury for the first couple of seasons, we didn’t witness the best of him until this season in my opinion. He has played every minute for us in the league, made 103 tackles (3rd highest in the league), won the most second balls (418) and ranks very high with his short passing (total of 1,261). Similar to the departure of Collin, i’d expect there won’t be a lack of interest from league 2 clubs for Jones. He has admitted himself he has had personal issues with the availability of seeing his son etc. so a move closer to ‘home’ would be a priority for him to reduce his commute time. I wouldn’t be surprised if he ended up at a club such as Oldham/Tranmere.

Jon Mellish competes for 7.3 aerial duels per game when deployed in midfield, but his ball retention may leave something to be desired. Are you happy to accept his limitations in possession, in order to have a clear, physical and aerial presence in midfield – or do you like to keep centre-backs as centre-backs?

Kyle: Difficult one with Jon, he’s actually very good on the ball, I think he needs a bit more game time and coaching in their,  he only had a short spell pre Covid in CM, but I really think we could turn him into a midfield powerhouse. Personally I’d rather he stayed at CB, but Beech doesn’t like him their so good luck to the lad at CM.

Ross: I think he’ll end up playing in midfield long term. He definitely has ability but is very raw and too eager to get forward to play centre back. Probably got away with it playing in a 3 at Gateshead.

Jonny: Mellish was pre-dominantly played in defence, either as a CB or a RCB (in a back 3) early in the season. Beech was impressed with his fitness and deployed him as a box to box midfielder in a friendly and he scored a hat-trick. From this moment, Beech gave him an opportunity in midfield (midfield 3 of Jones sitting deeper, Watt as a playmaker and Mellish box to box). Mellish won young player of the year in the conference before making his move to Carlisle so he clearly has good defensive qualities. However I can’t see him taking a starting role in our back 4 which Beech seemed settled on within the last month of the playing season. One to watch I feel and see what influence Beech’s coaching can have on Mellish’s game.

I see a lot of similarities between Elliot Watt and Callum Guy, in the sense that they are both short, agile midfielders – and you wouldn’t want to pigeonhole either as an anchor man nor a number 10. Watt is returning to parent club Wolves but do you think Guy could flourish in Beech’s three-man midfield?

Kyle: Guy I was extremely excited about when we signed, I know he recently said he wants to be a goalscoring midfielder (or CB wants him to be), don’t think we seen enough of him due to his injury, but I really think we could see him flourish providing we make the right signing in front of him.

Ross: They are, in my opinion very different players. Watt is more the deep-lying playmaker and Guy the box to box player. Beech is keen to bring Watt back as he is house hunting in Preston and whilst he is very good probably lacks the pace to break through at Wolves. Add in players like Dixon or a new signing and we have the makings of a decent midfield. Ideally the return of someone like Devitt could be the key to getting out of this league.

Jonny: The arrival of Callum Guy led to a lot of Blackpool supporters being disappointed and many online expressed that he could have started the rest of the season with them in league one. Based on this, it appeared this signing was a bit of a ‘coup’ for Carlisle given he had performed well in the division above. However we didn’t really see much of Callum and he suffered a bad injury which limited him to only a handful of games so its a hard question to answer.

I’ve heard good things about youngster Josh Dixon and Taylor Charters seems to have been in and around the first team squad recently too – there’s Jamie Armstrong coming through the academy too. Do either of those young midfielders excite you?

Kyle: Josh I’m extremely excited about was talked about as better or the same level as Liam Mccarron pre injuries, so hopefully he can get his form going and really kick on, made his only first team appearance v His in a friendly last season and was most MOTM – right coaching and some luck with injuries theirs a player in their.  Taylor didn’t do anything wrong, was highly impressive on loan for Workington Reds last year by all accounts, but he’s another one who its about kicking on.

Armstrong – from pre season last year, many thought he’d be involved (not sure if this was down to contract reasons to prevent a Galloway repeat occurring) definite goal scoring potential in there from what I’ve seen, think it might be a shock for him the out of possession side of L2, but to be fair I’m excited about all 3. The last time we offered this many YTS players contracts Brad Potts emerged so more of the same hopefully.

Ross: Only seen Dixon a couple of times but clearly the most talented youth product at the club right now. Looks a very good prospect and if he can stay fit he will play a lot of games next year. Charters is solid too. Another one I’d expect to play 20 plus games next year. Haven’t seen Armstrong to be honest so cannot comment.

Jonny: Josh Dixon feature in a lot of the pre-season games last year and impressed. However he suffered a serious ACL injury within the early part of the season which has limited his involvement. The club still offered him an improved professional deal after this injury which speaks volumes of what potential they see in him.

Taylor Charters featured a lot in the match day squad and managed a lot of late substitute appearances in the middle of midfield. With the departures of Mike Jones, Kelvin Etuhu and Elliot Watt returning to Wolves, I’d expect the management team will want him to try and convince them that he should be in the starting 11 for the next season.

Jamie Armstrong we haven’t seen much of yet but he has received some good reviewing within the club on his work ethic / technical ability so he is another graduate who is one to watch for sure.

Jack Bridge has been offered a new contract but Harry McKirdy has been released and Nathan Thomas, of course, is back at parent club Sheffield United. Are you confident Beech has made the correct decisions to ensure that when football returns, there is the correct working culture in place?

Kyle: I think many if not a fan of CB are happy to back him, but offering McKirdy an extension would of cause a bit of upset, fantastic player in their but he has to make a decision if we want to get to championship level or conference north level with his attitude.  I think the culture side of it if we can get the same results out of his January signings as those coming in well be alright – reluctant to praise him but David Holdsworth DoF sounds like he’s played his part in this too. I don’t think there’s a choice with regards to the culture this season, if we get incidents like the Mckirdy ones occurring fans will turn fast.

Ross: Bridge does have talent and looked much better out ide towards the end of the season. Cannot play n the midfield though. McKirdy was poison. Stories of his behaviour around the club and his attitude (including provoking staff members to physically assault him) were numerous and he’s not actually that good. Certainly not as good as he thinks he is. A lad who seriously needs to grow up or he’ll be the best player in Sunday league. Beech has brought in a professional work ethic and he just doesn’t fit. That’s one of the biggest mistakes Pressley made. He brought in a squad of players that, for the first time in my life, made me dislike them. Quite an achievement.

Jonny: This may be split the opinions of many fans. Harry McKirdy has clear ability and many stats/metrics are very positive for McKirdy when compared to other wingers within the division. However his consistency and a rift with the fans created a bit of tension at the club. He has celebrated telling our fans to ‘shhh’ whilst also not celebrating at all. He has mocked the club on social media and this has resulted in unnecessary animosity within the club. Beech is obviously trying to mould a profesional and deciated environment within the club which I personally dont think can be argued. If he is driven and put his mind to it, there is a player in McKirdy at this level or even above for sure. Jack Bridge has been in and out of the team all season but Beech seemed impressed by his initial reaction to losing his place by training even harder etc and found himself on the right wing for the last few games. He prefers to play as CAM rather than on the wing so this will be an interesting development if he signs next season.

Omari Patrick had a tough time at Bradford but I thought he looked good in your last game, against Newport – he seems to link play with a lot of energy. You hoping he can find consistency this year?

Kyle: he was highly impressive, quite interesting surround Omari the Saturday (home game) before he’d really struggled, I think theirs a player in their he’s got the attributed to go higher: Pace, Strength and finishing get the impression he needs an arm around him and direction and guidance to believe he can be the talent he is. But again he gives his all and as a fan base well get behind players giving 100%.  I do feel their will be a point for Omari where it all just clicks, hell be in form and hell believe a bit more in himself and he will be a real player at this level . – will that be 2020-21 I really hope so. Again though were asking consistency from a young lad when their wasn’t players at his level around him. Had Kayode & Thomas been fit for all the games he had it would of been a more balanced view.

Ross: Looks a good player. Has bags of pace and power. Also seems a good lad. Has really bought into the area (and even moved up here). A good example of the sort of player Beech wants at the club. Young, hungry, hard working.

Josh Kayode reportedly wants to return to Brunton Park, after his loan spell from Rotherham. When fit, he won’t give defenders a moment’s peace, will he?

Kyle: His work rate for a striker is phenomenal, however, I think one of the challenges he will have is reducing that to ensure he’s still got gas in the tank later in games.  Cant speak highly enough of Josh, his finishing is good for his age and this level he reads the game and adapts very well, if he can develop his physical presence he would be a 25+ goal man.

Ross: Was very impressed with Kayode. If and when he does return he’s a 25 goal plus striker at this level. Strong quick, good movement. Shame he got injured.

Jonny: Omari seems to be a bit of a rough diamond. Clear pace and power, yet his finishing and positioning certainly needs developed. He started to create a good partnership with Kayode so hopefully if Josh returns on loan next season (more likely now Rotherham have been promoted one would suspect?) then they can develop this partnership further. As aforementioned, Beech has looked to solidify at the back which has resulted in lower possession %’s in games. However it has led to a greater number of counter-attacks which seems to suit both Kayode/Patrick’s game.

Lewis Alessandra, one would imagine, will accept the new deal he has been offered. Considering Alessandra’s recent involvement with relegated sides, are you surprised by the impact he has made?

Kyle: difficult on this, had he not been signed to replace Hope we might of seen this differently. Tbf to Lewis he’s everything we were promised, skilful, hard working, off the cuff, clever etc… so I shouldn’t of been surprised but I was (bit of that is I think Morecambes a small club). I think providing he can add a few more goals to his game hell be a valuable asset,

Ross: Very. I was underwhelmed when we signed him but he’s been superb. Hard working, professional, smart enough to do the shithouse side of the game. He’s signed his new deal now and will be a valuable asset next season.

Jonny: Alessandra has now signed his deal. Many fans were underwhelmed with this signing however he has impressed in a blues shirt. He lacks an obvious goal/attacking threat but is a very clever player with his movement and has obvious technical skills. He seems a down to earth guy and a real hard working pro, one for many of the younger lads to look upon it seems. A welcomed signing for the new season I feel but he should be seen as a squad player.

What will be the target when football returns? Close the gap on the Play-Off spots?

Kyle: As fans theirs only one accepted outcome for us in L2 & that’s promotion. Personally I think were maybe another season of being in a serious position to mount a challenge.  But I have been highly impressed with our retained list, seems like theirs an element of realism in place about what’s need for L2. Plus I think well be very similar to a Crewe with the young players we have it will click and well be a serious force.  As a fan base I think were considerably more optimistic about next season, think I did some questions for you last season saying wed either click and be right up their or wed flop like we had.  ill confidently say we won’t finish lower than the top 12.

In terms of targets when football returns? Next season starting out anything but the playoffs is a failure.

Jones is unspectacular but a consistent 7/10 every week. That’s all you need from a full back in league two. If you have a team of those sort of lads you’ll be in or around the playoffs at least.

Ross: Regardless of budgets etc the minimum for our club at this level should be the play offs. We’ve been here far too long. Hopefully we’ll be brave this summer as I think Clubs can get very good players on low wages by offering deals now in the hope football returns in August/September. A risk worth taking for me.

Jonny: With the conclusion of League two being made earlier this week, applying PPG, Carlisle finished in 18th. Pre COVID-19 and on the back of this campaign, I feel the target has to be top-half of the league as a minimum. Previously it has been to try and achieve the play-offs, however, with the current financial position of the club, the uncertainty of recruitment policy (one year deals etc), the reliance on our youth / academy graduates I’m not sure how realistic the play-offs would be. League two is certainly becoming more competitive each season and with the inclusion of Bolton/Tranmere/Southend, the eventual promotion of Barrow it would seem and with clubs such as Mansfield/Salford adding a bit more finesse to their financial power its only going to get harder for us Cumbrians it would seem….