Meppen-Walter in for two weeks
Former-Manchester City youth prospect Courtney Meppen-Walter has joined Carlisle United Football Club on a two-week trial period this morning.
Meppen-Walter, 19, also captained the England U18 team but was sentenced to 16 months imprisonment in February following a road traffic collision in Manchester which led to the death of a brother and a sister who were travelling in the other car involved at the scene.
“This was a difficult decision for us, as you can imagine,” manager Graham Kavanagh said. “He comes with a heck of a lot of baggage and that’s something that we really had to consider.
“He was involved in a horrible incident a year or so ago and two people died as a result of it. He was sent to prison and he has now been released. Obviously you have to have it uppermost in your mind that two people did lose their lives and your thoughts are with them and their families.
“Also to be considered, though, is the fact that he has served his time and I’m sure that it’s something he wishes hadn’t happened. There comes a point where he has to move on and it’s then about who is willing to give him an opportunity.
“I have decided to do that and I’m hoping that he takes the opportunity and that everyone gives him a chance to put this horrible thing behind him so that he can make his way in the game again.”
“I know it’s something that we will probably get criticised for,” he agreed. “I had to really think long and hard about this and you have to ask yourself at what point do you allow the individual to move on. The justice system has dealt with him and there are no two ways about it that he is still full of remorse and regret.
“Hopefully people will show a little bit of understanding for his situation but, and I say this again, what we can’t do is completely dismiss the two people who died. That is a horrible thing and it’s something none of us should ever forget.
“It becomes a balancing act as to what you should do when you are offered a player like this because you have to think about the reaction from the fans, the community and the wider public. They are all factors in how you go about making your final decision.
“Again, from a football point of view, this calibre of player is only available to us because of what has gone on in his past. And that is not to be dismissive of the incident or the consequences of that incident at all. I’ve sat him down and talked to him this morning and he is a genuinely nice lad who is full of regret and remorse. He’s now in a position where he wants to do what he can to move on from it and he wants to try and have a career in football so that he can move forward, if at all possible.”
“He’s here for two weeks now and that gives us a chance to look at his attitude, his personality, his desire and his ability,” he said. “He’s kept himself fit so it will be interesting to see if he can come into our set-up and settle. The questions surrounding that will be answered over the next ten to fifteen days.
“We have to look at it as a fresh start for him, in many ways. Nothing will bring those two people back – nothing at all – and they should never be forgotten. But he has served his time and it’s something he has to live with every day. I genuinely believe that everyone deserves a second chance in situations like this one where it has been a terrible mistake. I’m not sure I would stretch that to a third, fourth or fifth chance, but I think you definitely deserve a second chance and particularly if you show genuine regret and remorse as Courtney has done.
“He wants to put it right, as much as he can, because he is a young man who has made a huge mistake. It is one that will bring a whole range of opinion, and we accept that, but I hope that the people who condemn him can also find a way to forgive.”
On how the opportunity came about for Meppen-Walter, he said: “We tend to get three types of player we can take a look at. They are the young and experienced player who has been released, the older player who is coming towards the end of his career or the player who comes with some baggage, be that a history of serious injury that has curtailed his career or something which has happened in his personal life.
“It was a friend of mine, Stuart Ripley, who called me initially to let me know that Courtney was in a position where he could possibly come to the club. He’s a left sided centre half and in football terms he comes with all of the right credentials. It’s an opportunity to add a bit of quality to the squad, if things turn out well for him and for us.”
“Roberto Mancini clearly thought highly of him because he was on the bench for a Champions League game against Juventus,” he explained. “He now has to try to put this behind him and show everybody what he can do again. I’ve told him that it is likely that he will face criticism, and he will get some amount of stick, but you can genuinely see that he is disappointed in himself and he wishes he could flick some kind of switch and put it all right.
“Having looked at the whole situation, and having met him, I have taken the point of view that he has been through the justice system and has been to prison. He now has to deal with what follows after, and we have put ourselves in a position to help him with that. It’s something we feel we are doing for the right reasons.”