Academy boss Eric Kinder comes back to Brunton Park having had a real taste of managing and coaching at first team level, firstly with Neil McDonald as the duo took the reins in Ireland with Limerick, and most recently having spent a season as number two to Matt Taylor with Exeter City.
But he admitted this week that the step back into academy football is something he is more than comfortable with as he gets ready to put the under-18 squad through their pre-season paces.
“I’ve always wanted to have a go at the first team environment and I’ve done that now,” he commented. “I’ve done it abroad, if you class Ireland as abroad, and I’ve done it over here.
“Limerick was nothing like Exeter professional-wise, but it gave me a nice taster to go into the Exeter job. I’m so glad I’ve done first-team football because I know now what it takes for a youth team player to get into a first team. I completely understand how hard it is.
“Going that way from youth, first team, back to youth, the experience I’ve gained hopefully will stand me in good stead.”
But is he looking forward to picking up where he left off?
“Everything I’ve gone into since I started [in football] I’ve always felt the same right at the beginning,” he told us. “There will be ups and downs, as there is in every job.
“An academy manager’s job and a youth team job is difficult because the first team comes first and always will. There’s only one team that has to win on a Saturday and that’s the first team.
“The first team is the most important part of the whole club. But yes, the hunger’s still there. If it wasn’t I’d probably have gone watching cricket for the summer. That’s not the case, the desire is still there.”
“When I came here first time I was told to produce first team players, and the job doesn’t change in that respect,” he said. “I said straight away back in 2006 that we might have to look outside the county to achieve that.
“That’s what I did, and my point of view hasn’t changed. We’ll work hard to get the best players possible into Carlisle’s scholarship system. If they come from Cumbria that’s brilliant. If they don’t then I have no problem with looking elsewhere to find players who do have a chance of making it all the way.
“I can remember doing something with Jon Colman at the News & Star years ago saying that I’d love a team full of Cumbrians. At that time it wasn’t possible, because we didn’t have enough strength in the Centre of Excellence, as it was in those days, to take people on.
“If you’re going to offer a player a scholarship you have to believe at that time that they have a chance of becoming a professional footballer. You can’t just take them on for the sake of making up the numbers.
“We have one already who will be a second year, but he has his professional contract and it’s up to the manager how he now uses him. Good luck to the lad. My stance has always been that the perfect scenario for a youth team player is to come through the system, make 100 appearances for Carlisle and then we sell him for as much money as we can. That’s when the job has been completely done.
“If you’re looking at a youth team player who hasn’t made his debut yet, if they get the money back that they feel he’s worth, that’s fantastic. Exeter are great at that, they do that superbly well. It’s not my way of doing it because, like I say, I love them to play for the first team first and then move on.
“However, this shows again that the manager is fully behind the academy system. I think that’s superb. I’ve heard some really good things about him and I’m looking forward to working with him. If he needs any help first-team wise all he has to do is ask. I’ll help with whatever I can.”
Using the opportunity to look back at the six years he’s spent away from Carlisle United, he told us: “I went back to Blackburn but I had to leave there for personal reasons.
“I just wanted to get out of it because it didn’t feel right at the time. That was when I went over to Limerick as Neil McDonald’s assistant manager. It was there that I worked with first team players for the first time and I found that to be very enjoyable.
“When I came back to England I worked with the Premier League for four months auditing the heads of coaches at every club. It was at that point that the first call came from Matt [Taylor] to see if I wanted to go down to Exeter as his assistant. Initially I didn’t think it was the right thing for me to do, but I’m so glad I did it.
“I was really settled working with the Premier League … it was quite a good gig actually. I only worked three days a week, with weekends, Fridays and Mondays off. Talking to the head of coaching at so many clubs was another big learning curve and it was a job I enjoyed.
“It looked like I was going to continue that role into last season, but Matt phoned a couple of times and he eventually persuaded to go down to Exeter and have a look around. He told me that if I said no after that, he’d be fine with it.
“I phoned the Premier League and explained my situation and they told me to go for it. As soon as I got to Exeter I knew it was something I wanted to do. I’ve known Matt since he was 15 and when somebody who you’ve probably only spoken to twice in 20-odd years keeps asking you to come with them, it’s powerful and it’s hard to say no.
“I’m really glad I agreed to join him even though, being honest, we made a mess of it at the end of last season. We should have been in the play-offs and, had we got there, I think we’d have won.
“Unfortunately we made a complete hash of two or three home games and that blew our chances. I’ve no regrets at all, I loved every minute of it, and I made stack of friends down there.”
“That’s all done and, like I say, I’m looking forward to kicking on here again now,” he said. “Summer has flown by, so it’s a case of getting down to the work that needs to be done with the lads and looking to see if we can get more through to the first team ranks.”
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