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A fond farewell to former owner John Courtenay

Sad news as former owner passes away

29 August 2020

Everyone at Brunton Park was deeply saddened to learn of the passing of John Courtenay on Saturday evening.

United’s larger than life former owner, aged 70, had been battling dementia in a nursing home in his native Ireland, and our deepest sympathies and condolences go to his family and friends.

His love affair with the Blues was sparked when first team manager Roddy Collins, who was appointed in the summer of 2001, alerted the Dublin-based businessman to the possibility of then owner Michael Knighton being open to the idea of handing over the reins.

Courtenay opened dialogue with the under-fire Knighton, but the wheels appeared to come off his takeover bid in January 2002 when sticking points which came to light during the talks quickly became major obstacles.

Six months of turmoil followed for the Cumbrians, with Collins relieved of his duties with just a month of the 2001/02 season left to play, but Courtenay continued to push and the announcement the fans had waited so patiently for was finally made at the end of July 2002.

Carlisle eventually fell out of the Football League, despite his best efforts, and Courtenay parted ways with the club in 2004.

He was twice rumoured to be making a return in the years that followed, but his focus switched back to his other business interests, which included the Umbro Ireland franchise.

Chairman Andrew Jenkins said: “I got on extremely well with John. He was a very likeable character who could hold a room with his stories.

“He was always described as larger than life and I think everyone will agree that was a very fair description.

“I’d like to say a thank you to him for everything he did for the club. He wanted the best for Carlisle United and it’s a shame that it didn’t work out for him.

“His enthusiasm was infectious and those who worked with or alongside him were desperate to see him get the success he so dearly wanted.

“I pass on the sympathies of those at the club to his family, friends and loved ones at this sad time.”

Club secretary Sarah McKnight said: "He was a breath of fresh air at exactly the right time for the club. I'll always remember his response to anything that seemed like a problem was to tell us that there was no such word as can't as far as he was concerned.

"He insisted that there was always a way to sort everything. He was always happy and he put everybody in a good mood with his positivity and his smile."

Media officer Andy Hall said: "John was really forward thinking in terms of what he wanted the club to do in what was a relatively new online arena.

"He saw that myself and Barbara Abbott were helping the club's media officer Phil Holmes with features for the club channels, and that we were also putting a lot of content on an unofficial website at the same time.

"He sat us down to discuss how we could bring it all under the club banner, and that's exactly what started to happen immediately after that first meeting. That's an example of how he was able to get people pulling in the same direction.

"His 'get it done' approach rubbed off on everyone and he effectively let us get on with it, as long as he saw results. He was a pleasure to work for." 

Rest in peace Mr Courtenay.


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