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INTERVIEW: They wanted to be here and they loved being at this club

Chris Beech on getting creative in the recruitment market

19 May 2020

Had this been a normal season the chances are that Blues boss Chris Beech would, by now, have announced his first summer signing, with more in the pipeline as the excitement of a fixture release day in June also loomed ever-larger on the near horizon.

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But this is nowhere even close to being a normal set of circumstances, with still no indication forthcoming at all as to when any transfer window is likely to open, or on what the new guidelines, regulations and rules are going to look like when it comes to the recruitment of players.

“I know there are discussions on financial prohibitors ongoing right now which might be put in place for clubs in the future, possibly before we start playing again, so we’re already talking about a set of unknowns which will possibly impact on how we do our recruitment,” he explained.

“We can’t change the situation, so we just have to be ready to act as each step is made clearer. One thing I do know is that there is a severe lack of income, if any at all, for every club at our level, and that’s being measured against constant expenditure.

“It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out that this isn’t a good situation for any club, ours included. It’s a disastrous situation, to be honest with you, and all football clubs have to find ways of facing up to it.

“What we also have to be mindful of is that club owners across the country - unless they’ve won the National Lottery - have their own businesses which are facing their own challenges through this very tough period.

“They’re dealing with those issues on a daily basis, and these are people who have worked hard their whole lives to put themselves in a position where they could invest or be involved in their football club in the first place.

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“I’m not talking specifically about Carlisle here, it’s football in general, because owners and investors are taking their own hits and having to look after their own businesses in addition to their clubs.

“I have absolutely no doubt that this will affect the future of football, and we all have to be understanding of that. All clubs need to find a way to survive, remain competitive and establish areas of growth as we prepare for a future that, as we speak, is still largely unknown.”

“We’ll need to be very clever in how we operate going forward,” he continued. “The simple unavoidable fact is that the financial impact this virus is having will have a subsequent impact on how we can do our work, and on the amount of work we can actually do.

“If I’m being totally honest, the club doesn’t know what budget we’ll have available for recruitment as we speak right now. It’s impossible for them to know that with so much still unresolved and I’m just like everybody else in that we just have to wait and see.

“What is also unavoidable for us is that ten of our players have left the club, they’ve gone, so there’s a need to recruit. We need players to come in, but my job is to help to protect Carlisle United in how we go about filling those gaps.

“That’s why we need people coming in who will help us to be competitive, and that’s where our focus is now as we continue to do our research on who those players might be.”

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But is it frustrating to not just be able to get on and get the job done?

“You can’t allow it to be frustrating because it’s just something else that has to be dealt with in the best way you possibly can,” he replied. “Let me say this, I am so excited about next season and my approach will always be that you deal with whatever is in front of you with the single focus of making the team and the club successful, and you only achieve that by winning games.

“I don’t accept an excuse environment at all. When the conversation goes towards the competitive nature of this business my sport mind takes over. It’s pretty ruthless and harsh, I don’t mind admitting that, and my whole focus is on doing whatever it takes to get those results.

“If you can’t train before a game because of a flooded training pitch, or you have gale force winds just as you kick off, I still want to win. I’ll still find goals conceded to be unacceptable, and I’ll still want everyone to be on top of things, because that’s how you get a club to progress.

“The pleasing thing is that every single player who is going to be here next season has shown me the same level of excitement about what we collectively want to achieve for this club. They can’t wait to get started and they’re actually gutted that this season ended.

“I’m looking forward to seeing the players we bring in because I’ll make sure they add to the competition for a starting place every Saturday, because getting that shirt is a right that has to be earned as far as I’m concerned.

“I’ve so much respect for the players who have left because that’s the environment they helped me to create. Players like Mike Jones and Kelvin Etuhu have been on long journeys with this club, and things like that shouldn’t be forgotten.

“I’ve already worked with some great lads here, and it’s a new chapter for the club in what is a totally different financial framework as we look to recruit the new faces who will help us to go again.

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“That means I have to find people who are hungry, who want to play, run hard and put their bodies on the line, and who will create another unbelievable team spirit, and we’ll do all of that against the odds of an uncertain budget and an unknown timeframe.

“What we can all sometimes forget with players is that they have personal situations and circumstances which can dictate what they want to do next. I’m not going to talk about individuals and break any trust that way, but sometimes the retained list is put together with knowledge of what a player may be going through, and what his needs are.”

Speaking more about that winning mentality, he said: “We went into the lockdown having picked ourselves up to an average of 1.6 points-per-game, but I look at those last ten games and I still think we should have had more.

“For me, football is never about ifs, buts or maybe - it’s about facts. It’s about providing an enjoyable spectacle and, in my opinion, we haven’t reached anywhere near those heights in terms of how we play or in what we’re trying to achieve.

“But, to be fair, if we reflect on the fact that we did get to that 1.6 point average then that would have taken us towards the play-off places over the course of a full season. That’s a good starting point for us, particularly when you think about where we were leading up to Christmas.

“The lads had lost 10 of their 19 league games prior to the chairman and the board of directors asking me to take the reins. We collectively as a team reduced that down by 50% to 5 games in 18 lost. This represents a great effort and competitive spirit from every player in the squad and I thank them once again for their commitment.

“However, I’ll stress again, I’m still disappointed overall with those ten games. That’s how demanding I am and that’s how I feel we all should be, because we should always want more.”

Having dissected the decisions made on the contracted players, it left the obvious question of what might happen to those lads who were due to complete the season on-loan from their parent clubs [Marcus Dewhurst, Josh Kayode and Elliot Watt].

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“What people probably didn’t know is that those three lads cost us the same, combined, as just one of the loan players we previously had at this club,” he commented. “That’s how creative you can be if you pre-plan and work hard with the parent clubs, along with the players and their representatives.

“When you talk about those three in that context you see that you immediately have greater value from them, both on and off the pitch. They wanted to be here, they loved their time with the club, and they were as gutted as anybody when it came to light that they wouldn’t be pulling the shirt on again.

“It’s a different set of circumstances now, they’re back with their clubs, and rightly so. Josh Kayode one hundred percent wants to come back, I can tell you that, but with all loan players, these three included, it’s down to conversations to be had with the parent clubs involved.

“The door isn’t closed to anyone, including players who may have left the club, because that’s not a rule you can set in football. It’s always a case of waiting to see, because surprises can be thrown up at any time, usually when you least expect it.”

And on working closely with the club to make sure we’re ready to act once things do become clearer, he said: “We have strong working relationships here and that’s always important.

“You’re always going to have misgivings every now and then, that happens in every walk of life, but it’s about how you deal with each other that matters, and we’re a very good club for that.

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“Again, in every walk of life, the actual steps you can take are governed by finance. Our job is to find answers and solutions that initially might not appear to be there so that we can make things work.

“I’ve never been in any kind of football utopia where I’ve walked out to a St George’s Park style training facility with the pick of the best players in the country in front of me. That just isn’t something I can relate to, so I’m used to having to make the best of what I have at my disposal.

“Ultimately, with so much uncertainty around everything at the moment, our job is to look after Carlisle United and to make sure we have a club going forward. That’s why the players we have in the building need to show the hunger and ambition which becomes its own fuel for success.

“We’ve been working diligently behind the scenes for quite a while now to identify our direction of travel from a player recruitment perspective, there’s lots of unknowns, but at the same time I’m excited about what could be done. 

“Who knows, if we get the right mix, which I think we will, then what’s to stop us from being a real driving force in this division, which has to be the aim for all of us.”


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