Director of football David Holdsworth confirmed this morning that it was a relief to have received a decision on the curtailing of League Two’s 19/20 season [subject to confirmation from the EFL and FA] with the focus very much now on the 2020/21 campaign following the publication of the club’s retained / released list on Friday evening.
“I think we all needed a decision, one way or another, and it is a relief that it has now been made,” he said. “Obviously there are promotion, relegation and play-off issues still to be thrashed out, but for Carlisle United it means we can stop worrying about how we would have facilitated a restart – which would have been extremely difficult by the way – and look completely at what we need to do for next season.
“Having said that, and I know I keep saying this, but whatever football business we need to conduct, be it retained and released or recruitment, or whatever, the priority has to remain safety for everybody as we continue to go through these unchartered waters.
“We know people love their club and they want as much news as possible, but we won’t be doing anything that puts our staff or our supporters at risk.
“And I think it’s right for me to say thank you from all of us once again to the key workers in every sector, and to the NHS staff and support staff for what they’re doing to help to defeat this virus.
“But, yes, there is still work to do and as you’ve seen from the list we released yesterday, we’re doing it as and when we can, and at a time we feel is best for the individuals and people concerned.”
“None of us have ever faced a situation like this before, and hopefully we never will again, and I think the key to it all is making sure that you remain calm and that you do things in a measured and responsible way,” he continued.
“We’ve got a football club to look after, and that’s a huge responsibility that nobody will ever take lightly. From the moment the pandemic started, to the increase in its intensity, we’ve done everything possible to look after our staff, and we’ve maintained strong lines of internal communication throughout.
“That has been extremely important and it’s something we must continue to do. From board level through to staff, we’ve been keeping each other updated and probably the most testing aspect was getting Mr Jenkins used to using Zoom.
“Joking aside he’s been brilliant with it, as has everybody else, and we’ve made sure that we’ve found ways to keep on top of important issues, which I’m sure everybody would expect us to do.”
Speaking more about the Friday confirmation on player contracts, he told us: “In terms of announcing the retained and released list, we’ve looked at what other clubs have been doing and we’ve talked to people, but what we don’t want to do is follow on from what others think is right just for the sake of it.
“Whatever decisions we make, and the timing of when we make them, have to be when it’s right for Carlisle United. With the player list we’ve just released we’ve been talking as a football department since before the virus came along.
“Chris identified very early on, not long after he came to the club, the areas where he felt we needed improvement, on and off the field, and the other staff have worked hard with him on that.
“Our analyst Jacob [Blain] has assisted with the research on potential targets and that’s been a huge help to me and Chris, particularly as we start to get closer to a point where we will actively be able to start next season’s recruitment process.
“A number of players have been profiled, and we continue to narrow that down, and we are extremely clear in where we want to go with it and how we want to get there. The biggest thing for me with all of this is that we want players who will be ‘all-in’ and who really want to be here.
“They need to be committed to wearing the Carlisle badge and in representing our club. That will be made clear to them. Lengths of deals offered may vary, but it’s about wanting to be at the club that will matter.
“We saw it with Aaron Hayden and Nick Anderton, who have both been exemplary since they arrived, and with Omari Patrick and Callum Guy, and with the other lads we recruited in January. They bought into us and they showed immediately that they want to be part of what we’re doing. I can’t stress how much of a difference that positive outlook from a player makes.”
With Lewis Alessandra offered a new deal, and Jack Bridge, Gethin Jones and Byron Webster due to be spoken to about extending their stays at the club, he commented: “I can confirm that Lewis Alessandra has been offered a new deal.
“The detail of that will remain between us until such time as he commits to us or makes another decision, but we are very hopeful that he will stay because he’s a player we value and like.
“With all of these lads, the situation isn’t made any easier with our players being part of the furlough scheme, or with the fact that the EFL have not yet given any guidance at all on when next season will start or on when we can begin to engage with players about coming to our club.
“That’s information we need, every club is the same, and we remain hopeful that clarification on the summer transfer window will come soon. We’re still at the stage where we can’t make approaches but, like I say, that doesn’t stop us from doing the research.
“Jack Bridge, Gethin Jones and Byron Webster are players Chris has indicated he wants to engage with, so those negotiations will take place at some point. Again, once we reach that stage, we’ll let our fans know.”
As for how much the budget has been affected by the lockdown, he said: “I think people know that we tend not to talk about finances in too much depth, but it’s no secret that we have one of the smaller budgets in this division.
“We respect that, due to where this club has been in past years where it’s tried to push to the next level by stretching itself financially, and we work within it.
“Our fans know that we’ve been changing those habits because we want to make sure we have a club going forward. We’ll now continue to operate within our means and if we do things properly, which we are doing, I have no doubt that we will compete very strongly.”