United’s director of football David Holdsworth and manager Chris Beech adopted a very measured approach to recruitment during the extended transfer window just gone, with much of the research on potential targets having started as early as last January.
We caught up with David this week to talk about the work that was done.
“It didn’t stop, the work has carried on from where we were,” he said. “We did work extremely hard [in January] and I always felt that was going to come to fruition in the longer-term. That’s happened a little bit quicker because the results have come for us and the team are really enjoying playing together.
“The biggest thing we did look at was the character of the players, and obviously location, as always. We looked for players who were a little bit nearer to Carlisle, which is Manchester and north of that, and it’s proved to be very healthy in terms of getting the right people in for the way Chris Beech wants his team to be.”
Watching the squad gel, with a good run of performances under the belt, he told us: “Every club had a disjointed pre-season because of the Covid situation.
“We picked up a couple of injuries, which was disappointing, so Chris wasn’t able to play a team that he would have probably put out, but the recruitment has shown that the players who have played have been able to step up.
“A generalisation of all teams at the moment, and you’re seeing it at the highest levels as well, is that some have been quicker than others at getting fit or up to the pace you need to be at to be a professional footballer.
“It takes about six to eight games to get match fit, but when you haven’t been playing or training regularly it can take a little bit longer. The training methods that Chris, Gavin, Steve and Greg have put in have been very good so far.
“It’s been conducive to match sharpness, and that side of things is going as well as I think it can.”
Having heard the manager talk repeatedly about a young and hungry squad, the director of football confirmed that this summer’s activities had been part of a strategic approach to recruiting new faces.
“That’s down to me looking at millions of players and making a lot of phone calls,” he told us. “We really did have a good profile of what we wanted, and in all honesty that goes back to last January where Jacob [Blain] came into the club. He’s proved to be a very good tool for Chris.
“We’ve turned the work done from last Christmas into what we’re doing now, and that’s good football intelligence, which is what we need. It’s also down to hard work, because the staff are working really hard.
“Each and every one of the departments has got an identity, which I expect to see. They’re all good people, they want to be successful, and Chris had his ideas on the players he wanted to add to that.
“We’ve been very successful in getting those players but, if we weren’t successful, it was mostly down to location. Along with that there are League One players out there who we identified and who are still hanging on and hoping to get something.
“That may prove to be the right decision, or it could be the wrong decision, but I’ve been very strict when it comes to finance. That’s because you have to be with the situation we’re in, and which the whole world finds itself in.
“We’ve been very careful, prudent and we’ve used good judgement, and that’s been important.”
With the Covid-19 situation cutting off an important revenue stream, with fans not being allowed to attend games, we wondered how much that had affected the transfer budget.
“I’ve been at the club nearly three years now and I’ve worked to a strict remit since the day I got here,” he said. “I have to look after, protect and preserve the club, and we’ve gone from a situation where … look, we can go over it again if you want to, but from my point of view expenditure was spent that didn’t work because of failure, if you like.
“We didn’t go up, and we had to recover from that. We have recovered from that fully, and obviously when it comes to bringing in players, or players going out, your outbox is healthier than your inbox.
“I’ve looked after that, I’m pleased to have done so, and that comes down to working with the board here. I don’t think anybody could have seen what was around the corner, but we haven’t changed anything and we’re in good shape.
“I’ve said this a million times, and I’ll continue to, I won’t allow us to take risks. We have to be as financially safe as we possibly can, and that approach is proving to be a healthy one for us right now.”
“That’s why you don’t see a knee-jerk if we get injuries, which we have done,” he continued. “We work very hard on looking at options and we are constantly talking to and in contact with other clubs.
“Just last week we had three or four players in mind, and everybody was asking me how many we were going to bring in. Like I say, we were in a really good place and we knew we only had to bring one more in.
“I have to thank Peter Ridsdale at this point, and Preston North End, for helping us with the Ethan Walker situation. We wish the lad a quick recovery, but having good relationships with clubs and being able to utilise their young players is huge for us.
“Peter spoke so highly of Ethan before we got him and then he allowed us to take him at a low price. That means our recovery from this injury is easier and Peter has been brilliant with me and Carlisle United with how he’s helped us.
“That gave us the ability to go to Huddersfield, and we had two or three others we were hopeful on. The problem there was that the other clubs didn’t do their business, so we couldn’t see it through. We had to be on the spot and ready to communicate should one break down, which it did.
“Location came into another one, which is fine, but there was no sense of panic and we weren’t in a place where we felt we needed to panic. In all honesty, Chris told me that he knew that I didn’t want to overspend, and that I wanted us to be careful, but we both knew there was no need.
“With what’s in the building, if we’d brought none in we were quite happy. We’ve got Omari Patrick coming back, hopefully Brennan Dickenson will be back in the foreseeable future, so all we were looking to bring in was a dynamic forward.
“Our strike power at the moment is excellent, and we’ve added to that with a young man who is just breaking through. Micah scores goals and he’ll be a good addition. He’ll probably start on the bench, but he’s coming to a club that’s on the up and winning games, so it’s good all round.”
“Overall I wanted to support Chris more because he’s doing really well,” he concluded. “The team are doing really well, so why not act when you’re in a position of strength.
“All we’ve done is go about our business quietly. You hear about other clubs giving out contracts that are expensive, but I work to a very strict regime of how I think this club should be.
“I’ll continue to do so, I won’t put us at risk. It means we have to work a little bit harder, and look at players in more detail, and it’s rewarding for us to do it that way because we’ve now got a good squad that, if it’s not the lowest, then it’s probably one of the lowest budgets in the league, so our approach is paying off.”
We’ll have more from David Holdsworth on the official website tomorrow.
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