Director of football David Holdsworth sat down with the press on Thursday morning to discuss a range of subjects, with the season now into its final three weeks.
Having already announced the clause activations for Jack Armer, Taylor Charters, Josh Dixon and Joe Riley this week, we wondered where the club was in terms of planning and contracts for next season.
“I’m not going to talk about budgets, I’m bored of hearing about budgets,” he told us. “We know where we are, our planning has been going on for a few weeks but some of it still might change. I’m fully aware of where we are and we’re in a good position.
“It’s hard to prepare for next season, because there have been so many variables, even now, but we’ve been doing that for the past four or five months. There are a lot of different scenarios but we’ve got a very good bunch of players who are respectful of Carlisle United.
“We’re working within the parameters of what we know we can afford and that’s a healthy place to be. We aren’t comparing ourselves to other clubs in terms of finances or budgets because there’s no point, we look after ourselves.”
“I’m confident in knowing what we can and can’t do, and we really are in a good place,” he added. “Our players have done well for us this year so they’ve given us plenty to think about.
“Whilst we sometimes are more judgemental because they’re playing every week for us, outside our club our players are really well respected. We’ve done a lot of good work in the last few days in extending contracts, as you’ve seen.
“There’s going to be more offers coming out in the next few weeks of extensions of contracts we’ve already got in place. We want to tie those players down. Agents are coming out now, it’s that time of the season, they’ve been swimming around slowly, now you see the fins coming out of the water, they’re trying to get deals for themselves.
“But I think we’ve got a sensible bunch of players and some of the agents we deal with are sensible. But it won’t change our focus or my belief in how we structured last year, going into this year. We’ve done that with our own style, privacy, and I’ll keep doing my work privately.
“I’m very confident of where we can get to in terms of retainment. There’s going to be some good news in a few months’ time when we can hopefully announce certain things.
“I think we’ve got maybe three, four or five of some of the best youngsters in the UK. We’re all in hand and have done our business quietly and privately.”
Having already addressed the issue of the budget, we reminded him that it is always a constant source of interest.
“I’m not going to comment, it’s confidential,” he reiterated. “What I will say is I am aware of where we are and the rug hasn’t been pulled from our feet, I will put it that way.
“If someone comes and gives me a gift card with a few pounds on it, we’ll spend it, but we won’t spend it unwisely, and that would be nice. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to know where the money is in this league.
“I get bored of hearing about it. If people want to throw millions of pounds year after year that’s up to them. That’s not up to us. We have to do our job diligently, good housekeeping is key, being strong in our beliefs and options.
“When we set out, we know where we are realistically in terms of what we pay out. It doesn’t matter what others have got. I know realistically where we can support every manager. To be top of the league, Chris Beech had done an absolutely fantastic job at that point, on what we pay.
“On reflection of that, yeah, we were in a wonderful place, given everything. But that was by design. We’d profiled and done a lot of work, Chris and I. We’d met people on the side of the street, social distancing, by the motorway, in parks.
“Those boys really bought into Carlisle United. Given those terms and circumstances and where the world is, and where we are, we were delighted at Christmas to be where we were, enjoying football, enjoying life, and the passionate support in the community of players doing everything they can. That was a wonderful place to be.
“We’re doing a lot of work behind the scenes in looking at other players. Will we keep Kayode - very unlikely. The boy’s brilliant for us, a great kid, he’s just signed a new deal at Rotherham. They will look at his place. We have to be mindful we have players that will go back to their parent clubs. So will Ethan Walker, but I’m still very positive.”
Speaking more about the trigger clauses activated earlier in the week, he commented: “I knew where we were and things come out at times when we can do it.
“We’re in a battle to go into League One but the key to it is tying the young players down for Carlisle United. There’ll be more developments on that in the next two weeks I would say, maybe three weeks, because of the timing the announcements can be distributed.
“The key to this is, the hard work I did last year is being seen now. I knew already where we could be with those boys, there’s going to be a few more to follow in the next few days and weeks. There are decisions to be made, but it will only be clearer after knowing what games we’ve won and whether we go into the last game of the season not knowing or potentially knowing whether we can make it or, the worst-case scenario, we don’t quite make it.”
With the team having done well this season, has there been any interest in any of our players to fend off?
“No, things will become a little bit clearer as the timing of things, but no,” he replied. “We do have some fantastic young players here, in my opinion.
“I know we’ve been nurturing players through this period, we’ve been training them well, we’ve been helping them progress, training them well and they’ve stepped up to standards.
“If a bid comes in for the best scoring midfield player in the league, he won’t be able to walk out of the door cheaply. Jon Mellish is still growing, still improving, and he can improve in his technical skills, but something he’s done is absolutely magic.
“He’s almost like Mullin at Cambridge, he scored seven goals last year and clubs turned him down. He’s gone on to score 27 this year and what a season he’s had. We should protect our club and that’s all done with our situations.
“If someone comes in for one of them they won’t be walking out of here cheaply. With an agent on board it’s a different scenario because agents haven’t earned a lot of money this year and they’re trying to recoup that. They’re eager to get some money in their pockets, but we won’t give up our players cheaply.”
As for what we need to add to the squad to help it progress again next season, he told us: “Chris makes the decisions on acquisitions and retentions, and things like that, and I support it.
“This has been designed last year so that we didn’t have to have a massive turnover, which clubs sometimes incur. The deals, we’ve got a number of players we are exercising options on. We have nine, I believe, with Lewi Bell, retained.
“There’s probably 15 per cent turnover, maybe slightly more or slightly less, but I’m in a good place with those situations. There are five further players who are out of contract by their own choice that they didn’t have an option.
“If you go back to Man Utd under Ferguson, we don’t live in that world but it’s great that you have continuity, and I’m trying to provide that. Agents come into the play, and an agent who’s got a player who’s got an option doesn’t like it because he doesn’t get any money out of it.
“Whilst we recruited so well, in terms of our finances and our housekeeping, it’s slightly easier, but we want to improve everything and we’ll see what we can get in terms of retaining but also, yes, we do want a few fresh faces. Every dressing room needs fresh faces, and if they could be a centre forward that gets us 20 goals – well, that would be nice.”