A stat released in graphic form at the back end of last week showed that Carlisle United was the club to have made most progress in terms of league position across all divisions over the course of the last 12-months.
And that period, of course, has coincided with the arrival of new manager Chris Beech, who was appointed in the lead-up to Christmas 2020 with the club in need of some kind of a shot in the arm.
Speaking about the progress that’s been made, director of football David Holdsworth said: “We’re obviously delighted with it, but not surprised.
“I had meetings with Chris prior to his arrival when we were looking at options for the club and board to consider. Strong-minded, dedicated, high morals, straightforward, and with the support and recognition of the recruitment side.
“Chris wanted a profile of each player, we worked hard to get them for the right money, the right terms, on my terms, and these players have been outstanding. I’ve been really pleased with Chris and we’ve supported that with an extended deal.
“Everything we try to do is success related, and we’ve been successful on what we’ve done so far, long may that continue.”
But is the fact that the club is currently deservedly jockeying for places in the top three, have the steps that have been taken brought us further than expected?
“Let’s start on the budget, it is what it is, and Chris knew that when I informed him about it when we had our preliminary meeting,” he responded. “There’s no surprises for anybody on that. Given what we had, we started to pick up after a long lay-off with a group of players who didn’t know each other very well.
“The start to the season was hard, but we got through that and people started to see what Chris could do. Everyone is now buying into his style of play, his organisation, and we’re seeing a very creative style of football.
“The amount of corners and shots on target makes it exciting to watch. It’s just a shame the supporters haven’t been able to collectively come and see us.
“Has he overachieved – no. I did my homework on him and I knew that he was going to be successful in terms of the way he would play football in this league, and Chris has put everything we talked about into motion.
“The biggest part for me is that the players have followed him and we’re seeing a brand of football that’s conducive to winning. Our home form has been outstanding and we’re doing very well.
“From where we were three years ago, we’ve got rid of a lot of the barriers we had back then and we can now see how we can progress within the pathway we want to take. Overall I’m delighted, but there’s still a lot more to come and a lot of football still to be played. Everybody is just really pleased with where we are.”
And every game played brings with it an expectation of high energy, attacking football and chances created.
“When you’re going into games and crossing your fingers and hoping, it’s not very nice,” he agreed. “What we have now with the belief of the manager and the staff, and the respect the players are paying to the club, we are now involved in every game.
“I know when we turn up I’m not going to need to cross my fingers any more. The players have been magnificent in following and listening to the manager and I know we’re going to get a wholehearted lot of desire, lots of chances, goals, a competitive edge and leadership. That’s what we want from our football club.”
“It’s all about a change in mindset,” he commented. “We’re going into the zone of can we do it, should we do it – if it’s possible, and if we can’t, we go into siege mentality, and say do you know what, we’ll roll our sleeves up.
“That’s the spirit you’ve got inside this club. Let’s go to battle if we have to go into battle, with what we’ve got, and we’ll do our best. Our players are together, they know the consequences of what the next game presents, and also the next 20-odd games going into the final part of the season, leading up to what could be a very exciting time.”
So, looking again at the transfer window, how much work are we likely to see with the club looking up the way, rather than having to recruit with a scrap to survive at the forefront of the mind.
“We don’t need to do too much,” he said. “The only thing that might put a dent in that is promotion, that’s when you have to have an eye on the consequences of what possibilities might face myself, the club and manager.
“If you look at our squad in this window, everybody wanted us to keep Bennett, we’ve done the business we needed to do to get there, and I think that gave everybody a lift.
“If we can add a couple more to support Chris that would be great business for us. It’s only really because of the situation in the world that I think I should support him a little bit more. We don’t want to fall short, not through the willingness of managing the opportunity, we’ve supported him a billion per cent, I’m tyring to do that extra bit to give him that support.
“The squad itself is generally, 93 or 94 per cent clear in terms of I can extend players for next season. Without being a full mathematician, I would find it easier, but go back two years and there were players on contracts that weren’t befitting the money we had at the club, which has been well versed and I don’t really want to go over it again, but the fact is that needed to be cleared, and it is clear.
“We’ve been able to add, without adding risk, we’re on a budget that’s nowhere near anybody else at the top end but we’ve managed to be successful with it, and that’s key to protecting the club, the finances and the future.”
“For other players, new contracts, that’s difficult when you’re going into a position of ‘what league are you in? What league could we be in?’
“If we are successful, a lot of those boys have already got pre-deals done that I’ve put into their contracts so, if we do go up, I still know the expenditure going out – that’s just planning, good housekeeping.
“When you’re planning to go ahead, I already have a profile of what we may need, that may be whether a player stays or if we do the unimaginable, perhaps overachieve and do that step up, which is not beyond the realms of thinking about it or believing in it. There’s a distinct possibility these players could continue this amazing form they’re in and they do get the reward they all deserve.”