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DOF: The nature of the beast

David Holdsworth on what was a difficult call to make

14 October 2021

Parting ways with a head coach or manager is never an easy thing to do, whatever the circumstance, and director of football David Holdsworth admitted this week that his call to outgoing boss Chris Beech had not been an easy one to make.

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“Chris Beech is a good guy,” he said. “I don’t think we’ve fallen out in the two years he’s been here.

“We’ve had some words, like the guys here on the radio and press have mentioned about my input, I’m a supporter of people at the end of the day.

“I want people to be successful, I’m not interested in thinking about the other way, it’s not going to happen. 

“So making that call was horrible. I expressed my views on it, I didn’t want to be making that call, it ruined my day. All Saturday night I’m thinking of what can we do to change that.

“It was a board decision and I made the call, it wasn’t one I wanted to make. I’m sorry it happened. Anybody that knows Andrew Jenkins knows that he doesn’t want to make changes unless it’s absolutely necessary.

“Unfortunately the results haven’t gone how we wanted them to. The board had obviously had words, and came up with a conclusion that it was the right decision, given the result on Saturday after a run of form that wasn’t conducive to what we wanted, what the plan was, and unfortunately it resulted in Chris departing.”

“It is down to results, it’s simple, really, unfortunately,” he added. “I mean it sincerely, Chris Beech is a really good guy. It’s not a phone call I wanted to make at the weekend. Chris worked really, really hard in this job.

“But like everybody knows in football, it hasn’t gone as well as Chris would have liked, or as well as the board and supporters would have liked. We find ourselves here and it’s unfortunate.

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“I must say I think will have learned a great deal, being his first appointment as a manager, but he’s gained a lot of kudos and unfortunately on the flipside when results don’t go well, you do have to consider that, and we had to make the change. 

“He did get a good break with us. I think we’ve showed a lot of different aspects when we went down the road of appointing a manager that was untried, if you like. There was a lot of support for that.

“As you find out, and I find out every day, when you’re finding applications, there are many people that have been on that merry-go-round, and I think that’s why we gained a lot of success, if you like, in the first term Chris came in.

“He showed so much enthusiasm, and pride in his ways, and did a very good job. It’s only nine months ago we were sitting at the top of the league. It shows how times change, it can go wrong, decisions are made and you have to do that change.

“Chris will learn from things, will learn about players, and I’m sure I will meet up with him in the near future and have a discussion on where I believe he may improve, and I’m sure he’ll take that on board because he’s an intelligent man. 

“He’ll learn about trust. I’ve been there, seen it, done it, you find out who you can trust, it will be interesting to see the ones he may sign again if he gets that opportunity in the future.

“I think over the journey there’s been a number of players he’s been very successful with, and maybe one or two Chris might find he may be disappointed in. Chris can only acknowledge that and give his own view.

“From my point of view, I think it’s something all managers will have learned from. You generally find there are one or two players every manager signs, all the time. It’s called trust. 

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“I think some of the players have to acknowledge that they let him down in terms of performances. We were sat here 40 days ago and the squad beat Salford that day. Performances, for whatever reason, and I don’t want to delve too much into that, it’s private for Chris to consider, the objective was to do better.

“During this period Chris will have learned about that trust element he felt could have perhaps done more. 

“When people come in for our players - we don’t pay the biggest money. It doesn’t matter about pay really. Morecambe have done brilliantly, gone forward with a lower budget in the league and been successful. It’s the right implementation of the team and system. That’s where it’s not delivered.

“I’ve had some really strong conversations this week with a few of the players who I feel did let Chris down. That can remain private. But they know, you don’t come to Carlisle for a holiday but to work hard, you represent the club, want to put that badge on and wear it with pride.

“The fans expect it, I expect it, I worked very hard on doing those deals for the right monies. If they’ve let Chris down they will know. It’s that trust, Chris is a believer in it, his morals as a good, strong northern person, and they have let him down, some of them.”

“There’s a lot of managers out there who’ve been sacked after a lot less time,” he continued. “Was Chris Beech a failure? No. He brought some very good times here.

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“Is he unfortunate to be sacked, yes. That’s the nature of the beast when you take that manager’s job, you are governed by results. At the highest level in football you have some very high-profile and wealthy people, and they make those changes quite consistently.

“There are a lot of clubs in the Championship who have parted with managers after three months, six months. I think a manager’s lifescale is a 12-month period, I believe. Chris has been here a fair point more than that, tjhree windows where he’s been able to invest in the players he wanted.”

Speaking more about the need for accountability when a club finds itself in this situation, he said: “I really don’t want to be in this press conference today, I’d rather be out there assisting Gavin Skelton. But we have to be accountable.

“And the club is accountable in terms of that, must be accountable. We don’t want to be sat here again in six months. We’ve got a period coming up, if we go with Gavin or we find the opportunity to bring in someone we believe in going forward, they’ll have two windows, and every manager wants to make a tweak, build his team.

“There’s a very good bunch of players here. People have suggested there’s been no longevity, but we retained 86per cent of our squad last season and wanted to take it forward, that was credit to Chris.

“The key is who you bring in, not everybody gets it right. We don’t want to be in this position again, we want to find someone who can build a team that can challenge for promotion. 

“But in terms of players, I’ve said it about 5000 times, I don’t pick the players. If anybody’s got an idea they’re my players – they’re not, they’re Chris Beech’s and the club’s players. I don’t pick the players. Trust me on that.

“If it was my team it would be a completely different set-up. I don’t pick the players. I do the deals within the financial constraints this club has and with a method that makes this club successful.

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“I have an idea, but it doesn’t matter what my idea is, it’s about the manager that comes in being able to implement that. Last year we were very successful playing a certain brand of football and that’s the way forward.”

When asked if it was the director of football’s role to ensure that everyone was on the same path, he said: “I have to choose my words here quite carefully. When a manager, and when you get these interviews, and a picture is painted, and without naming names here, when someone paints a picture to you and delivers that picture and it’s a profile of what you think – yeah, happy days, this guy knows what League Two is about – and then doesn’t deliver that, and you make changes but still believe he’s the right person, it’s very difficult to change those people, because the manager will say David’s changing the team, David’s doing this, and I do nothing like that.

“I support the manager financially, and they’re not my teams. But when a manager changes that, and I can’t go into a name, that’s happened to be the case. The method changed overnight. I’m sitting there in disbelief and so are the board.

“You try to give that imprint but when a manager says this is the guy I want, and if he turns round in the press and says David’s changed it, David’s done this, it’s not the case. We support each manager that’s been through here and you hope they pick the right players, they tell you they’re going to give you the method to get out of this league.

“I’ve heard it before, many times, and I’ll hear it again in the next few weeks. Sadly if people change the way they pick their players I can’t do anything about it. Does it frustrate me? One billion per cent.”

“And I’m not talking about Chris Beech. I’m talking about a hypothetical situation that can happen. If you open my phone I’ll give you a page of dribble that one person gave me, and if we’d employed him we’d be relegated.

“I can only tell you the facts. When someone tells you they’re going to play a certain way, says this is League Two football, and when you do your hiring, and it takes you the whole summer to hire a player, it can get frustrating.”

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“Let’s mention Chris,” he commented. “Chris is a good guy and won’t mind me saying this. When Chris Beech came to Carlisle United, he was able to implement his full team, and get the players he wanted, we got some very good loan signings in.

“And I don’t think anybody in Carlisle United didn’t want Chris Beech to have a new deal, which you guys would have supported I’m sure, and he was given that based on the facts that we were winning football matches.

“When that was going wrong, was that my fault? I don’t pick the team. I support, we gave Chris the opportunity to bring in five players at Christmas when we were top of the league, how many clubs do that?

“Successful ones, it didn’t go right and we finished outside the play-offs. You can implement the style, I’ve just told you the style, I believe I know what we need, but they’re not going to be my players. Every manager wants their own players. Does Carlisle United Football Club support that, does the director of football support that, yes, 100 per cent.

“When you’re hiring a young manager, who thinks I can bring in a certain type of player that can make us better, is it conducive to League Two football? That question might be raised. But a manager will always say David, I believe I can get the best out of that player.

“If a manager changes his tune and says I’m going to start playing out from the back, and playing tippy tappy football, the first people who are going to moan at him are the people in the Paddock, it’s not the brand of football that’s conducive for League Two.

“When you’re bringing an opportunity to a manager to say ok, you’ve done really well last year, and we’re going to support you more financially and constructively and give you the brand of people you like, we have to believe that man was the right man for the job. If it doesn’t work out, it’s going to end in one conclusion.”

With fans concerned at the current league position and direction, and looking for collective accountability, he said: “When we talk about objective and subjective, it’s completely different.

“When you’re supporting a guy that was top of the league last year and everybody was happy, where does it go wrong? Unfortunately it goes wrong on the training ground.

“You can support staff, Chris would tell you he’s had every support, as a soundboard, I’ve played quite a lot of games in my life and worked under a certain amount of managers, and you try to support them.

“The credit went to Chris and nobody was moaning about the job I was doing then. When you’ve made the club rather a lot of money and done the job I actually do, then fans might not know that.

“I think you give the manager the support and belief. That’s all you can do. When things are going wrong, the first person he doesn’t want to hear from is me telling him how bad he’s done it on a Saturday night.

“You do have constructive words after the day, because it’s not nice having that conversation when you’ve got the director of football screaming at you down the road, why did you do this or that. If there are things we could support Chris with, we’ve supported him, as we did with Chris and John [Sheridan].

“Form is always the key, and I think the level of performance is what let Chris down. If you come away from Bristol Rovers losing 1-0 but giving everything, the 300 people that travelled down there would have come back with a bit of belief.

“You can come away 3-0 and it paints a different picture. Players know, I addressed them on Monday, Tuesday, and they know they’ve underperformed. Do we believe we’ve got good players in that dressing room - I’ve just signed Callum Guy on a three-year contract, are people going to moan at me about that?

“I suppose some will, some won’t, all you can do is make sure the club has the right type of profile and players. Jon Mellish has been here three years, has my full support, we want to keep the continuity inside the dressing room.

“It’s not been great, there are people who want to question everything, that’s fine, they’re entitled to their opinion. The most important thing is we do pick the right manager and we’ll support him as I will always do, and so will the club.”


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