United’s director of football David Holdsworth sat with the local press ahead of kick-off on Saturday to talk all things transfer window, with the summer 2021 version having just closed.
Speaking first about the shape of the squad coming out of the busy summer period, he said: “Healthy. It was hard up to literally minutes before it closed, because of certain situations at other clubs we were dependent on.
“George Tanner leaving of course was hard, but fine. We’ve dealt with that very,very well in my opinion. I think Chris had his choices, he had a number of players over this period of time, and he’s got what he wanted.
“No manager wants to lose players but that was the situation and you have to be pragmatic and support the manager, which we’ve done throughout.”
“Our dealings at the end were late,” he continued. “We got let down in the afternoon, somebody else made a decision on another player, then another player, then one was playing Tuesday night and that changed because the player took a knock, and you don’t want to bring an injured player in.
“The one we’ve got, he’s very bright. Through one of my contacts we managed to get contact with Arsenal and I’m delighted he’s through the door. I didn’t think we’d get him, it was all hands to the pump late on, media team, Sarah McKnight, and we were hoping we got the deal done, and thankfully we did.
“Sarah, I know it was her little girl’s birthday as well, bless her, she’s fantastic, as are all the staff. I thank them for their support, we had to do what we had to do. Chris has mentioned it, other clubs don’t perhaps get their targets and you have to go to Plan B, Plan C and find the best solution.”
Part of the concern for the club’s fans was seeing players leave, for undisclosed fees, when it was perhaps felt that more should have been done to get them to stay.
“I understand people asking that question,” he said. “All I’ll say to you, and this has got to be considered, is when a player asks to leave, and all those deals that have gone on, I’ve spoken to every player prior to his departure, most of them have been offered improved deals before they left, that goes back to McCarron and Galloway, every player has been asked if they were sure you want to depart.
“Once a player asks to leave, and every one of those has said to me ‘David, I’d like the opportunity’ then you have a different scenario. Aaron Hayden came to me recently and said that, and George, he’s a good lad, he told me he wanted to go and have an opportunity to play in the Championship.
“With respect I then have to do what I do, which is get the best amount of money, opportunity and scenario for Carlisle United, and I know – it has to remain private, that’s confidential in any agreement – that we have maximised everything in those deals.
“Every one of those players who departed wanted to leave and take up the new opportunity. McCarron is now on the verge of getting a start, which we will benefit from if he starts for Leeds. Branthwaite, thank goodness, because this club would probably be in a different place. Am I happy about it, yeah, because I’ve maximised everything and the board know that.”
And on the subject of the undisclosed transfer amounts, he added: “I’d love to tell you how much they were because it might get me a pat on the back.
“That’s the way clubs are dealing with things right now. I don’t know, it’s not a game of one-upmanship, but it is the way of the world at the moment. I’d be over the moon to tell everybody, because it means everybody would know how much I’ve brought into the club in all those deals, and it’s made the club stable.
“Unfortunately it’s the way of the world. It’s confidential. I don’t know whether clubs want to reveal their private circumstances. There’s a couple of clubs out there if they informed other clubs how much money they’ve got, maybe another nought goes on the end of something.
“I didn’t make the rules, I do know what every deal is to the pound, it's what I enjoy doing. All I can say to the supporters is it is confidential, it is in writing and is an agreement both clubs end up coming to.
“I used to think it was a super-strength, Birmingham City got the first £1m player – brilliant, they announced it. But it’s in there now. It might become more transparent but it does when you go to Companies House at the end of the year, and when each club deals with agents.
“That should be healthy, why not – I’d be over the moon for that. It’s in there now and it may change, but when the books are filed, you’d like to think they’re transparent and other clubs reveal what they’re spending.”
With speculation and rumours about the size of each deal, the obvious follow-up question is to ask if any of that cash received will be or could have been spent on incoming players.
“We spent money on Gibson,” he confirmed. “It wasn’t £1m or anything like that. Do you get value for money or go out and actively say, ‘Oh we’ve spent £300k on a player that isn’t worth that’.
“To have good brinkmanship for your club is important to me so we don’t get taken on or spend money unwisely, because there’s lots of opinions out there and they can stay as opinions from people, and if you value them, great.
“My opinion is we pay for what we do. If Chris Beech says ‘David, I want to buy a Mullin’ and we need to spend £100k, I’ll ask the board, no problem. Chris has got his targets and some of them, Gibson included, we had to pay for, which is fine.
“You’ve got to protect your club. I agree with the fans, there’s no problem. If we get to Christmas and we’re in a healthy place, like last year, I brought in five players on good money. Did they turn out to be really successful, no, not in my opinion, because we didn’t get our ultimate goal, because we didn’t make the play-offs and get promoted.
“We’d have loved to have done that. I expected to and I know Chris Beech goes on about the monetary part of it, but we were in a really good situation, unfortunately when the club got hit with the disease it did suffer.
“Trust me, if I need to ask that question, if it’s £100k or whatever it may be, I’ll ask that question, because I know we’ve got funds.
“That’s what I will do if we feel it’s necessary. Chris will get support, no problem whatsoever. I think if we can be in the mix and working our socks off, with a tiny bit of luck along the way, then we’ve got a very good squad here.
“If we have to add to it, we’ll do that, because I want to be in the same position we were in last Christmas. That was a real joy, and we didn’t get there by luck. It was through hard work and teams feared us, so we have to try to find that again.”
“I can assure you that if we feel we need to spend we will and we can,” he continued. “We can use whatever we get given to bring people in. If Chris wants extra we’ll find it, as we did last Christmas.
“That’s what we do and that’s what I do, because I want us to be successful. Nobody in this club expected the dip when that came, and that came for various good and understandable reasons, but now we’re back and the club is in a good place. I want this club to be a success.
“Liverpool have been criticised this year for not spending Ronaldo type money, or whatever money. We’re in a healthy place. I can offer those new contracts. Some have been rewarded already, to stay, and they know where their futures are. I want that to continue.
“Chris Beech and the team have got to perform, and if they do they’ll be rewarded. That’s the way of the jungle in my opinion. That’s not politics, that’s the truth. If someone deserves it they’ll get their new deals, I don’t have a problem with that.
“I understand fans always want more and I have total respect for what they want. Nobody wants Carlisle to get promoted more than me. I know Andrew Jenkins, who’s been here 61 years in his tenureship, supporters have been here a lot longer than I have been.
“I do know this club can go places if it’s run properly, and educating people, improving circumstances is something I try to every day. We look after players very well. Little investments go a long way. I do respect it.
“If there’s a player at Christmastime Chris needs, I’ll ask that question. I feel Chris has got the players he wants. Zach Clough is a very good player, Tristan a very good centre-forward. We’ve managed to bring in players who Chris wanted – that’s the bottom line.”
And a conundrum for many clubs coming out of what has been a hugely difficult financial situation, caused by the Covid pandemic, has been the need to marry the perception of ambition with the need to keep the club on an even keel.
“Look, it’s very difficult because everybody wants to be in the top two, three, four, five six or seven,” he said. “You do get bumps in the road, minor disruptions, and you deal with them.
“That’s why I do what I do and I enjoy it. It’s not always easy and it sometimes isn’t that pleasurable, to be honest, but you roll your sleeves up and you try to do your best for the community, for the supporters who have supported us through a horrible time, and that support is fantastic.
“It’s great to see the kit with Thomas Graham on it, and we thank Roger Smith for that, and it’s support like that which means so much to us. That’s why we demand that our players go out and roll their sleeves up, for those people, for our fans.
“I hope, like them, that Chris can find the team’s mojo. I think they’re a very honest bunch, they’ll wear the shirt with pride, Chris does, Chris now has got to find that mojo and get that blend he feels is right. That’s his responsibility, that’s nothing to do with me at the end of the day.
“I’ve made sure he’s got people in that he needed in, that he wanted in, and we’re delighted with the work we’ve done. I hope they find their rhythm and progress from there. It’s easy for everybody to think outside but when you’re in there, he’s got to find that blend, and I’m sure he’ll work his socks off to do that.”
And on succession or whether or not the money coming in will be used to service the club debt, he concluded: “Like you, I hear certain things, but I’m really not the person who can give you those answers, because I’m not on the Holdings board or involved in those conversations.
“I’m purely focused on the deals that have been done and the way forward for Carlisle United, and we do hope it’s a healthy one.
“I would love to tell you and give you the answer. I actually can’t. I’m not a board member. It would have to come from that area. All I’ve done is maximise every deal we’ve had and I know all the funds are healthy.
“I’m not ducking it and I want supporters to know that, but it’s not my place or in my remit, and I don’t have those answers.”
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