DOF: You always want to provide options

Director of football David Holdsworth spoke more about the mechanics of the January transfer window as the new arrivals continue to bed in and get on with the job of bringing positive results through the remaining games of the season.

“The identification process is important and, as I’ve said previously, Keith had the plan that he shared with the board not long after he took over for the type of player he was looking for,” he said.

“That’s good, because that gives you a profile to target. From there you support the manager as much as you can as players are identified.

“I don’t get involved too much in the identification process, my role is to do what I can to get the deals done so they work for the club and for the manager, his staff and team.

“Of course, the Salford game was an almost immediate example of how football can really throw up challenges.”

“That was unbelievable, wasn’t it, the way those injuries happened and it’s so tough for Keith because it took away the ability to really work with a settled side,” he added.

“Getting to half-time in that game and we were all wondering what could happen next, to be honest. Hindsight is great, and of course if you knew you’d possibly do things differently, but at the end of the window I think we all felt we were in a good place.

“We’d identified Joel, who is a real prospect, and he’s suddenly in the team and coping well because of a long-term injury to Kelvin.

“Then it’s so hard on Joel because he was getting into his stride, I think the fans saw what he was about, and he picked up a bad injury as well. He’ll come back stronger, I have no doubt about that.

“Then we lost our captain and an experienced centre-back, and that would hurt any team. It has, as we know, made it very difficult for Keith to get the settled side he really wants.

“You can plan for what you think is every possibility, you can add options to the squad, as we did, but you can’t ever plan for a scenario like that.”

“The talks we had with Keith included discussions about the right amount of numbers,” he confirmed. “We didn’t want a dressing room of players who would rarely get any game time and who would become disgruntled, but we also wanted to have as much cover as we possibly could.

“Keith identified Dynel Simeu early in the window as a player to add to the group, and thankfully we persevered and pushed to get him here.

“That’s an example of thinking about adding to the options in a key area to cover for eventualities like loss of form or injury, and it’s proved to be the case that we needed to do that.

“We knew we were up against it to get Omari Patrick but, again, we did what was needed. There were other clubs looking at him and there were days when I thought that one had gone away.

“He’s scored three goals since he came back and the fans really respect him, so we’re pleased to have got that one finalised.

“Early on we got Mark Howard done, and he’s one who brings the experience and knowledge that any squad needs.

“I know the final day of any window can appear to be a rush for those looking in as it unfolds, but the deals that are announced late in the day are often the result of a lot of hard work that’s been going on all day, or for days or even weeks.   

“Keith also has a process where he wants to make absolutely sure it’s the right person. He wants to speak to each individual, once given permission by the club he’s at, to talk about his plans and where he sees the player fitting in.

“The frustrating bit can be the paperwork, because everything has to be right, but we were pleased that we managed to get the deals we had on the go over the line for Keith.”

Spoken about in previous interviews has been the club’s scouting network, and the process used to fine-tune the selection of players to be approached.

“What we realise is that every club is structured differently,” he commented. “Some have staff in roles that others don’t utilise, and it’s down to what works best for your club.

“Each position comes at a financial cost, and that’s part of what you factor in when you look at squad numbers and things like that.

“Ideally as part of the process you would want staff to assess a player in real time, and you would also want the manager to have watched him, but if that can’t be the case there are a lot of ways to find out as much as you can about your targets as you work to bring them in.”

It goes without saying that the activity seen during what was a busy month was a consequence of a stuttering start to the season, with the squad lacking confidence as it battled for points.

“Chris [Beech] felt we’d made some key signings in the summer that would allow us to play in a certain way, and with a certain type of approach, and when that falters it can become very difficult, as we’ve seen,” he agreed.

“Results and performances led to the change that was made, and from there you have to try to pick up and make it work, perhaps in a different way.

“Like I say, players were brought in to suit a style, and it didn’t work. It’s very difficult for a new manager coming in - with that job of lifting things to do - because it’s a squad that is low in confidence and fragile, and that means they aren’t playing to their maximum.

“That made it a tough spell for Keith leading up to the window, and part of the process of him looking at his squad post-January was identifying those already here who he would want to move on.

“If players aren’t going to be playing it can be another negative influence on the squad, so you try to help with that as well. You need the group to be in as good a place as it possibly can be, so you do whatever is needed to achieve that.”

Heading into August there was a message that the squad was stronger and poised to pounce, which made it even more frustrating that results weren’t going our way.

“I had many discussions with the manager at the time in pre-season about how he wanted to tweak the way we were playing,” he explained. “The job for every single one of us is to support the manager and the aims and objectives he has for the squad.

“I worked extremely hard to get Zach Clough, for example, we did well to get him, and I think everybody recognised that. He looked settled in pre-season and Chris thought it was going to be a great fit.

“It didn’t turn out that way, he said himself that he’d found that League Two didn’t suit him, and that’s just how it goes sometimes.

“He didn’t expect that, we didn’t expect that, so all you can do is try to fix things as quickly as you can.

“We wish him every success in Australia, and we certainly wouldn’t criticise him because it didn’t work out here, it’s just how football is sometimes.”

Just before the appointment of Keith Millen the club was dipping in form, with the focus very much directed on pushing forward through what was a very difficult spell.

“We were all frustrated that it didn’t work out for Chris and with how things were going, nobody at the club wanted us to be struggling,” he commented.

“We fully understand where we are at all times, and we take that very seriously, but we have to be positive and show support to our team and coaching staff.

“Let’s be clear, I don’t want this club to be anywhere near where it was then, or where it is now.

“That’s why every manager gets as much support and backing as we can give, with players, recruitment, operational details, all kinds of things.

“The players they want and the training and organisation they do is down to them, and we will be behind them with every decision they make, if it’s for the good of the club.”

“Looking forward, our focus has to be on getting the points we need,” he concluded.

“The board recognises the vast amount of experience he brings to his role, and we all know that he and his staff are fully aware of what they need to do.

“They’ve got to work hard on the training ground and find the formula that will get points. We’re fully behind Keith and once the new players fully settle and some of the injured players are back, we think we’ll be putting a team out there that will do Carlisle United proud.”

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