United boss Paul Simpson was at Gillford Park on Tuesday to run the rule over the Cumberland Cup semi-final, as well as taking the opportunity to see some of the first-team squad in action in a competitive game for the first time.
In the end it was Carlisle City who prevailed, as they overcame a one-goal deficit to secure their place in the April final.
“I was really disappointed that we were knocked out of it,” the manager said. “I wouldn’t say we picked a side to win the game, it was picked to get match minutes for players.
“But, to be perfectly honest, I thought the side we picked would have been enough to win us that game. It wasn’t, and we certainly didn’t approach the second half properly.
“I didn’t really see it as an audition, I saw it as an extension of training to get fit and get match minutes under their belt. Really, it didn’t go as I planned, as I wanted it to.
“Only they can tell me whether or not they worked as hard as they possibly could. My eyes told me one side of it, and maybe even the result tells us a side of it as well.
“I don’t look at it as though people have closed the door on themselves getting in. I’ll make that judgement in training sessions and things I see, when they come on as a substitute and stuff like that.
“They certainly didn’t do themselves any favours in that game, that’s for sure. That should have been a game, especially after going a goal up, we should have grabbed that by the scruff of the neck and strangled the life out of it. Sadly we didn’t and we move on.”
“Unfortunately I think the overriding thing from Tuesday is that three young players have had to be disciplined for a little bit of naivety,” he continued. “I wouldn’t call it stupidity, but it was naïve of them to get involved in something that is part of our life at the moment, but not really a pleasant part of it.
“I felt that as a football club we needed to act. That was my opinion, because it was a mark of disrespect to an opposition. It showed a total lack of humility and that’s not the standard I think you should have as a professional footballer regardless of where you are.
“I’d have been disappointed if a Carlisle City player had put that, but we’re in a really fortunate position to be professionals in this game, so to have that lack of respect wasn’t right. If I’m going to be honest, that’s my biggest disappointment from the night.”
When asked if it was an indication of the level the bar has been set in terms of standards, he told us: “Should it just be in football, or is it in life?
“I don’t care if you’re a footballer or whether you work in an office, or wherever, you have to have standards that show respect. I think it’s just about being a good person.
“I’ve said to the pros today that I think they’ve been a really good bunch of blokes since I came in. They’ve gone about their business properly, and I know there was some negativity surrounding them the weekend before I came in, but they’ve been brilliant from the day I got here.
“That’s all you can ask, and I think it’s a really harsh lesson for three young lads to learn, but it’s one they have to take forward. As a footballer you’re put on a pedestal, rightly or wrongly.
“None of us came into this game to be somebody to look up to, we came into it because we love playing. However, we are put on a pedestal, and that means you’re there to be knocked down.
“You have to go about your life to not give anybody an opportunity to do that. Sadly, on Tuesday night, there were things that went on that allowed people to throw mud at us. I don’t like that.
“Whether I’m here for seven weeks or seven years, it’s not acceptable. That’s the standards I think you have to have as a professional.
“They’ll learn from it, and I hope it’s a big learning experience for them, and that there’s no suffering further down the line.
“Carlisle United Football Club cannot give people the chance to throw things at us and hopefully that’s the last time it happens.”
And he also confirmed that the incident was now the subject of an internal procedure.
“We’re looking into how it all happened,” he commented. “In my opinion it was something which was totally disrespectful to any other football team, it didn’t matter who it was.
“Unfortunately it’s the way the world is at the moment, I totally understand that people live their lives on social media now, but as a footballer you have to accept that if you do something that is out of line, or disrespectful, or lacking humility, it’s going to bite you on the backside.
“Unfortunately for three young players, it’s bitten them on the backside. It will be dealt with internally and I can’t say any more about it at the moment.
“The three lads will probably learn a really valuable lesson, not just about being a footballer, but some really important life skills. The sad thing is, the academy staff do some brilliant work in trying to educate the lads.
“We have people who come in and do workshops on social media usage, discrimination and this sort of stuff, and unfortunately for however long it took them to put that message on and post it, those few moments of madness have put them into a difficult position.
“I hope it doesn’t affect their career long-term, if they have enough ability to have a long career, but I really hope it’s something they learn from.”
“Looking back, I was informed at about 7pm on Tuesday night, which was massively disappointing,” he said. “I look back now and think I maybe should have taken them out of the game, but I didn’t do that because I thought it was too late.
“I then found out on Wednesday morning that it had blown up a little bit more, and I decided we needed to take some action. I spoke to Nigel [Clibbens] at about 8am and asked him his opinion on what I wanted to do, he agreed with me and I passed it onto the academy staff.
“It’s been dealt with professionally and we’ll see what comes when we start making enquiries, but I won’t be involved in that, it’s up to the academy now to see where they go with it.
“The massive disappointment for me is that they’ve let their team mates down because they play Preston this weekend in what could be a title decider, and three of the best young players are going to be missing from the game because they didn’t think something through properly.
“Of course there’s a way back for them, the club will have to decide what route to take and I’m not trying to pre-empt anything, but I don’t think it’s a sackable offence. It's just a lesson they need to learn.”
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