Last Monday’s announcements are always a fraught day for any football club, but at the forefront of the mind for manager Paul Simpson wasn’t so much that it was the end of a season, more that it was the first step towards the next one and, hopefully, to better times ahead.
“It feels like it’s the start of something exciting, and I really hope that’s the case,” he said. “I said last week, it really isn’t a pleasant day in a manager’s season when you’re letting people go, but what I would say is that it’s part and parcel of football, and it has to be done.
“I don’t have fun doing it, it isn’t nice when you’re doing it, so all I ever try to do is be honest. I don’t think players want me to explain the nitty gritty of why I’ve made those decisions, even though every now and then they do ask.
“The truth of it is they just want to know if it’s a yes or a no. If it’s a yes, they want to know what the contract is, and if it’s a no you shake their hands and wish them all the very best.
“That really was the level of conversations I had when I spoke to the players. Three of them I had to do over the phone, because two were ill, and that’s not ideal, and Manny was down south.
“We do it, and it gives us not so much a clean slate, but an opportunity now to change the squad and hopefully improve it to take us to bigger and better things.”
With that part of it done, it’s now fair to say that anyone with any affiliation at all to the club is in constant device refresh mode as they await news of new arrivals.
“My only focus at the moment is trying to get as many of them as I can into the building by 22 June,” he confirmed. “I don’t think any of this happens overnight, and I’m certainly not in a situation now where I’m already talking to anyone.
“Greg was in for his first week last week, so we’re compiling targets to meet our criteria, and we’ll start to work from there.
“We have our main positions and types to focus on, and we’ll narrow the initial list down to a target list.
“That’s being put in place as we speak, and I’d like to think we’ll be thrashing through a more targeted list once we get into this week.”
“Getting the guts of the squad together, I think I want it done as early as possible,” he added. “I can’t say I’ve already started assembling.
“One thing I have done is dismantled, so I’ve cleared the way and we’re in a situation where we’ve made offers to players that I won’t know the answer possibly until the end of May, which is the period them been given to consider the offers.
“I have to be patient on that. I’ve already got areas I know I want to do as soon as possible. One thing I would say is I’m not going to make a knee-jerk reaction. I’m not going to rush into it. I have to make sure it’s right.
“As we go through pre-season and get to the end of the transfer window, then we’ll be in a position where we can have a good start to the season, then also look at what we might be doing in January, optimistically thinking ahead to what we’re going to be doing next summer, and everything will become a lot clearer as we work through the summer months.”
But does the narrowing down of targets mean that specific types of players are being looked at, or are adaptability and flexibility a priority?
“There’s a plan in place, but we’re not going to just put people into one box and say you have to be that box,” he replied. “It might be experienced players to come and fill it on a permanent role, it might be young players to fill a permanent role, it might be young, emerging talent to come in as a loan and we help part of their development by giving them the chance to play.
“The one thing I do want to do is bring players in that are going to improve us. It’s as simple as that. I want an athletic squad, I want a team who can play football, I want goal scorers, I want all of the basics you need to be successful as a football club.
“Whatever that takes within our budget, that’s what we’ll try to do. You’ve got to have a mix of everything, players who can deal with playing in front of a crowd, players who are resilient and robust enough to deal with the setbacks that are going to come our way.
“I want good footballers, athletic footballers, and I just want to get people who are going to improve us. That’s my thought process.
“Whether they be experienced, and it’s a short-term one for us, or a loan, or if it’s a young, up and coming hungry footballer, that’s what I want to try and get for Carlisle United.
“If we have a group of players who will wear their hearts on their sleeve, and run and run, I think our fans will respond to that and come and watch it.”
Often in the past we’ve heard that players have turned down good offers based on location, with distances to be travelled a factor in the thoughts as options are being contemplated.
“It can be a problem, but if I go back to years and years ago when Bob Stokoe was manager of Carlisle United, I’m sure it was even more difficult in those days,” he insisted. “In our country we’ve got a fantastic transport network, whether it be trains or motorways.
“Footballers have all got nice cars now, it’s not an issue. If they want to come, footballers will come. What we’ve got to do is make sure they realise what we want to achieve as a football club, we’ve also got to achieve something as a football club, and if we’re doing that I don’t think we’ll have any problems attracting players to come here.
“What we’ve done is made offers to players I feel can help us moving forward. With some additions I want to make over the summer I believe we could have a good group.
“What I don’t want to do is collect players for the sake of it. This season I don’t think we had enough players I could call genuine starters, and I want to get a group where I think every one of them could start the game for us.
“When I look at the bench I want to be able to see players who can go on and do the same or make us better again. I haven’t been in that position as we’ve gone through these 15 games and that’s why we must make things better.”