United’s first-team captain will lay a wreath in the centre circle at Valley Parade ahead of kick-off on Saturday afternoon as we join the Bantams in remembering the tragedy of 37-years ago, and in particular those who lost their lives, and the families and loved ones who were left behind following that terrible event.
“I would imagine it’s going to be a really emotional day, with us all remembering those who have suffered and who lost their lives,” manager Paul Simpson said. “We have to pay our respects to them and we’ll be laying a wreath on the pitch in memory of the people who suffered in the fire.
“Once that’s dealt with I hope the players all put on a performance that’s respectful to what’s gone on before. I’m hoping everybody who turns up has seen a great game of football.
“It is important that we remember the tragedy and the impact it had on so many families and individuals. That’s why I hope the game is a fitting part of the day.
“It doesn’t matter if the result doesn’t affect anything, I still want a really big performance. I want us to go out there and show everybody we’re quite serious about what we want to do.
“I’ve told the players, if you don’t perform Saturday it makes it a really long spell until your next chance to show people what you can do, and it’s horrible.
“We’ve got a great opportunity to finish the season well, give our fans something to shout about. I talked to them at Oldham about having a picture in your mind about celebrating at the end of a game.
“I still remember the scenes when Morgan’s header went in and the celebrating, it’s a real big thing. If we can be walking off the pitch in front of 1,700 or more of ours and they’re still celebrating, that will be a really nice feeling to take on our summer holidays.”
But the preparation for the game was very much done on a trust basis, as the squad was given recovery time through the first part of this week.
“As a professional you just have to be focused, it’s your job,” he commented. “Unfortunately I don’t have a magic tablet that I can give them, and I don’t have any of them gel supplements that give you focus and confidence.
“All of that comes from within. If you’re a professional in the way you go about your life it’s not an issue. You should do your own stuff.
“When I was at Blackpool Steve McMahon would tell us after a Saturday game that he didn’t want to see us again until Thursday, and I certainly didn’t sit at home twiddling my thumbs and doing nothing for the next few days.
“I went to the gym, I went for runs and I went walking with my family, and stuff like that. You have to prepare yourself properly. I’m hoping that’s what they’ve done this week.
“I could have them in training every day and we might have been rubbish on Saturday, so you can’t guess these things at all. I’m the same with Christmas Day, I’ve been in and I’ve been off, and it doesn’t make any difference to the result.
“It’s how they go about it and it’s what they do on Boxing Day that matters. When we come to that game on Saturday I expect every single player to be absolutely bang on, whatever their bang on happens to be.
“If you’re a footballer be on it, if you’re a tackler make it happen, and if you’re a runner cover the ground. You have to be at the top of whatever your game is this weekend and that’s the challenge they have to set for themselves.”
A cause of some friendly banter ahead of the game at Brunton Park earlier in the season were the number of players in both squads who had played for both clubs.
“I think you always want to go and do well because there’s nothing worse than going back to your former club and not performing to your level,” the manager told us. “I always think that some players try too hard when they go back to certain places, but they should remember that they don’t have anything to prove.
“You’ve just got to go and do your stuff. I hope nobody feels they do have anything to prove, other than to themselves.
“As a footballer you’re competing against others, but the biggest competition is with yourself and making sure that you do your stuff right.
“I hope those going back do everything they can to make it a positive return to their former club, and I also hope that the Bradford lads who were here over-try and it’s not their day.”
With pay on the day now available, there could be close to 2,000 Carlisle fans roaring their side on, with the new ‘Simmo is King’ flag as also due to be in attendance.
“I’m not surprised with the support again, it’s magnificent what they’re doing and the following we’re getting,” he agreed. “We’ve got to make sure we go and perform.
“They had a really strong performance at Sutton, Mark Hughes hasn’t gone in there to be a mid-table team. They’re going to be trying to compete at the top end of the table, just like we are.
“It will be a really good challenge. I’ll be honest, I never thought I’d be in the opposite dugout to a fantastic manager like Mark Hughes at a League Two fixture, but I’m looking forward to it and hopefully the players will be as well, and we’ll come out on top.
“But what a fantastic career he’s had as a player, he was an incredible footballer. He’s had a really good career as a manager as well.
“I think he’s had some really bad press because he’s done so well. He’s very, very professional and he’s a real thinker in the way he goes about it. I’m looking forward to meeting up with him and Glynn Hodges, his assistant, and let’s hope little Paul Simpson’s career comes out on top of big Mark Hughes’s career.
“I played against him a few times and I never won. He used to smash us all over the place when he was with Manchester United, but he was a great player. He’s a really nice bloke as well.
“When I was working in Portugal he was one of the main investors in the company who was out there and his son Alex was one of our recruitment guys.
“I came across Mark a few times and he’s a brilliant bloke. We had a group of 16 to 19-year-old players with us and he was so level when he came and spoke to them, which was great for them.
“I was surprised when he went to Bradford, it just goes to show how hard it is for people to get back into managerial roles, when somebody like Mark who’d worked all the time at the top end at his playing and managerial career, so fair play to him.
“He was probably doing the same as me. I read an article where he was playing golf, but I was probably more watching Gillette Soccer Saturday.
“He wanted to get out, he had two or three years where he spent some time with his family, and you realise that people don’t come knocking every other day with a really nice job, sometimes you have to take a bit of a punt and gamble, and I say fair play to him.
“I’m expecting a very open game, I think the way they play they’re very attack minded. They have two full-backs who bomb forward, there are areas we can exploit.
“They’ve got good forward players with Angol and Andy Cook, he came on as a sub, they’ve got wide players who are effective.
“It’s going to be a really open game. We are going to go and attack, so I’m hoping it’s going to be a bit of a mud sling and we can come out the cleanest and get a result.”
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