Every manager says the same thing when it comes to that time of the year where the retained and released list has to be announced – it’s necessary, but it’s horrible.
That was even more the case for Carlisle boss Paul Simpson today, when he sat down with his group, with the extreme high of a Wembley win and promotion to League One still very fresh in the memory.
“It isn’t a nice thing when you’re talking about letting players go but it’s the normal order that goes on at the end of the season, and we’re in a position as a football club where we’re trying to improve and get better,” he said.
“We’ve done absolutely fantastic this season to take ourselves to the next level, and that’s going to be a real challenge for us now that we’re there. I’ve had to make some tough decisions, we’ve discussed it all as a group of staff, and I’ve made the final call on it.
“Some players who were involved at the weekend in what was a brilliant day for everybody connected with the club unfortunately will be leaving us, and that’s just the nature of football. It’s about trying to keep on moving forward as well as we possibly can.”
“The work started on Sunday night,” he added. “Myself and Greg sat with a beer talking about what could and couldn’t be done. I then had to have a meeting with a player on Monday morning in the hotel to let them know I wasn’t going to be retaining them.
“I went from cloud nine to being low as a snake’s belly having to make those decisions but it’s the nature of the game.
“I think when we were back at the hotel on Sunday night it sort of hit me that I had to do this ugly part of the game. I’ve been a manager for long enough and I know this is how it goes.
“I know it isn’t pleasant, and I actually say it as an apology when I’m speaking to the players. I thank them for what they’ve done because they’ve all played a major part in it, but all decisions are made for what I think is best for this football club.
“None of them are made for personal reasons, certainly not for my personal reasons, or because there’s any dislike of any individual, it’s because I want players who I believe are going to help take us forward.
“There are no guarantees that I’ve made the right calls, but I have to do what I think is right. And things were set in place before Sunday.
“I think the fact that we’ve gone up to League One made me realise that we might have an opportunity to get a better level of player. We had two different scenarios, a League Two scenario and a League One scenario, thankfully it’s the second one that we’re looking at now.
“We’ve dealt with this first part, letting the players know where they stand, and we obviously have a period of time where we now have to wait to see whether the players offered have accepted their deals, or if there’s room for negotiation and we get to a level they want.
“It’s always the case that players feel they’re worth more than we’ve offered, they always feel as though they’re probably worth more than we can actually afford to pay them.
“It’s then down to how much they want to be part of it how much they enjoy playing here and how much they think they’re going to play for us. I hope they all agree to stay and we can then move forward as quickly as possible and start then slotting the new signings in around that.”
Explaining the process for players who have been offered new deals (Taylor Charters, Kris Dennis, Morgan Feeney, Omari Patrick) he said: “They have seven days to make a decision.
“Our season was extended, obviously, and there’s nothing in the rules that say I couldn’t have given them 24 hours, but we’ve given them seven days, and I think we’re being fair.
“What I don’t like, and I know it happens, is that they get their offer X from us and they go and see if they can get XX or XXX from somewhere else, and they use our figure to tout around.
“I know that’s the nature of the game, that’s how it happens, but they have the seven days and if the answer is no we’ll move on.
“We have to do that, we can’t stand still as a football club, we have to keep trying to take ourselves forward. We now have to see what happens over the course of the next week with that.”
“And, as I’ve said to all four of them, I haven’t made an offer just for the sake of it, I’ve made it because I think they can play a part for us,” he continued. “I will be disappointed if they say no, but the truth is we can’t do anything about it.
“I don’t believe you can control everything, we can only control what we’re able to do. It will come down to finance, that’s the top and bottom of it. Everybody knows that as a football club we haven’t got bundles of cash.
“We do not have the finances that other clubs might have. If these players get a better offer, and we can’t compete with it, then we’ll have to just shake their hands and wish them well. There’s no point bleating about things you can’t affect.
“We are where we are and the board of directors will do everything they possibly can to give us a squad of players that’s going to be able to hold its own in the league. That will probably become a little bit clearer over the next week or two.”
Club options have been triggered on five players – Gabe Breeze, Jordan Gibson, Max Kilsby, Jon Mellish and Corey Whelan.
“They’re club triggers so those players are here,” he confirmed. “We were able to do that so we have decided to trigger those options and we’ll see them back here on 28 June.
“It’s another step for Gabe. I’m always expecting things from him, but that’s the same for every player. I’ve explained to him and Tomas that I’m looking to bring another goalkeeper in.
“We’re certainly not going to go into League One with just Tomas Holy and Gabe Breeze, I want a really competitive goalkeeping department. Gabe is still in the really early part of his development as a keeper.
“I think he’s made some strides forward this year, but I still think there’s a long way to go for him. The challenge for him is to show us he can actually make those strides.
“Max is another young player who has had his successful loan, and this is his next challenge. He’s done really well when he’s been at Annan. He’s matured as a person and as a player, so I thank Peter Murphy for that and for the way they’ve looked after him.
“I’ve basically thrown the gauntlet down to him to come back on 28 June and show me, and us as staff, that he deserves to be part of group.
“He’s a good size, he’s a left-footed defender and he can play at left back or as a left-sided centre back in the shape that we’ve played this season. It really is up to him. He’s got an opportunity now.
“Jack Ellis showed us last season that he could step up and take it and now it’s up to Max to show us that he can do the same.”
A manager with a clear policy that out of respect he doesn’t focus on individuals who have been released, we felt it only right that there should a word on club and dressing room favourite Jamie Devitt.
“That was a tough one,” he admitted. “There was a question mark over Jamie last season on whether he would stay, and I suppose he was brave to accept a lesser offer, and a performance related offer.
“Unfortunately he’s had a really tough time again, it’s horrendous for him, but we’ll still look after him. We’ve explained that to him and I know he’s had a chat with Chris the physio this morning about his rehab programme.
“We’ll make sure he’s fit, but I think he’s still a bit unsure about where he wants to go and what he wants to do, in terms of does he carry on playing or does he look at something else.
“I would have loved to have kept Jamie Devitt involved with us but there isn’t anything there for him at this moment. We’ll do everything we can to get him back fit, that’s the first thing, then he has the decision to make on what he wants to do next.”
“Joel Senior was another tough one,” he told us. “I think that because of the emergence of Jack Ellis, he’s done really well in that right back and right wing back position, and I just think that we have to keep pushing and improving the squad.
“That was an area where I felt as though we do need to improve it, but I’m not going to go into details of individuals, it’s as simple as that.
“I think that’s really unfair, they’ve all played a part, whether it be on the field in match minutes or in personalities around the dressing room.
“They’ve all done their bit to get the achievement and that’s why I thank every single one of them for what they’ve done this season, whether that be on the grass or off the grass.
“I genuinely wish them all the best and if there’s anything I can do to help them, or if they want me to try and help them, we’ll do all we can to try and get them fixed up because we still have a duty of care in that.”
“The departures leave us with slots to fill,” he concluded. “There are a number of positions I want to bring in. I can’t put a number on it but we’re probably close to double figures in terms of new faces that have got to come into the place.
“We’ve already got players in mind and I’m quite sure other clubs will, so we have to make sure we’re competitive in what we can offer them and make it attractive for them to come to us.
“That’s going to be the challenge from now until the end of the transfer window.”