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Saturday, 1 February 2014

The Inside Line: Carlisle United (01/02/2014)

Delighted to welcome back John McGee to the pages of The Exiled Robin, as he answered Stu Radnedge's questions on Carlisle United...

Ex-Bristol City "favourite" John Ward was responsible for one of the worst runs of results in Carlisle United's history and was replaced by Greg Abbott, who I believe at the start of this season was the third longest serving manager in the football league (behind Arsene Wenger and Paul Tisdale).
So why was the club’s start to this season so bad?
That's a good question, and one which isn't easy to answer. My own view is that Greg's management at Carlisle had become a bit stale. He took quite a while to get going; he was naive and made mistakes and that turned quite a few people off him who he had never quite won over, but it's inarguable that he turned us into a pretty good side.

His problem was being unable to build on finishing 8th.  His summer business in 2012 was absolutely disastrous and he never recovered from it - we're still harbouring Danny Cadamarteri and Mike Edwards on the payroll - and it's encumbered us from improving. Beyond that he failed to recognise that we needed defensive improvements in summer, he bought forwards and, yet again, we conceded in bucket loads. His departure was pretty inevitable the moment Orient beat us 5-1 on the opening day.

In September Abbott was replaced by another City "favourite" - your current gaffer Graham Kavanagh (beat us in a Wembley final in 2000 for those unaware…). What affect has he made? 
It's still a bit early to say. His immediate impact was great, we won three in a row for the first time in five years, but it's been up and down since then. My impression is that Kavanagh is an impatient perfectionist - he expects so much of his players and can get very frustrated when they don't meet his exacting standards. For some that's been the spur they needed, young Brad Potts has really kicked on for instance, while others seem to have struggled - Alex Salmon was tipped for great things but Kav's wasted no time in binning him off.

The feeling is that he's counting time to the summer when the real revolution will come, I can see us turning over as many as 10 players at that point. In the meantime we should have just about enough to survive - every now and then we see a performance which embodies Kavanagh the player and I'd venture there'll be enough of those between now and June to see us right.

A gap has opened up between our clubs after your victory against MK Dons on Tuesday night. A solid victory is suggested in the scoreline (3-0).  But was it? 
I wasn't at the game, but everything I've heard about it suggests so. We're a really frustrating side as when we get it right we can be really good, but we're very, very vulnerable if we don't score early.

The difference between the Colchester and MK games was probably scoring first - we had 19 shots against the Us and they had 6, we scored 2 and they 4. By all accounts MK were as dire as we were good, so that's a bit of a caveat, but it shows we're capable of downing half decent teams when we put our mind to it. Just wish it happened more regularly!

Before last week's match against Wolves, City were 5 undefeated, but have since lost two on the bounce with difficult away fixtures. Are your confidence levels ahead of the match on Saturday high, or do you fear the wounded animal element will be something to fear? 
I said before our last game that we were masters at doing struggling teams a favour - how right was I? You'll notice a theme developing - at the moment we just don't know which Carlisle will turn up. What I will say is that we're poorer away from home, and allow ourselves to get pressed onto the back foot there far too easily. I think a lot depends on whether our wingers have a good day, if they beat their man first time it's usually a good sign.

I can't not ask the question. Courtney Meppen-Walter signed for Carlisle in December after being released by Man City after being found guilty of causing death by dangerous driving. Do you agree with the decision to allow him to play for your club?
Speaking personally, yes I was fine with it, but it did split opinion almost right down the middle. One or two fans have boycotted the club - fair play to them, I think it's over the top but they know their own mind.

To clarify a little though, Meppen-Walter was guilty of the lesser offence of Death by Careless-Driving. That doesn't do down the gravity of what he did but it basically acknowledges that it wasn't entirely his fault, and that he wasn't wilfully out to endanger people. I think that's why I'm okay with it personally - it genuinely did seem like an awful mistake with grave consequences.

I've had the fortune, if you can call it that, of seeing the documentary which covers the case and Courtney comes over very well, utterly repentant and full of remorse. That's exactly how he's come over at the club too - modest, unassuming and shy if anything, quite the opposite of how you'd expect him to be. 

A few folk tried to justify the signing using his footballing potential (which is vast) but I found that crass - that isn't anything to do with it - he did something wrong, awful, but he's seen justice for it and is a young lad who deserves a second chance. My own morals don't really sit well with punitive justice. Others thought he shouldn't be allowed to be a footballer, I think the opposite - by remaining in the public eye he should be able to educate others, and he seems to think the same way, which is a good thing.

What are your strengths and weaknesses on the pitch?
Strengths - David Amoo if he has a good day. If he's on, he can be absolutely unplayable. Our midfield can also be outstanding if it gets a stranglehold on the game, but it doesn't always. At their best they work well for each other, perfectly coming and going and picking the right pass. As I stated earlier, Brad Potts is really coming on and starting to justify the hype around him. He scored his first goal on Tuesday and we hope it'll be the first of a few this season.

Weaknesses - confidence. If we go behind, we usually fold. We need to score early or we start sitting deep and hitting hopeful punts. We don't need to do that because we have really good footballers, but we're a team of panickers. We're a little more open without Paul Thirlwell too, and Meppen-Walter struggles with players running at him which  Thirlwell normally snuffs out.  The other problem? Scoring goals. Our three strikers have 3 in the league between them. Prolific!

Who can you forsee causing you problems on Saturday? 
Bearing in mind his hat trick in the reverse fixture and CMW's issues with players running from deep, it has to be JET. See you've signed Wade Elliott too. He's pretty handy!

Can I get a score prediction? 
Err, do you mind if I don't? I'm historically awful at them. 

Thanks to Stu and John for their time, and let's hope John's worries about helping teams on bad runs once again offers us a more profitable afternoon than we've enjoyed at the top sides recently.


The Exiled Robin

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