We have the views of two long-standing Carlisle fans ahead of Port Vale’s next League One match.
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Ken Hullock has been a fan of Carlisle since he was a young lad being lifted over the turnstile at Brunton Park in the early 1960’s. He’s lived in London for the last 35 years, so most of his United following is done at away matches as a member of the London Branch of the supporters’ club (which has a healthy membership of about 300).
Chris Tembey is now 34 but started supporting the Blues in 1986 when he was seven. He tells us: “My parents didn’t fancy taking me to the Kop so I opted for my local team instead. Thank God they did; I fell in love soon after and have quite literally experienced just about everything possible: Finals at the old Wembley, the new Wembley and the Millenium Stadium; Play-Offs; Promotions; Championships; Relegations; a year in the Conference ending with a Play-Off Final victory and of course… Sir Jimmy Glass and that historic and incredible moment. We’ve had floods, Michael Knighton, an East Stand that doesn’t line up with the pitch and some wonderfully talented and wonderfully terrible players. Many Managers that have a story or two told and untold and a fantastic 19 year relationship with Eddie Stobart, which is sadly coming to an end from next season in favour of Virgin Trains. I could go on. No Champions League final granted but one hell of a ride all the same!”
How are Carlisle doing?
We have to get points in March because our run-in is difficult so the game at Vale Park is important…
Ken: Any optimism early in the season was severely dented by the appalling start we had. It was clear early on that the squad wasn’t up to the task of survival, let alone progression. Although manager Greg Abbott quickly made moves into the loan market to repair the damage caused by the release of several experienced pros in the closed season, the final straw for Greg was the late defeat inflicted by Vale at Brunton Park in early September.
Graham Kavanagh, after a run of three wins as caretaker, was given the job full time and soon set about remodelling the squad, mainly with loan players so that we have now used 42 players this season, a club record. The inevitable inconsistency resulted and, despite some occasional fine performances, we continue to flirt with the bottom four and the expectation is that we are into a dog fight until the end of the season. We have to get points in March because our run-in is difficult so the game at Vale Park is important. Bring it on!
Chris: The early season hope was mid-table to play-offs, however it was very quickly evident we were going to struggle to keep out of the bottom four. Since Kav has sorted through the mess we have improved at home and thankfully tightened up at the back since our awful early season form – the hammerings have stopped and we have even managed to keep a couple of clean sheets in our last three games, unthinkable five months ago!
If we can keep this up and pick up on the road we’ll be safe for another season of League One football. We continue to be inconsistent on our travels however and our recent victory at Coventry (or Northampton!) was our first victory away since October’s win at MK Dons.
Who should we watch out for?
Lee Miller is fit and is looking better with each game…
Ken: Our injury list is so long I’m not sure who will feature but Lee Miller is fit and is looking better with each game. He’s our top scorer with a speciality in overhead-kick goals (two in the last five games) so watch out for that. David Amoo is a strong runner with the ball and likes to take on defenders.
Chris: Brad Potts (number 16) is undoubtedly our most improved player this season. Brad came through our YTS programme and has progressed massively under Kav. He finally got off the mark in terms of goals at the end of January and has put in some great midfield displays. Not afraid to get stuck in, he may get your fans grumbling with a few whole-hearted challenges.
David Amoo (number 7) seems to have put a difficult time in his career behind him to our benefit and is our leading scorer this season. He strangely seems to be lacking confidence at the moment but when on his game (as at Stevenage earlier this season) he is a real handful. Hopefully he’ll be back to his best for the season run in.
Lee Miller (number 9) is our target man and a proper number nine. He can be frustrating for both sets of fans with an apparent ease to find the floor – although he does take a battering in this League. He scored a couple of wonderful overhead goals in recent weeks and we are undoubtedly a better team with Lee in the starting line up than we are without him. However, a couple of red cards this season display a fiery Scottish temper, which is not helpful when he is such an important member of the team.
What are your thoughts on your manager?
His honesty is a breath of fresh air and he isn’t afraid to tell it how it is…
Ken: The jury is still out on ‘Kav’. Most people were reasonably happy with his appointment but it remains to be seen whether his man-management skills can match his obvious eye for a player and his tactical nous. He’s also hampered by a limited and likely decreasing, budget.
Chris: After Tom Pope’s last minute goal at Burnden Park gave you your first away win of the season we needed a change at the top and Kav was the obvious and cheapest option. That said I think he has done incredibly well. His honesty is a breath of fresh air and he isn’t afraid to tell it how it is. Having played for us and chipped in with a few important goals there is a trust there and he knows the Club inside and out. He has been a positive voice and despite working with no budget and an endless supply of loan players he does seem to be gaining the trust of the fans and getting results.
His biggest challenge remains getting stay-away fans to return through the turnstiles and only results and performances will achieve that. He’s not afraid to change the starting line up and willing to make tactical changes throughout a game he will also accept responsibility and stand up when he makes a mistake. So far, so good.
What are your thoughts on your board and off-field club activities?
The Board are well-meaning but seem to be muddling through without a clear plan of how we can progress…
Ken: The Board are well-meaning but seem to be muddling through without a clear plan of how we can progress. They are totally reliant on Kav to turn around our fortunes. They still have a ‘dream’ that we can move to new stadium but that’s all it is – a dream.
Chris: There is much debate here and many differing opinions. The current board have been accused of putting no money into the club and going into hiding. Fans forums stopped and the attendances dropped. Off the field there needs to be more work to join the Club with the fans, local communities and businesses. However, this has all improved throughout the season and needs to continue to do so. There was a fans forum last week and it appears that efforts are being made. Money remains a problem and low attendances are not helping. We are also carrying a fair bit of dead wood so it’s a case of hanging on in there until the summer and Kav having a clear out to free up some wages.
Any views on Port Vale?
Tom Pope of course is a class act…
Ken: We know about Chris Birchall because of a very brief loan spell he had at Carlisle where he looked unfit and uninterested. He should have been better than he was and soon he was off to pastures new in the MLS. Myrie-Williams is another we are familiar with having had a loan spell at Carlisle. Both seem to be faring better for Vale than they did for us. Tom Pope (right) of course is a class act and it somehow seemed inevitable that he’d conjure up the late winner against us in September.
Chris: I sadly can’t make the game on Saturday but have fond memories of the Lunch Box (cracking scran) and a pint or two in the Vine Inn. It’s a proper stadium with good people on the terraces. My favourite memory was a 2-0 win for the Blues back on a sunny day in early April 2007. Joe Garner smashed in a 90th minute wonder goal which sealed victory. I believe we were down to 10 men at the time too. As for right now it seems your goalscoring midfielder Doug Loft is one we need to be wary of; coupled with a dangerous forwards in Pope and Myrie-Williams and our defence may well have a busy afternoon.
Any views and memories of players that have been involved with both teams?
Ken: The biggest name from a Vale perspective associated with both Clubs has to be John Rudge. A modest career as a player at Carlisle in the late sixties – although he helped us to 3rd place in the old second division – but a giant as manager of Port Vale. A recent player, Marc Bridge-Wilkinson, was a good servant of both Clubs. He had a touch of class and featured in our best season since the early 80’s when we were unjustly beaten by Leeds in the 2008 League One play-offs.
Chris: I can’t think of many off-hand actually, I did see that Stephane Pounewatchy played for you twice back in 1998! He was a legend in our 96-97 promotion team and quite a fans favourite. Clearly this did not transform on his move South! Chris Birchall (right) is the opposite here; he played twice for us on loan in 2008 but clearly has had a better time of it in Burslem. Another loan player we had that year was Jennison Myrie-Williams but I don’t recall his eight appearances exciting the terraces too much at the time.
A score prediction?
Given our poor away form I think most Cumbrians would take a point before kick-off…
Ken: A rare away point for us in a 1-1; although our ability to compete will depend on whether or not at least a couple of key players on our injury list have recovered.
Chris: Given our poor away form I think most Cumbrians would take a point before kick-off. You guys seem to have a decent home record despite your latest result against Crewe and will no doubt be wanting to bounce back from three defeats on the spin. It would be nice to avenge that defeat at BP earlier in the season but I’ll opt for 1-1. Loft and Noble the scorers.
Our thanks to both Ken and Chris for answering our questions.