Sunday, 13 February 2011

Why I'm #teamabbott

Last Wednesday evening an e-mail plopped into my inbox bearing an unfamiliar name and bearing an unusual title ‘#teamabbott needs your help’. Before I had chance to clock that this may be an elaborate Trojan Horse based on my choice of Twitter hashtags my curiosity bound me to open the message…

The idea had been floated by a few of the Carlisle United Twitter fraternity to make special ‘#teamabbott’ t-shirts to celebrate our team’s achievement of a second consecutive Wembley trip and give a wry, but well deserved, nod to our maligned gaffer. Of course I was going to buy one and wear it with pride, but this e-mail excited me.

What if we, a group of fans, could sell the shirts to raise money for a great cause – Carlisle Mencap’s Grace Little Children’s Centre which gives respite to the parents of profoundly disabled kids – would I help out? I’d do everything I could – and this is why…

Firstly, and entirely unashamedly, I love Greg Abbott.

Being a Carlisle fan and commiting that statement to paper often makes one feel like calling NHS Direct and asking to be sectioned. It’s hardly orthodox amongst the terrace hordes who outright hate him or are at least impassive toward him. Making a case for Greg isn’t always easy in the face of inconsistent performances and a sometimes grumpy public persona. But I never say he’s the ‘best’ manager I’ve seen at BP, merely my favourite. I anticipate each and every interview like a new Alan Bennett ‘Talking Head’. Which Greg will show up? Will it be ‘eyes popping’ mad Greg, schoolboy japester Greg or bleary-eyed, hard done by Greg? The emotion pours out of the man. He truly cares about Carlisle United and for that at least we should be glad to have him. His nous in the loan market, improving grasp of tactics and ability to pick a player ‘off the heap’ are frankly just fluff in his Orwellian tale.

My second reason is more personal – the cause. I’ve never had any reason to have personal attachment to any given charity. I’ll happily drop a tenner to a mate doing a fun run or a sponsored walk but I don’t have direct debits or campaign on the street.

So what’s different? I know a little bit about this specific issue.

My girlfriend Zoé’s eldest brother Shaun is 42 years old. He’s also severely mentally handicapped, blind and has Crohn’s disease. He’s also one of the brightest and most happy go lucky people I’ve ever met – that might sound patronising; it really isn’t. Any fellow who equates mention of my name directly with going to the pub is not to be sniffed at!

Shaun lives in a care home near Stratford-upon-Avon run by another great charity, the Home Farm Trust. Zoé’s parents are quite elderly and unable to provide the 24 hour care he needs – the respite given by the HFT is vital for their quality of life. I’m sure that all parents who are able to use the Grace Little Centre once its doors open will feel exactly the same.

The final reason is the clincher. I’ve often thought that many football clubs aren’t as present in the local community as they might be. I felt and hoped immediately that this idea presented an opportunity for the club and its fans to do something fun to help local people. When I got word that club director Steve Pattison had agreed to meet the cost of the shirts to maximise the amount raised I was genuinely enthused. When Greg himself agreed to flog ‘#teamcarlisle’ shirts at local pubs (he was understandably reticent to hawk #teamabbott) I was beside myself with joy. If nothing else ‘#teamabbott’ could set a high watermark for community engagement.

There’s a tide of good feeling around the club, the fans and the city despite our recent form and I hope in some small part to do with #teamabbott’s efforts as well as Wembley.

For that to continue though we need people to keep buying the shirts. You don’t have to be a Carlisle fan to recognise a good cause and there’ll be a good tale to tell when you don it down the pub with your mates. If I’ve started behaving like Fearne Cotton you’re within your right to smack me, I hope I’ve just about got the line right…

‘#teamabbott’ shirts, along with ‘#teamcarlisle’, ‘#lubo’ (celebrating our Slovak giant) and ‘#teamradar’ (the hardest working member of staff at Brunton Park and constant source of new talent) are available for £10 on eBay at:

You can get more information and contact us at


  1. I'm happy to chip in with a tenner without buying the shirt if it's an option. It would be better if the shirt goes to someone who would actually wear it. I'm not a Carlisle fan and I seldom sport Chelsea shirts so can't see myself wearing #teamabbott, if I'm honest. Let me know.

  2. "He cares about Carlisle United more than most fans ever will and for that at least we should be glad to have him."

    Want to get people to read your blog? Try not slagging off (almost) the entire fanbase of the club.

  3. Are you actually on drugs?

    Abbott is paid to be the manager, and should anyone offer him more money he'd be off in a flash.

    We fans pay our money to watch (what is quite frankly sh*te at the moment), and yet 5000+ stupidly turn up week in week out.

    To say Abbott cares more than most of the fans is quite frankly insulting. Get your tongue out of his arse and get to some games, because clearly you haven't been watching the same games as most of us.

  4. Hi Tim! (Sorry, anonymous...)

    Point taken, words poorly chosen and rightly rectified.

  5. Also, TB - I care not a jot if this gets read. If it does, that's nice, if not then it remains for me as it was when I started it.

    Though I accept that was poorly put.

  6. Sorry to disappoint, but my name isn't Tim (an occasional reader, I haven't a username). I presume this means you owe someone else an apology too, or may want to edit your reply before 'Tim' sees it.

    Very stupid thing to say, fair enough for changing it, but your apparant love of Abbott as a person shouldn't cloud your judgement over his input to the club like it seemingly has done.

  7. Fair enough - in which case an apology to you.

    It was very poorly phrased but I stand by the sentiment. I can b as critical of Greg as the next man. Some of the football we've played under him has been dire and every now and then I want to punch him for things he says. The tone of this piece is intentional given it's reasons - I'm only sorry you saw fit to question my grasp of rationality. Given you don't know me that seems less forgivable than my liking of Greg who I at least know a little about.

  8. TravellingBlue - are you sure? Most fans of all football clubs are mindless jerks, most fans of the stubbornly mediocre team I support mouthbreathe much more than the next man; I'm sure Carlisle are no exception to that. Unless, like, North Cumbria is going to become the cradle for a new rationalist revolution in which logical thinking is the norm and the kind of foaming at the mouth twitchery we see more and more of gets the boot.

    Pleasing to see someone pull the "if you don't go games you're not a real fan" card. I always enjoy it when I see that. It's like comments bingo.

    Anyway, enough of this comment-hockey - think I'll be putting my hand in my pocket to support a worthy cause. And, yeah, many props to you to actually sticking yourself out there, doing the work and getting this done, John. Great gesture.

  9. To whom it may concern, Tim is an idiot. Intelligent guy no doubt, but an idiot.

    Good post John, just a shame that no matter how many concessions you make for the more negative "fans," they will still find something to have a pop about despite the good cause that this is promoting. Pity.

  10. "He cares about Carlisle United more than most fans ever will and for that at least we should be glad to have him."

    The only problem I have with that, although now the wording has been modified, is that it's true. The important word is 'most'.

    The next time you're at Brunton Park and wondering, just listen for the grumbles every time it's 0-0 after 20 minutes and the ball is retained by taking a second to pass it around the back four, or back to the 'keeper.

  11. The people criticising the wording of the post don't seem to have noticed the bit about t-shirts, very good cause, etc.
    Then again, it always is easier to knock people than to actually do something constructive yourself.

  12. John, I'm more than happy to send a crisp digital tenner via PayPal, but I think that a #teamcarlisle shirt in addition to my two away shirts (being a fan, away) might be a bit much.
    I like Abbott, but after runs like the last few weeks, get very frustrated with him. I think that he did well to hold off on buying players until he was in a position to do so. People forget that we don't have the money of a Premier League club to throw around and it doesn't come as easily as it does on FIFA.
    I'm just hoping that the new team dynamic can be solidified before April.

  13. Much needed win today though!

  14. I once wrote in 'Blue Exile' that, although he might become our most successful manager of modern times, we would never love him, you at least John have proven me wrong.

    Very good cause, blogs aren't always all about the blogger

  15. JCH

    I realise its not the popular view!

    I've no real reason. I just feel an affinity with him. I instinctively like him - perhaps because of the very same reasons he craves in his flock - honesty and detrmination.

    I also think his talent is severely underestimated by many fans - he is a good coach and an excellent man manager who occasionally makes stupid mistakes and noises off. In short, he's imperfect - but we make the same excuse for our players - what can you expect in League One?