Wednesday, 19 October 2011

My Favourite Blue - Darren Edmondson

In the first of our new 'My Favourite Blue' series Simon Alderson declares his balls out man love for God's own full back, Darren Edmondson. Take it away Aldy...

One man stands head and shoulders above everybody as my all time Carlisle United hero. I wasn’t around in the heady days of 74/75 when we were in the old first division so most of the players I witnessed in my fledgling days were lower league journeymen and players from the youth team, which if I’m honest was a mixed bag – Jason Prins, was one where you wondered how he became a footballer, but to be fair he’s lived my dream and I bet he could still run rings round me on the five-a-side pitch. However one Cumbrian player, from Coniston in the Lake District, came through the Brunton Park ranks (via Hull bizarrely) and he was, and still is in my eyes, Mr Carlisle United.

Ladies and Gentlemen may I present - Mr Darren Edmondson, right back, centre half, sweeper - keeper if he’d been asked. Generally though, he played at full back and was part of a famous defence that included Derek Mountfield, fellow cult hero Dean Walling and Tony Gallimore that were first Carlisle United team to play at Wembley and who went on to win the Third Division Championship in the same season - 1994/95; the first successful season Carlisle had, had since I started watching them in 1987.

The reason he was and still is my hero is his whole hearted displays - 110% every time he played. I can’t remember him being the most skilful of players but he was hard, committed and knew how to defend. He also used to be quite handy at going forward - bombing down the flanks brushing players off, Roy of the Rovers style, and either scoring or popping in an inch perfect cross. I never remember him misplacing these crosses, losing the ball or missing the target.  I think that could be effect of the rose tinted glasses but probably not, as this is Darren Edmondson we’re talking about!

One moment in Darren’s Carlisle career that stands out was the infamous third round FA cup game against Sunderland at Roker Park. We played really well and deserved to win the game – even a Sunderland supporting mate of mine agrees.  However, against the run of play Sunderland scored and it looked like they’d sneak into the next round. Darren had a different plan – and in the dying minutes managed to bag a goal and get us a replay at Brunton Park, though we went on to lose that the goal lives long in the memory. 

The day Edmo left for Huddersfield Town (who were in the first division, now Champonship, at the time, formerly First Division) was a dark, sad day and I don’t actually think Darren wanted to go. He was pushed out by the Knighton regime, as ever managing the finances before the playing side of things. He never really got a good run at Huddersfield Town and my view is that if he had he would have made it. He moved on to Chester City and York City and always got a good reception where ever he played against us -  from me especially. I think if it hadn’t been for Huddersfield he’d still be with us now. Every season he became available I’d hope to see him back – to be honest I’d probably still have him back, not that Frank Simek and James Tavernier can’t do a job but this is Darren Edmondson we’re talking about!

A couple of seasons ago Blyth Spartans (my adopted ‘second’ team – due to me living in the town) entertained Workington Reds at Croft Park and as Carlisle were away it was only right to go and see Edmo in action. He didn’t disappoint – still all action and throwing himself into challenges all over the field. It was a pleasure to watch him again. Darren has since hung up his boots and is now Workington Reds manager and he’s not doing too badly – bringing in some particularly handy players this season – chiefly Stuart Green.  I’ve often thought about the possibility of him being our manager in a few years but if it didn’t work out, would his hero status diminish? Not just for me but for many supporters? It probably wouldn’t. We all know how hard he battled every time he pulled on the shirt and he would be the same as a manager. You’ve got to remember this is Darren Edmondson we’re talking about!

The man is a Carlisle United legend and I still vote for him as player of the season, even now!

A book was published a couple of years back called ‘Carlisle’s Cult Heroes’. I skipped though past McConnell, Shankly, Bowles, McIlmoyle and Balderstone to read about Darren only to find him shockingly omitted. No matter, he’ll forever remain my Carlisle United ‘cult hero’ - this is Darren Edmondson we’re talking about!

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Trialist Report - Mark Fotheringham

News broke this week that Greg Abbott's obsession with central midfielders was being satiated by a trial signing of ex-Norwich captain Mark Fotheringham. Canaries fan Andrew Woods gives 'Keith Mincher' the lowdown. It's not pretty reading...

When midfielder Mark Fotheringham joined Norwich City in 2007 as a free agent (he had played three games for Celtic), he was one of a slue of sub-standard Caledonians that fellow Bhoy Peter Grant brought to the club in a bid to turn Carrow Road into ‘Fortress Shortbread’. Yet, when clipboard-waving Grant – his shortbread empire soon turned to mush – and his successor Glenn Roeder left the club, the man they nicknamed ‘Fozzy’ somehow defied natural selection by both escaping the inevitable cull and retaining his captaincy (cheers Roeder) under his third boss Bryan Gunn. Organ grinders came and went, but the monkey remained, clashing his symbols.

Fozzy was the sort of player fans shied away from for fear that he’d sign their shirts. A man so average, even his ‘Fozzy Flick’ which saw the ball chipped over both his and his opponent’s heads – was a pathos-inspired plaudit from the terraces for this sometimes laughably awry ‘trick’. Seventy six appearances, with just four goals, this was not a schoolboy’s poster-pin-up. Fotheringham had all the grace and flair of a creaky filing cabinet rusting in a ditch.

Fozzy was no Joey Barton either, with his rather lacklustre backtracking and mistimed tackles. Norwich City were not a great side during this period it is true, but Fotheringham seemed to embody the mind-numbing limitations of the squad. A poor passer without a creative bone in his body, Fozzy huffed and puffed all over the park but to no avail. To put it politely, he was less van de Vaart than Van Morrison.

Fozzy’s final game, saw him booed off as he was substituted and stripped of his captaincy. Fotheringham angrily marched down the tunnel for his early bath, in a passion-filled hissy fit that gave the City fans their first – and last – taste of fireworks from the man. His final Fozzy Flick involving a half-filled bucket of water.

Friday, 7 October 2011

Abbott on Trial - Great Expectations?

In a smashing guest post, Mark Nicholson Carlisle correspondent for the splendid We Are Going Up! asks the $64 million question - is it time for Carlisle fans to rest on our laurels? And if it isn't, where does that leave our man Abbott?

Realistic; Adjective - interested in, concerned with, or based on what is real or practical.

Ever since Greg Abbott took charge at Brunton Park he has talked about Championship football being a realistic aim. Certainly over the last 2 seasons the talk during pre-season has been about this being 'our year' to at least have a good go at the play offs or, who knows, even higher.

The question now has to be asked - is The Championship a realistic aim for Carlisle United Football Club at this point in time?

From boardroom level, and with the resources available to those in the seats around the Brunton Park boardroom table, the club is ran very well. The home grown, shrewd business sense of John Nixon, Andrew Jenkins and Steven Pattison should not be taken lightly. These are 3 successful Cumbrian businessmen who have proven they know very well how to run a successful concern.

There is an argument that football clubs should not be run as a business and those good at that practice don't necessarily translate to the sporting arena. But surely for a football club to be sustainable it needs to be run as a business and by business people?

Too many football clubs over the last 5 years have been run with the ‘business’ taking a back seat. A gung-ho, eggs in one basket attitude towards getting as high up the footballing pyramid as possible with all eyes firmly fixed on the pot of gold that is the Premier League. Getting to that pot of gold with a ‘whatever it takes’ attitude is reckless and unsustainable. In the current climate a sustainable and practical model for running a football club must be taken to ensure as few situations like those of Scarborough, Portsmouth and Plymouth are repeated within the modern game.

On that front, the Carlisle board of directors should be commended for the way in which the club is run. Living well within it's means, and even making a little profit (albeit it thanks to some sizeable player sales and two trips to Wembley in the last 2 years) the club looks, from the outside at least, to be steering it's way through some tough economic times with relative ease.

Whilst the club isn’t making huge amounts of money we are able to reinvest, it’s the shrewdness of the board that means we all still have a team to support on a Saturday afternoon. It’s the shrewdness of the board that means we aren’t going through the turmoil of those Plymouth fans on the south coast who might well be looking for something else to do on a Saturday afternoon very soon.

It may be time however, to adjust the clubs (and fans) idea of what can be achieved on our extremely modest budget. Before you can even exit League 1 you must overcome the likes of Charlton, Sheffield Wednesday, Sheffield United, Huddersfield and Preston. For a club such as Carlisle United to complete with those big spenders in the division is surely an achievement in itself. Those inside the club need to take a look at our current situation; re-evaluate what can actually be achieved and adjust the expectations of the supporters accordingly.

If The Championship is still seen to be a realistic aim, then perhaps the man who’s tasked with bringing Championship football to Brunton Park should be heavily scrutinised. Perhaps the board would then find that Greg Abbott, while he has done many good things in charge of Carlisle United, has taken the club and this team as far as he can.

If, as I suspect, Championship football is found to be an unrealistic aim for the club at the moment then perhaps fans should take a step back, see that we’re in the top half of an extremely tight division with 17 points from 11 games and realise that on the grand scale of things, that isn’t such a bad start. In fact, for Carlisle United to be a mid-table League 1 side isn’t such a bad thing at all.

Or would you rather we blew it all in search of the end of that Rainbow?

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Abbott on Trial - Fans Roundtable

Three views. All forthright, all uncompromising. GA - look away now!

Jordan Walker (@jordanwalker89)

I’m firmly in the “Abbott Out” camp, there are no end of reasons why.

Firstly, the glaring fact that he gets it tactically wrong more often than he gets it right. The diamond  formation is ruthlessly exposed by sides with decent wingers due to the alarming lack of width it gives us. In the past, he’s also had an obsession with playing the 4-5-1 formation. He’d tell you that it’s 4-3-3, but for this to work you need a couple of excellent wide men to get in behind the opposition defence -  we’ve never had when playing this formation, meaning that it effectively ends up being one man up front alone, with little or no support. 

Playing such a negative formation as 4-5-1 against Tamworth and Grays Athletic in the cup is hardly going to win over any fans.  I’ve also lost count of the amount of times we’ve thrown away leads by sitting back and defending one goal leads. You only need to look at the clueless expression on his face each Saturday when we go a goal down to see that he doesn’t really appear to know what he’s doing.

To accompany his frequent tactical wrong doings, he also frequently picks the wrong players. Paul Thirwell offers very little, yet he’s selected every week without fail. We also have the awful loan signings he’s made, such as Eastham and Commingues. Abbott has used upwards of 70 players during his time in charge, yet he still complains that he’s had no money to spend!

A major gripe of mine, is that his media skills leave a lot to be desired, and may be a major reason he’s unpopular amongst fans. We could lose 5-0 one weekend, and he’d still bang on about our “effort and endeavour”. If these were improved, perhaps more fans would get behind him.

Those who stick up for him will mention two Wembley trips (one of which his aforementioned shortcomings aided the real thumping we got) but these don’t mask the awful, negative, boring football we endure each week. No wonder fans stay away when the football under Abbott is so terrible. 

'JK' (@jk_cufc)

Over recent weeks I have begun to feel a certain anguish towards the Abbott managerial reign. Results speak for themselves, and although a triumph in the JPT and mid-table consolidation last season have to be taken into account, I can't help feeling the club has reached its peak under his guidance. 
Losses to Notts County, Aldershot, Accrington Stanley, Hartlepool, Chesterfield and MK Dons have left a sour taste in the mouths of many of the Cumbrian contingent – as the unfurlingof a week last Saturday’s ‘Abbott Out’ banner proved. 
I don't agree that disposing of him is the right course of action at this stage, but should performances and results not pick up, his days must be numbered – though current calls for his head seem a little premature; winter is the time to make such judgements.
What Abbott does bring to the club is a sense of unity in the team camp. His predecessor, John Ward, left a legacy of discontent amongst the players. Abbott cleared out this 'dead wood' to be replaced by the fresh young faces of Premier League loanees, internationals and players with a point to prove. The hunger and competition for places in the side is a huge positive- something which may pay dividends when the long season undoubtedly begins to take its toll. 
Abbott's determination to succeed in what is a very difficult job has never been disputed, but his ability to take the club to the next level casts an element of doubt in my mind. Whether ornot Carlisle can reach the height of last season's achievements remains to be seen, but is, in my opinion, unlikely. 
Should Greg still be around come the end of the season, I'd hope for an obvious improvement in the team's league position - 10th or higher. The distractions of the cups (FACup aside) are gone; with little else to compete for, a strong league finish is an absolute necessity if the board are to warrant keeping him on into next season.
This is Abbott's team. This is his time. He must deliver.
Ste Kenyon (@stekenyon)

When writing about anything, you always want to be witty and amusing. But I’m writing about Greg Abbott. Never mind…

Whilst researching earlier periods of Abbott’s tenure, I discovered (to my surprise) that he was appointed permanent manager on 5th December 2008. This means that we have now had almost three years of Gregness; something which no club should feel neither pity nor envy about. 

When his appointment was announced I was, unsurprisingly, a few pints deep, and, feeling rather vociferous “went off on one”. It was his first managerial appointment and he was part of a John Ward setup which produced some of the worst football I’ve ever witnessed. 

We also weren’t in a good league position (who is when they sack their manager?) and I was entirely unconvinced that he was the right man to guide us to safety. He did. Just. Mostly due to a disinterested Millwall team who had already secured a playoff berth and put in a non-performance against us. The following two seasons have brought mid table mediocrity. We have had two decent runs in the Paint Pot though last year’s final win scarcely made up for the utter embarrassment of the previous year.

My own view is that Greg is out of his depth. To compare him to a manager further up the pyramid, it would be Roy Hodgson - man who is more than capable of making a team very average, but insofar as moving a team ‘up a level’ is entirely lost. He may learn more, he may become better over time, but I would rather he did it away from my football club. 

The facts back it up, his record makes for uninspiring reading - 136 games, 59 wins, 62 losses and 42 draws at a win percentage of 36%. It’s not exactly world beating stuff but by the same token, it’s far from awful. I believe that with Abbott in charge, we are certain to stay up.  

And certain to stay down. 

Greg is the 14th longest serving manager in England. Proof that good things don’t always come to those who wait. 

Abbott on Trial

With the Greg Abbott tenure facing arguably its toughest challenge since his stewardship to last day redemption against Millwall in 2009 as fan unrest grows against his instincts, questions remain over his player recruitment and his terrace stock plummets through walk away punters and growing unrest it seemed an apt time to look back at his tenure. Just where has he led us and where will he take us next, if anywhere?

In the first of what I hope will be a number of new, regular features, 'Bring Me the Head of Keith Mincher' puts 'Abbott on Trial'. 

Look out for the following posts over the course of the week:
Interested in contributing a view? E-mail us at All views and contributions welcome!