Carlisle Utd fans' crowdfunding money wasn't "wasted" - it was only ever going to pay for a long shot

 Junior Joachim: Two United outings
Barbara Abbott
Junior Joachim: Two United outings

It was not, in the history of farewells, much of a goodbye. The 11th paragraph of a club statement about a different player, and there it was: Junior Joachim, the player signed with fans' crowdfunding money, would not be returning.

It felt like a suitably low-key announcement for someone who made two substitute appearances for Carlisle, amounting to 63 minutes.

To some, it might also have reflected a degree of embarrassment, that the striker recruited after a remarkable public initiative had proved no more than a footnote. The crowdfunding money was wasted, several have said.

Nobody would argue that the Frenchman transformed United's hopes, or added anything substantial to the cause. One also wonders, as a result, whether another, similar scheme by supporters would take off in the same way.

There must, though, be realism here. Castigating Carlisle and Keith Curle over Joachim is an easy hit. But really, what were we to expect?

It was March 18 when the 25-year-old was confirmed as a Blues player; nine games of the season remained. At that point any signing at all was going to be, if not a complete shot in the dark, then certainly one shrouded in shade.

A gamble. A wild card. An option where the odds of impact were long. A risk, at best - but one Curle fancied taking, just in case his numbers came up.

It is hard to see how it could have been anything else. A player who can illuminate a promotion challenge is rarely still a free agent after the halfway point of March.

There is a reason most are still unattached at that stage. Curle used the fans' dosh to roll some dice and hope they'd land on double six. He ventured that, whatever good things he had seen from Joachim in training the previous summer, and again in a further, brief trial, were worth a tilt.

The dice, in the end, settled on lower numbers and as a result the manager has faced accusations of blowing what United's faithful raised. Yet his options were surely narrow: either throw it at a possibility, at a time when the promotion push was slipping and injuries had rattled the squad, or sit on it.

There was no clamour for prudence. Naturally it is because the money was sourced differently that the outcome has seemed to jar. But it is not vastly different to how other gambles are taken at that time of year.

Take 2012/3, when United's hopes were belatedly pinned on another French forward who became suddenly available. Mathieu Manset was also signed in March and started like a runaway bull in a 3-3 draw with Yeovil.

But that early impact deceived. Manset faded quickly and managed seven substitute appearances and no goals before Greg Abbott released him. His career since then does not suggest the Blues had unearthed a late-season gem after all.

He was also, in different circumstances, another Joachim. Resources were again channeled towards a last-ditch option - fans' resources, only this time raised the normal way, through the turnstile, rather than on a Crowdfunder page.

There were, it can be argued, worse signings made by United last season. At least with Joachim there was a degree of the unknown; the earlier return of Derek Asamoah was a gamble on the known, Curle having released the popular veteran a few months earlier.

The reasons for dispensing with Asamoah had plainly not gone away and so it was a leap of faith rather than a move based on cold calculation. Again - fans' money, in part, backed this misguided hunch. The same as the many better additions that had come earlier. The same as most calls in the market, good and bad.

There has been a debate about the way Curle used his budget last year. By the end of the summer window United were at 99 per cent of their spending cap under salary cost management rules; the highest in League Two.

This approach put United near the front of the pack until Christmas, before a lack of resources in January came back to bite. There had been no big cup runs to swell the pot while the mystery "billionaire" was keeping his powder not so much dry as utterly parched.

The crowdfunding idea, in response to a Curle interview about the need for more turnstile money, was therefore quite the gesture. It showed United's supporters in a great and positive light and also demonstrated that people were foursquare behind the manager.

Curle should be eternally thankful the people responded in such a way. In interviews since he has indeed spoken of his gratitude. And while the manager's prediction on Joachim did not in the end come true - "the kid will score goals" - it can be noted that another of his short-term additions in that period, Samir Nabi, has offered enough in training to earn a one-year deal.

Hopefully he proves that gem, in which case United would deserve credit for a low-cost gamble that paid off in the longer run. It might also qualify the general view that most other late-season signings were made without much prospect of success, at a stage when Curle did not feel any of the club's youth players were worthy of promotion.

Joachim, alas, won't occupy pages in Carlisle's history, but that was always the likelihood, given all the circumstances. Especially at that time of the season, if you want a guaranteed outcome, try the cinema.

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