I enjoyed Steven Pressley’s interview after what had been a rather depressing Easter Monday as a Carlisle United supporter and radio pundit.

There was understandable excitement after the Lincoln game. I thought United had finally cracked it. A win in what looked like the hardest of their remaining four games and, while a game like that can be energy-sapping when you have another three days later, from personal experience I always found the second game easier, especially after a victory.

Those good feelings push you on, but that wasn’t the case for Carlisle at Grimsby. I felt that facing the Mariners would be a bit tricky in some ways, because sides playing for nothing can suddenly turn it on when you don’t expect it, but when I got to Blundell Park, took in the atmosphere, spoke to a few people and looked at the squads, I felt it was a real opportunity for Carlisle.

The Grimsby manager had put some younger players on the bench, banished a few of his senior players to the stand and, given their run of 10 games without a win, it looked like a club desperate for the season to finish so they could press the reset button.

Grimsby were going through the motions in the warm-up and I just felt that if Carlisle started right, it wouldn’t be a problem. Pressley, though, was right when he said this simply didn’t happen. They didn’t get going.

It wasn’t so much the application levels that were in question; they just made some poor decisions and showed League Two form – inconsistency, lack of quality at times, leaving gaps at the back for the goal.

Pressley alluded to this after the game whilst also referring to the fact he now has a contract for next season. I feel this was the right decision by the club. We couldn’t go into another pre-season like last year with people not knowing where they stood and Carlisle being so far behind others in terms of recruitment.

Pressley now has the licence to do things his way and he recognises there are many changes needed. I think we all do. This summer has to be the one where a lot gets ripped up.

Yes, Carlisle still have a chance of the play-offs. Whatever happens, though, there is a chance to redo lots of things at Brunton Park.

There are good players in the squad who look like they need a change. I also see systems in the club that need refreshing. The turmoil this season, with the managerial changes, should at least settle down and Pressley can make his mark.

He took over a side that was flying, albeit one that was about to lose key players, and it maybe wasn’t the right time for him to impose all the changes he wanted. Now, though, I sense he knows what he needs for the longer term and I hope he sets about it fully and freshens things up.

Summer might see wages coming down but it might also see Pressley bring the team’s average age down. We could see Carlisle recruit players from different sources than before. In general, a new philosophy from the manager might be to everyone’s benefit.

In the shorter term, their season comes down to 180 minutes and even after Monday’s disappointment, which increased the play-off gap to two points, this League Two campaign tells us not to bet against them, even now.

Would anyone be surprised to see Carlisle beat Crawley on Saturday and take it right to the wire?

Crawley could come to Brunton Park and be devastating, or they could look like the worst team in the league. This is how the fourth tier has been since August and it is all down to what happens on the day.

Whatever United do, they must not give anything away in the first 20 minutes. Don’t give Crawley any encouragement. Use your experience, do the right things, grow into the game.

That didn’t happen at Grimsby. Some poor decisions gave the home side the first 10 minutes on top and Carlisle struggled to get out of that mode for the whole game.

They will be depleted again this weekend, with Kelvin Etuhu now a doubt, but there is still enough in that squad to play against Crawley at home and win.

The Sussex team have a long journey ahead of them and we should also remember they are in a very ordinary position – 19th – for a reason.

It’s a big pitch, Carlisle’s crowd should be roaring them on, and if they don’t have enough to win on a day like this, they will get what they deserve: the frustration of missing out after having been in such a great position for so long.

That frustration would last for some time. I have said from a few weeks into this season that this League Two has been a really poor one.

It has been a big chance for Carlisle for months. It still is. I still feel that two wins will get them into that top seven. You just hope they haven’t run out of favours from other sides now.

We have seen Carlisle play the likes of Stevenage, Oldham and Colchester this season and it surprises me how they are still around the play-off places.

On the other hand, those clubs must look at United’s form and be equally surprised the Cumbrians are still in the race.

You will never get a better chance, even now, and all we can now hope is that Pressley’s players can rise to the occasion in three days’ time.


I’m looking forward to a reunion with some colleagues from a fantastic Carlisle United era later this week.

Dennis Booth, Simon Hackney, Karl Hawley and Chris Billy are coming up to the city on Friday.

They will be on BBC Radio Cumbria to relive our great seasons in the previous decade and, given it is now 13 years since the club last enjoyed promotion, I’m sure it will be fantastic for fans to hear some memories.

I’ve been in touch with the staff at Carlisle United and asked if a table could be set aside for them at Saturday’s game. I hope they enjoy their day in Foxy’s Restaurant and if they appear on the pitch at half-time it will be really good for the supporters to remember some of the people who delivered real success to the club.

Some of those lads haven’t been up very much since leaving United, and certainly not all together.

I’m sure, if people listen to the show, they will hear a few things they didn’t know. They might also be surprised about some of the insights they hear from the players both about their time at Brunton Park and what has happened to them since.

I often talk about the spirit in the club in those years and it will also be good to hear from those boys about some of the reasons things went as well as they did: the characters we had, the demands everyone put on each other, the times we fell out on the pitch, even when we were winning 5-0.

If anyone dropped below the standards we set, you would get found out and dug out.

I think a bit of that has gone out of football today. It is a generational thing rather than being anyone’s fault but you can’t deny that those were very good times at Carlisle United and I hope everyone enjoys a little reminder of them.