It is early days in the matter of replacing Chris Beech as Carlisle United manager.

As ever, the names of a number of former Blues figures are on supporters’ lips as they think of possible contenders for the job.

There is no guarantee third-bottom United will opt for someone with direct club connections – indeed, some fans would prefer they looked elsewhere to find the right person.

But if they do consider that someone with a Brunton Park spell already on their CV could be a strong candidate, who could they turn to?

The News & Star understands at least some of the below names are interested in the position.

Here, we take a look at their credentials.


News and Star: Gavin Skelton (photo: Richard Parkes)Gavin Skelton (photo: Richard Parkes)

Chris Beech’s No2 finds himself in the caretaker manager position for a second time, having been in stand-in charge for two games after Steven Pressley’s sacking in 2019. Former midfielder Skelton is a proud Cumbrian and retains plenty of respect among the Blues hierarchy and squad. If he covets the permanent job, an immediate improvement in the team's fortunes is surely needed, given many fans would prefer an outside choice and a clean break rather than a member of Beech’s backroom staff, given United's predicament.


News and Star: Peter Murphy (photo: PA)Peter Murphy (photo: PA)

United’s longest-serving outfield player is four years into his managerial career with Annan Athletic. Murphy has gained good experience at Galabank, where his side currently sit third in Scottish League Two after a positive start to this season. Is an ever-popular and respected figure with Carlisle fans, and is known as a professional and focused character as a boss, as he was in his playing days. Could he be ready for the step up in the tough circumstances his old club face?


News and Star: Danny Grainger (photo: Tom Kay)Danny Grainger (photo: Tom Kay)

The 35-year-old former Blues skipper made no secret of his management ambitions the moment he hung up his boots two years ago. Grainger did good work over two Covid-hit seasons at the helm of Workington Reds, and has now taken his coaching career into the professional game as assistant boss with Falkirk. It’s not hard to imagine Grainger in the Brunton Park dugout in the future. Is now the right time, or is it still too early?


News and Star: Michael Bridges (photo: Jonathan Becker)Michael Bridges (photo: Jonathan Becker)

The man whose brilliance lit up United’s last promotion season (2005/6) was a contender for the job last time around, getting to the latter stages of the interview process before Carlisle opted for Chris Beech. United’s hierarchy, including David Holdsworth, spoke highly of Bridges then. Will surely be keen on the position again, and carries coaching qualifications and now management experience in Australia with National Premier Leagues Northern NSW side Edgeworth FC. Would miss out if Carlisle wanted an established lower-league managerial name – but could be a contender if they were to think a little further outside the box.


News and Star: Paul Thirlwell (photo: Barbara Abbott)Paul Thirlwell (photo: Barbara Abbott)

Another name mentioned by some fans is the former long-serving Blues captain, who is currently the trusted No2 to Simon Weaver at ambitious League Two high-fliers Harrogate Town. Thirlwell has been at the Yorkshire club for several years and played a key part in their impressive rise. If he’s ready for another step up, could the United vacancy appeal? Is under contract at the EnviroVent Stadium until 2024, which could prove a deterrent.


News and Star: Rory Delap (photo: PA)Rory Delap (photo: PA)

One of United's young 1990s Cumbrian stars who is now forging his career off the field. Delap has coaching experience from his time at Derby and, currently, Stoke, and was a rumoured name under consideration last time Carlisle had a vacancy. If the Blues are looking for an up-and-coming coach whose name would resonate with supporters, Delap could be worth a shot. If they're looking for established hot-seat experience, less so.


News and Star: Zigor Aranalde (photo: PA)Zigor Aranalde (photo: PA)

The Basque former left-back’s name often crops up when there is a vacancy at Brunton Park, and he’s indicated a keenness on the position in the past. Aranalde was a fan favourite at Carlisle, and he would no doubt be a popular pick with some. His recent coaching credentials include spells alongside Javi Gracia at the top levels in England and Spain, with Watford and Valencia. Would he be the right man to lead United through a League Two survival fight?


News and Star: Clint Hill (photo: Barbara Abbott)Clint Hill (photo: Barbara Abbott)

If United wanted to upset one of their nearest geographical League Two rivals they could pop across to Hartlepool for Hill. The former Blues defender has only just officially joined Pools as part of Dave Challinor’s coaching staff. If United were set on Hill, they’d be banking on the lure of a managerial job to disrupt his long-standing loyalty to Dave Challinor and his new club. Undoubtedly a respected and authoritative figure among fans and in the wider game. Like some of those above, though, the ex-Fleetwood and Bristol Rovers No2 would be a rookie in the hotseat.


News and Star: Matt Jansen (photo: PA)Matt Jansen (photo: PA)

One of United’s most talented players of recent decades was in the running before the Blues appointed John Sheridan in 2018, and seemed to carry the favour of many fans at that stage after his positive work at Chorley. After a backroom role at Stockport County, Jansen is now at the helm of North West Counties League Division One South side Stockport Town. A less likely contender this time – and there’s no guarantee he’d want the job under the same Blues regime that interviewed him three years ago.


News and Star: Andy Welsh (photo: Louise Porter)Andy Welsh (photo: Louise Porter)

Another outsider in the betting is former Blues winger Welsh, who is doing good work at the newly-formed Bury AFC, who sit top of North West Counties First Division North after an unbeaten start. It would be a significant step up to a League Two survival scramble, and Welsh’s playing days at Carlisle were hardly spectacular, but if United happen to be scouring non-league for managerial potential, his name is one that could catch the eye.


News and Star: Keith Curle (photo: PA)Keith Curle (photo: PA)

Seriously? Well, stranger things have happened. It would still be an eye-opener, though, if United fancied giving Curle a second stint at the helm after his four years of service from 2014-18. Much has been said at Brunton Park since then about the Blues’ spending during his reign, while the Bristolian spoke about an "extra cog in the wheel” of behind-the-scenes influences when looking back on his time at Carlisle. He regards his spell at the club in general, though, with affection, while his current club, Oldham, are a basket case – even though they’re only two points adrift of United.


News and Star: Paul Simpson (photo: PA)Paul Simpson (photo: PA)

One or two fans have proposed bringing Simmo back to resume the great work he did at Brunton Park from 2003-6, when he achieved two promotions before leaving for Preston. Much water has flowed under the bridge since then and Simmo, via the top jobs with Shrewsbury, Stockport, coaching roles at Derby and Newcastle and, memorably, the World Cup-winning helm of England Under-20s, is now first-team coach at Bristol City, having recently returned to the training ground after undergoing treatment for renal cell carcinoma.


News and Star: Jimmy Glass (photo: PA)Jimmy Glass (photo: PA)

Okay, probably not. The goalscoring goalkeeper is a 50/1 long shot with the bookies. Then again, he does specialise in miracles…

Would you opt for any of the ex-Blues above – or should Carlisle go for someone without United connections? Let us know in the comments…