With just ten days until the new season, Carlisle United manager Paul Simpson is finalising his plans for the big kick-off.

The Blues team is certainly taking shape – but Simmo is still facing some big calls for the opening game against Crawley.

Here we take a look, position by position.


This one should be the most straightforward. Tomas Holy is the man who will start the campaign in goal and, fitness allowing, complete it too.

News and Star: Tomas HolyTomas Holy

The big Czech, one of United’s summer signings, fills the void left by last season’s player of the year Mark Howard.

Simpson will hope Holy’s stature and experience, from clubs such as Ipswich Town and Gillingham, will stand the Blues in good stead.

READ MORE: Carlisle United's Paul Simpson impressed defender Whelan after pre-season showings

With United yet to add a second keeper, after the departure of Magnus Norman, promising teenager Gabe Breeze is back-up.

Another prospect, Scott Simons, is out injured for several weeks, meaning the Blues will have to be ready to act at a moment’s notice should anything befall Holy and Breeze.


Simpson has gone with a three-man central defensive line-up throughout pre-season and that’s the expectation for July 30.

A betting man would probably place his wager on Morgan Feeney, Jon Mellish and Ben Barclay forming the trio to start with.

News and Star: Ben Barclay, rightBen Barclay, right

Things may not, though, be 100 per cent clear-cut given the way Corey Whelan performed when deputising for the injured Feeney against Bolton.

The latter had to go off with a head injury in that game, and did not play in Tuesday’s friendly against Livingston.

Whelan did, and has plenty of minutes under his belt in this pre-season, and the approval of Simpson for his performances.

All the same – the battling, popular Feeney would still be in most fans’ sides provided he is fully fit (he should be available to face Morecambe, Simpson has said).

The ex-Everton man in the centre, Mellish to his left and Stockport loan man Barcley to his right would, all things considered, seem the likeliest way to go for starters.


Simpson now has a couple of options on both sides of the pitch here in light of his most recent transfer work.

On the right, Nottingham Forest loanee Fin Back was signed with this very role in mind.

News and Star: Fin BackFin Back

He made a combative debut against Bolton and also got a decent outing against Livingston.

Back’s extra experience and higher-level attributes may gain him the starting nod against Crawley over the other man in the running.

Simpson knows, though, that in teenager Jack Ellis he has a highly promising young player ready and willing.

Ellis’s performances in the first team at the tail end of last season certainly brought him to the fore, and the Cumbrian appears a composed emerging pro who will surely figure well in United’s 2022/23.

A more outright attacking option in the position could be Jordan Gibson, but expect Simpson to revert to Back to start with.

On the left, it initially seems to be a straight call between Jack Armer and Brennan Dickenson.

Here the judgment call may come down to exactly what Simpson wants from his wing-back against particular opponents.

Armer is the more orthodox defender while Dickenson is more of an attacker by trade, and one of the aims this campaign will be for United to make better use of his crossing skills.

Dickenson is aiming to overcome a dead leg to face Morecambe this weekend. Either way, this is perhaps one of the trickier areas when it comes to second-guessing Simpson.


There are some intriguing decisions to be made here.

Callum Guy, who missed the latter stages of 2021/22 with injury, is back fit and in good shape, and although still only 25 has ample experience under his belt.

News and Star: Owen MoxonOwen Moxon

That ought to be an important factor when League Two slog begins. Simpson has several other options, though.

Owen Moxon, the summer signing from Annan, has certainly done his case no harm with his pre-season showings.

He adds stature and a bright passing range to Simpson’s arsenal, as well as a set-piece threat.

Moxon must surely be very much in Simpson’s thinking for Crawley. Also in the mix is Gibson, one of last season’s stars, and someone who has been used in various roles in pre-season so far.

Indeed, Simpson has mixed things up tactically, with both Gibson and Moxon taking up deeper and more attacking midfield positions in different games.

Gibson is also a wide option – and then there is Jamie Devitt, who got 90 minutes against Livingston in his quest to earn a contract.

Should the popular Irishman sign up, there is the possibility of resuming the Guy-Devitt axis that served Simpson well at the outset of his second reign, with Moxon, Gibson or perhaps Sonny Hilton occupying the more advanced berth of a midfield three.

Taylor Charters, another midfielder and wing-back option, will miss the start of the campaign through injury, while Whelan is a further possibility if Simpson wants a defensive body in the deeper midfield position.


Given last season was the equal worst in United’s Football League goalscoring history, the need for better in 2022/23 could not be plainer.

To try and enhance things in this department, Simpson has turned to Ryan Edmondson in the No9 position.

News and Star: Ryan EdmondsonRyan Edmondson

So far the signing from Leeds United has not disappointed. Edmondson has supplied goals against Penrith, Workington and Bolton Wanderers, and looked a strong and able leader of the line too.

He must be in firm contention to start against Crawley. And then it comes down to who goes alongside.

Kristian Dennis’s know-how is a quality United cannot underestimate in League Two. He is comfortably the most experienced of their front runners and someone whose nous Simpson will surely lean on at various stages.

Elsewhere, Simpson has varying alternatives. Hilton, the diminutive creator on loan from Fulham, was one of United’s earliest summer signings and someone Carlisle hope will unlock doors for them in League Two.

He has tended to figure on the right or in behind the main strikers and it will be interesting to see exactly where Simpson chooses to deploy him when the real stuff starts.

Perhaps he will stick with that versatility and hope he, and Hilton, can keep opponents guessing. Gibson is another option for the wide attacking roles, while Tobi Sho-Silva, a more orthodox centre-forward, appears the main competition for Edmondson, whether as a starter or reprising the supersub antics that made him a key figure last term.

There is also, of course, the popular and pacy figure of Omari Patrick, who did so much good work to help keep United up. Injury has disrupted his pre-season and, while he is not a million miles away, Simpson is reluctant to press him back into action too soon.

One imagines an outing against Morecambe would be required for Patrick to push himself into opening-day contention. Either way, hopefully he’s up to speed soon.

Other options come from the younger ranks. Nic Bollado has earned justified compliments from Simpson for his summer performances, and is in the mix for a squad place.

Perhaps, just now, that puts him ahead of Sam Fishburn given the tall teenager has missed lots of pre-season with injury, only just coming back into contention.