The idea of the Piataks being interested in and investing in the community, as opposed simply in Carlisle United’s ability to win or lose football matches, was underlined this week.

The Blues’ owners – Tom and Patty Piatak – spoke at a business breakfast for Carlisle Youth Zone at Brunton Park. Certain messages, it turned out, were universal.

Their club, Tom Piatak said, would aim to be a “beacon of light for the community”. That related to, for instance, how they wanted a new training ground to be closely connected to the city, but also the wider principles of what they’d like to do while they’re here.

“Young people are the future of any community, business, club,” he added. The couple had visited the Youth Zone recently. “I absolutely loved what they are doing and what they stand for,” said Piatak.

He urged everyone in the room – a packed Foxy’s Restaurant, with representatives of a host of businesses and organisations present – to back the Youth Zone. It tapped in, he said, to a pride in the area, a way of making sure everyone in it can aim as high as they can.

These are important things to hear from a new football club owner with no initial links to a place. It makes the whole operation feel less of a high-spending ego trip and more of a journey which can enrich, which can embed and can last.

The Youth Zone itself is along that road and intent on going further. Caroline Taylor-Beswick, its chief executive, told the room that, in its 13 years to date, it has grown to cater for 3,000 young people. The facility is open six nights a week, 52 weeks a year, and also now has more than 150 patrons.

“Just like it takes a village to raise a child,” Taylor-Beswick said, the Youth Zone had been sustained by the help and commitment of many. It meant, she added, it was able to survive and thrive in spite of a climate of cuts to youth services – a 70 per cent reduction in less than a decade.

News and Star: The audience in Foxy's Restaurant listens to the Piataks at the Carlisle Youth Zone business breakfastThe audience in Foxy's Restaurant listens to the Piataks at the Carlisle Youth Zone business breakfast (Image: News & Star)

And so, after the Piataks had spoken at length, discussing Tom’s military background, the family’s transition into logistics businesses, some of the principles – “take risks, hire winners” – that have propelled them and then how their focus turned to professional football and Carlisle United, it was important to listen again to Taylor-Beswick.

She spoke not about the Youth Zone as a standalone entity but something which can flourish as part of a community – and certainly in conjunction with Carlisle United, given how the Blues are being lifted right now.

“When you speak about the Youth Zone and the football club specifically, it is about places and spaces that represent opportunities to come together,” she said.

“We are obviously very focused on young people – no matter what your background, and your experiences, you're welcome. I’m getting a sense that that is important here at the club, along with that idea of being beacons of hope.

“It is about being ambitious and bold about what we can achieve in the future, but also being proud of what we're doing now. Young people will often say to us that, yes, our future is important to us, but youth is an actual life stage. Our lives now are important. And that talent is now important.

“At the Youth Zone we aim to make sure young people are heard, seen and valued for what they are now. That philosophy really, really matters.”

Tom and Patty Piatak, as part of their discussion, spoke of their pride in their family, many of whom returned from university to work for them. They also stressed the values which have minimised employee turnover at their logistics firm in Florida.

“I do believe their approach to life and family, their conditions, are what we try and bring to young people in Youth Zone,” added Taylor-Beswick. “We are telling them every day that we believe in them. That sense of having somebody in your corner is really important.”

Any community needs its flagships. At their best, two were in the room, front and centre, in Foxy’s on Thursday morning. “We talk a lot about raising aspirations, and building skills – and what I'm hearing from the Piataks, is about their doing that for the club, but also for the city, and for Cumbria,” added Taylor-Beswick.

News and Star: “Young people are the future or any community, business, club, says Tom Piatak“Young people are the future or any community, business, club, says Tom Piatak (Image: Barbara Abbott)

“They talked a lot about being proud and that sense of pride about what we're doing. For our young people, that's really important. We’ve got many young people who are growing up in Carlisle, and they do want to stay in Carlisle. And actually, there are a lot of opportunities for them in Carlisle and wider Cumbria.

“We've not always been the best, in a collective sense, at letting young people know what opportunities are available to them, and why they should stay, why we want their skills and their talents to stay.

“So I think, through building that sense of hope and possibility in the local area, my hope is that young people will grow themselves in that sense of pride. Carlisle United are talking about wanting young players to feel this is where they belong, and we’re doing exactly the same.

“We want young people to feel this is their home, their community, their city. Let's create a culture and an environment where everybody can take pride.”

For more information on Carlisle Youth Zone, click HERE