I don’t usually watch the post-match discussion on Sky Sports, but I couldn’t take my eyes off it on Sunday.

A panel of Roy Keane, Graeme Souness, Jose Mourinho and Jamie Carragher is compelling. You just have to watch, and I found what they said to be completely fascinating.

Everyone can disagree about different aspects of the game but when the likes of Keane and Souness give you insight into a dressing room and a culture, you listen.

They made a great point which doesn’t necessarily reflect well on today’s game. They talked about the times when they first walked into the dressing rooms at Manchester United and Liverpool.

They looked around and thought to themselves: ‘I want to be like him, I want to be like him, I want to be like him, him and him.’

Keane was talking about people like Gary Pallister, Peter Schmeichel and Bryan Robson at Old Trafford. Souness’ idols were a who’s who at Anfield.

They were changing rooms full of leaders. It was the same for me at Sunderland when I walked in and wanted to be Niall Quinn, Lee Clark, Kevin Ball.

People who, to an extent, you were scared of. Not in a nasty, intimidating way, but pros you were respectfully fearful of, men whose wrong side you didn’t want to find.

It worked the other way once you got into the team and did a job. When one of those people put their arm around your shoulder and said well done, it meant everything.

I’m not sure that same fear factor exists in dressing rooms today. Are younger lads walking in and looking up to their senior colleagues in the same way?

At Carlisle United now, does a young player look around and think, ‘I want to be him, him and him?’

Unfortunately, I don’t think enough of it is there. Anyone who writes a column or comments on Carlisle have said the same thing; people I know in the game, from ex-managers to ex-players to agents, notice it too.

I was speaking to a former manager at Bradford before Saturday’s game. He also said he looked at Carlisle’s team and it lacked leaders.

Frustratingly, he said Bradford were similar and were there for the taking. They were – you could see it. Carlisle, though, couldn’t capitalise and some of the reasons were very clear.

The set-play situation is a massive issue. In the lower leagues you can win titles on set-plays. It was said in pre-season that Carlisle were poor in this department last year, but instead of improving they have got worse.

Even if you are not playing well, being strong at set-pieces can be a real asset. There were games last season which felt like they were going the wrong way, but then Jamie Devitt or Danny Grainger would come up with a bit of quality from a dead ball.

There is a reason why even the best teams devote attention to this. If it’s good enough for Jurgen Klopp to have a throw-in coach at Liverpool, it must be good enough for everyone else to focus on these areas.

In a defensive sense it goes back to having leadership and command. Steven Pressley has to keep working at it, walking his players through it. If he has to have them out for extra time on the training pitch, so be it.

Nobody in the defence should need to be told they have to mark their man. It comes down to wanting to do it, having the desire to get hit in the face with the ball.

People raved about Arsenal’s winner against Aston Villa, a free-kick from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. Why, though, wasn’t Jack Grealish coming from the wall to charge that down?

As a player, there was no better feeling than getting smashed by the ball in that situation – the praise you got from your team-mates always made the pain worth it.

Carlisle are not short of players who have been around the block. As captain Adam Collin is vastly experienced and, when they signed Byron Webster and Nathaniel Knight-Percival at centre-half, you could see what Pressley was hoping to do.

As a manager you should be able to count on that experience.

I don’t doubt these players can do it. They have proven it over their careers. At the moment, though, something isn’t clicking.

As Pressley said himself in his post-match interviews, they have to start now. These problems can cost people jobs and make seasons much more difficult than they need to be.

When Pressley talks about what he wants to do, I often find myself agreeing with him, but if you want to play that way, all the parts have to come together.

If you are going to attack the way Carlisle want to, you are going to get attacked yourself through leaving yourself open.

At times United are getting away with it due to the lack of quality in some League Two sides. When teams get around or behind them they aren’t always taking advantage.

But then you come to set-plays and too often it is costing them.

It was frustrating because, earlier on Saturday, United had done the right thing in quietening Bradford’s 14,000 home crowd and getting the ball into some good areas.

When Carlisle came under pressure themselves, though, it went the other way. They have to be better at controlling games and seeing off danger.


Oldham, next weekend, is a great game for Carlisle in a way.

It will show them exactly where they are.

Instead of talking and speculating about how much progress they have or haven’t made, we will see the truth of it against a poor Latics team.

Are Carlisle going to be down there all season, or are they better than those strugglers?

Oldham are in a bit of turmoil, having changed managers early in the season. Yes, they had a lift on Saturday in Dino Maamria’s first game, but a lot of teams get that under a new boss.

They will still have the same players and the same faults that got them down there in the first place.

Steven Pressley will, I’m sure, rest the players for tonight’s Trophy game that he needs to, get on the training pitch and try to build on the good attacking play his team produced at times at Bradford.

If they can tighten up on their set-plays, I feel United will have too much attacking-wise for the Latics on the Brunton Park pitch.

It’s a game Carlisle have to be winning and I’m sure Pressley will see it that way too.

If they get enough things right, Carlisle should be a top half team at least. Maybe higher: I haven’t been impressed with many teams in League Two so far.

While the table is as it is, though, they have to win the mini-leagues that pop up, and a home game against a team in 20th place certainly comes into that category.

Beat the likes of Oldham and you can start to think: ‘We’ll be ok’, even if it’s going to be an up-and-down season.

I always liked playing Oldham. I always found them a team with a weak underbelly. They would often have a good player or two, but I always felt you could get at them.

These days they are a club in a bit of disarray and are the sort of team you should want to play if you are on a bad run.

Let’s hope Carlisle can take advantage and reassure supporters about where their own season might go.