“Everything will be alright in the end. If it’s not alright, it’s not yet the end”. We can all take comfort from these words spoken by John Lennon many moons ago. Though it’s difficult to see where the end may be, things can’t – you’d hope – continue in the same vein that they have over the last four months. The stats aren’t pretty. We’ve heard them all before. Although it provides some much-needed warmth and merriment on these dark Saturday afternoons to say “everything will alright when Lee gets back”, the fact of the matter is simple. Unless things change now, it won’t.
Shrewsbury Town, promoted from League Two last year, will be the latest side to try to put Carlisle to the sword. Things haven’t been going as well as expected; the failure to replace the void left by the departure of several key players in the summer has seen them slip to 21st place, four points behind United. One win in ten games in all competitions is worrying form, although the recent return of Luke Rodgers on-loan from financially-stricken Portsmouth should lift some of the lingering anxieties. Adapting to life in a higher division is always difficult and so it is proving. Survival this season has to be their sole aim. In years gone by, these were games United would look at with relative optimism. Unless things improve in both respective camps, three points for either side could give them the upper-hand against their relegation rivals.
Things cannot continue like they have on and off the field in Cumbria. Change is needed, and quickly. For the time being, we’re not talking changes at board-level. We’re not talking about changes in management. We’re not talking about changing the physio, the kit man or even the tea boy. We’re talking about changes which, first and foremost, should have been made months ago. Conceding goals is no new thing. The influence of Zoko and Miller carried the team through last season. Take them away and you don’t score goals. You continue conceding goals at the same rate and you lose football matches. It’s not really rocket science. The same mistakes are being made again and again and again, week after week after week and, to be honest, it’s difficult to see where the improvement will come from.
The infinite monkey theorem states that a monkey hitting keys at random on a typewriter keyboard for an infinite amount of time will almost certainly reproduce the works of William Shakespeare. In other words, if you persist with something for long enough, it will eventually come good. This seems to be the mindset taken on by the club at the moment. Loyalty in football is a dying breed. Loyalty is no bad thing. There is a point, though, that you have to sit down and think “no, this isn’t really working”. Change has to come from the players. Whether these are physical changes in personnel or significant kicks up the backsides of the current eleven remains open to debate. After all, there are two loan defenders in the squad who, as of yet, haven’t had time to make an impression.
It’s very easy to point the finger at individuals and say they got it wrong. Football is a team game and, as a team, it isn’t working. Until the belief returns, the errors are eradicated and individuals start taking responsibility, the talk of Lee Miller’s magical return is but a poor excuse for current goings on. It’s a distraction from the real issue.
United Team News
Things have gone from bad to worse for United with the news that Alessio Bugno – unhappy with life in Carlisle – has returned home to his native Italy, meaning that there are, once again, no recognised left-backs in the squad. Danny Cadamarteri’s poor showing against Sheffield United may see a return to action for Mark Beck who, prior to last weekend, had scored three goals in two games. Rory Loy may make his long-awaited return to action, with Brad Potts continuing at right-back in place of the injured Frank Simek.
Predicted United XI
Potts / Edwards / Livesey / Chantler
McGovern / Noble / Thirlwell / Robson
Garner / Cadamarteri
Shrews fan Andrew Harding chatted to us this week about Saturday’s game. He’s talked about bridging the gap between League Two and League One, who we should watch out for at the weekend and how he envisages the game panning out.
JP: After the success of a promotion from League Two last season, what were your – and other fans’ – expectations as you came to adapt to life in a higher division?
AH: Expectations were fairly high once promotion was achieved but the huge changes to the squad reintroduced pessimism to our mindset. Pre-season performances encouraged that initial optimism to re-emerge. It’s a good thing that many maintained a realistic perspective on life in a higher division and felt that a season of consolidation at this level would be fine.
JP: Though you’re currently in the relegation places, do you feel the current squad has enough quality to remain in League One? If not, where do you feel needs strengthening in particular?
AH: This squad isn’t good enough for League One football. Graham Turner has gone back to his tried-and-tested loan market approach to strengthen the team and it hasn’t worked out well this season. Supposedly, Roland Wycherley will loosen the proverbial purse strings and Turner can bring in some much-needed reinforcements.
In regards areas, there is definitely a need for a reliable centre-back. We’re one injury away from having to look at players in the existing squad to adapt to the position which is not at all ideal especially given our frailties there in the first place.
JP: How big of a loss were the departures of Shane Cansdell-Sherriff and Nicky Wroe to Preston and James Collins to Swindon in the summer?
AH: The loss of them has had more of an impact than hoped but it is the departure of James Collins up front that has been the biggest loss. Terry Gornell and Tom Bradshaw were meant to try and fill that void but they have failed to seize their chances, the former especially. Last season, it was Collins plus one in attack. This season, it has been Morgan and another until Luke Rodgers’ return.
In regards Cansdell-Sheriff, it’s more a sense of being short in the centre of defence while the absence of Wroe hasn’t been too great in terms of ability. However, I wouldn’t turn them away if they were resigned, put it that way.
JP: Carlisle are conceding goals for the fun at the moment and you should have no problem finding the back of the net. Which are the players most likely to cause us problems at the weekend?
AH: Paul Parry hasn’t lived up to his performances earlier in the season and has found himself on the fringes. Mark Wright’s absence due to injury means he should find himself in the team and here’s hoping from a Salopian perspective he will take the opportunity and begin to find his feet again.
Marvin Morgan has been regularly mentioned by opposing supporters as a bit of a handful and while he lacks in technical ability, his work rate means he could cause some problems. That brings me round to probably our best player this season, short-arse winger Jon Taylor. He has made real improvements to his technical game over the past year and combined with the pace he has always possessed, he is the nearest the Shrews have to a man in form.
One side note: if Grandison gets into wide positions going forward, your mind will be blown by his step-overs.
JP: With both sides struggling at the wrong end of the division and in desperate need of three points, what sort of approach will Graham Turner take to the game like this?
AH: I would expect the Shrews to continue their reliance on crosses, something that admittedly infuriates me, but the centre of the midfield only really attacks in central positions when Asa Hall plays. Hall hasn’t maintained any consistency so he won’t be starting so expect the crab-like Luke Summerfield to play alongside captain Matt Richards in the centre of midfield.
It will be a generic 4-4-2 and I would be surprised if the line-up deviated at all from the following: Chris Weale in between the posts; a back four comprised of Connor Goldson, Jermaine Grandison, Darren Jones and Joe Jacobson; a midfield of Jon Taylor, Luke Summerfield, Matt Richards and Paul Parry; completed with the pairing of Marvin Morgan and Luke Rodgers in attack.
JP: Are you confident of getting a result?
AH: I have the unfortunate feeling that it will be another score draw and it will be a case of this season’s standard lament of “should have won” once again, to the irritation of all loyal Salopians. A home defeat would only see that small group of people who think Turner is now past it (modern football’s expectations for you) pipe-up, which is something that no one wants. Except yourselves of course.
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