In this exclusive interview with W88 Sports, Carlisle United manager Paul Simpson talks about returning to Brunton Park after 16 years away, using a sports psychologist, and striving for a third promotion with the Cumbrians.
This semester has been an entirely different beast.
With just four losses in seventeen since Boxing Day, Simpson’s men have emerged as early play-off contenders in League Two, and with eight games left to play, they are only one point outside the automatic promotion places.
W88 given that Gretna is only 15 miles from the Scottish border, Simpson has logged a lot of miles on the road but has been reluctant to use it as an excuse for his team’s lack of success.
Fortunately, they have the fourth-best away record in the league right now, which should help him out greatly.
“The results have been outstanding. We accept that Carlisle and the rest of the league have been placed where they currently are.
“We always take the necessary precautions when traveling and stay the night when we must. It doesn’t matter how far we have to go if we’re good enough already. Our mindset this season has been that we need to get things done.
“The fact that we have such strong support has really wowed me. It’s great that so many fans have made the effort to travel to away games; we’re obligated to do so as part of our jobs, but fans go because they want to. They deserve a ton of praise for making the trips possible. Even at home, they are arriving in large numbers.”
Having a local hub has also been beneficial to the cause. Omari Patrick, Jamie Devitt, and Joe Garner are all in their second stints with the club, while native Carlisleans Owen Moxon, Paul Huntington, and Jack Ellis are in their fourth.
“I feel the same way about the staff, and I do think it matters. Because of our extreme northern latitude, Carlisle, you really need to know what you’re getting into. Many of our players are alumni who have expressed interest in returning, while others are from the area or have graduated from our academy.
“Players and fans with a strong sense of loyalty to the team are invaluable assets. They’re rooting for someone they see as one of them, and I believe that’s helped us this year.
“When we got promoted before, we had a strong group of players who worked well together and were willing to dig in. I think we have that kind of group now.”
Vn88 thinks that Simpson’s decision to hire a sports psychologist on a contract basis this term likely contributed to the team’s early season success.
Although this strategy is not commonly employed in the ELF’s lower divisions, he is convinced that it is the only way to salvage the season.
“In order to succeed, having a strong mentality is essential, regardless of the field you work in. To get the most out of our players, we employ any means necessary.
“It’s on me to figure out when to work that into our routine, and so far it’s been successful. Now that we’re down to the final eight games of the season, the players won’t get any fitter; our job is simply to keep them from falling apart. They need only be in the proper frame of mind to carry out their duties.
“They’ve done a great job of responding. Because I want the players to feel safe and say what they’re thinking and feeling, I try to stay out of the way. That’s crucial, and then I’ll find out what I need to know if anything comes out of it, and we’ll try to put it into practice if it makes sense.”
Rezence.com predicts that Carlisle would be in the top three heading into Saturday’s visit to league leaders Leyton Orient if they had won just one of their last three games. Instead, they have only scored in two of the three games in which they have taken a point.
Even at this late stage, there is still hope; they are only eight points out of first. While Simpson isn’t thinking that far ahead just yet, it appears that he will be promoted automatically once he earns the title.
I’m a firm believer in making the most of one’s abilities, he says with Vn88. “Our initial goal was to reach 42 points as soon as possible; once we achieved that, we had to reevaluate our strategy.
“Even though we haven’t been in the top three since the new year began, we’re very happy with how things have turned out. It’s intense up top, but I have faith that if we do our jobs well, everything else will fall into place.”
If you won the World Cup, how would another promotion stack up?
“It would be fantastic, and it would make my summer one to remember. We’ve put in a lot of effort to get this far, and we want to see it through to the end.
“In football, you should take pleasure in any achievement, be it promotion from the Conference, victory in League Two, or the World Cup. I hope that the remaining five or six weeks of summer are wonderful for all of us.”