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Paul Simpson: ‘A club like Carlisle United must be in the Football League’

Paul Simpson has admitted there was an emotional pull that made him respond to Carlisle United’s SOS call.

The Cumbrian today spoke of returning to Brunton Park for a second term after an absence of almost 16 years.

Simpson, 55, has been charged with steering his hometown club to Football League safety in the remaining 15 games of the season.

And the man who led Carlisle to two promotions in 2005 and 2006 says it’s a job he would be unlikely to take on elsewhere.

Simpson agreed to take the job after a phone call from a member of the United hierarchy on Tuesday, with the move being approved after Keith Millen’s departure was confirmed the following morning.

When asked if there was an emotional reaction involved in his decision, he replied, “I’m going to be really honest, yes there was.

“I’m not really sure, I can’t say for sure, but I’m probably 90 per cent sure I wouldn’t have done this at another football club.

“I knew where I was going, I knew where I was going. I have an idea of ​​what is happening there, I have an idea of ​​what can actually happen there if you get some positivity.

“So I probably wouldn’t have done it anywhere else, because I realize that if it doesn’t work, I’m kind of doing myself no favors.

“But I really wanted this. I just imagined the challenge, the idea of ​​it, the idea of ​​helping if possible. That’s the truth.

“Don’t get me wrong, if someone had come from the Premier League, the Championship, top of the table, I probably would have taken that… but it didn’t come. This is football, this is where we are.

“Jobs only come if there are problems, unless you’re really lucky. This is where we are and I’m realistic about it, so let’s go.

Simpson met the players for the first time on Wednesday and was due to oversee his first club training session at Creighton Rugby Club today.

The Carlisle-born boss has confirmed he will continue to work with the existing backroom team, including assistant Gavin Skelton, although he revealed an ‘experienced’ goalkeeping coach is expected to join the club to replace Dan Hanford, who left this week.

Simpson will be straight in the dugout for United’s trip to Leyton Orient this weekend, where up to 600 fans will travel to watch the start of his second term at a time when the Blues sit second in the fourth tier.

A big welcome seems certain for Simpson given the overwhelmingly positive reaction from fans since news of his appointment broke.

The former England Under-20 World Cup-winning boss said it had been a “swirling” period during which he was approached by Carlisle on Tuesday.

“I’m not going to say who called, but I got a phone call and was told there had been a meeting earlier where a decision had been made.

“I actually asked the question, ‘Am I missing something? “Because I didn’t see that you let the manager go.”

“They said, ‘No, it’s going to be done tomorrow, face to face.’ I said if you do it right and talk face to face, I’ll talk to you tomorrow and we’ll work something out.

“It was literally, ‘You come into a difficult situation, there are going to be changes behind the scenes, the other staff are all going to stay, this is the team you are going to work with, you have 15 games, What do you think?’

“Me and [my wife] Jacqui was sitting in the living room, she had the pleasure of watching Bristol City-Coventry with me on Sky, which I know she loved…and I didn’t even discuss it. She just looked at me…and I sort of nodded. She left… okay. We didn’t really have a conversation.

“I noticed that when I went up to my office to start watching Wyscout and watching the players, she changed and watched a gardening program, so she obviously wasn’t watching Bristol City…”

Simpson was probed by the Blues after Chris Beech was sacked in October but said now was not the right time after quitting his coaching job with Bristol City and failing to finalize his settlement with the championship club.

“It didn’t feel right to me,” he said. “Now who knows if it’s a good time to come back – we won’t know until May.

“But I wanted to do it. I just thought, yeah, okay, I can do this.

“I can’t even sit here and say I’m definitely going to do this or that, but I’m going to do everything I can to keep us out of the National League because I think a club like Carlisle United needs to to be in the Football League.

“That’s why I want to try and do my part to see if I can help him.”

Simpson said he was comfortable working with No2 Skelton.

He said: “Definitely not a problem at all. I spoke to him many times, he called when I was in different places, asking if they could come and train at our training grounds and stuff like that…

“I spoke to him several times but I don’t know the guy. I had a great day with him yesterday, going to the training grounds and stuff like that.

“It’s always a challenge to find a place to train. They trained at Gretna which is apparently a fantastic artificial surface but I want to be on grass today if possible so we are going to Creighton Rugby Club for training today.

“He has been very good so far, as have the other staff. I hope we will be fine. I think it’s lucky. I arrive in a place that I know. I don’t need anyone to tell me what’s going on.

“I needed someone to tell me where new media is [of the ground] it’s because I didn’t know it. But I know Carlisle; I know where I’m going, I know what this football club is, so I’m not stepping into the unknown.

Commenting on the impending goalkeeper appointment, Simpson said: “He’s a very experienced player and goalkeeper coach. I just think it’s a specialist position.

“Mark [Howard] has taken over goalkeeping training since Dan left, but I want him to focus on his goalkeeping role, he doesn’t have to take responsibility for it.

“It’s a specialized position. They are strange, the goalkeepers, a group on their own. You need someone who has that knowledge to be able to work with them and do that kind of stuff.

“I hope it will be confirmed today and we can continue.”

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