In the latest in the Journal’s end-of-season reviews, chief sports writer Mark Douglas speaks to Greg Abbott about Carlisle United’s 2011-12 campaign – and his own future
FOR a naturally confident man, Greg Abbott does a cracking line in self-deprecating humour.
Ask the Carlisle boss to describe the way his team plays football and the answer that snaps back speaks of his pride in the team that he’s built – and the humour that would make him a natural on the after-dinner circuit.
“My football team is exactly what I’m not – attractive and pleasing on the eye,” Abbott says.
Perhaps that is what the job does to you. This is the second week of his supposed summer holiday but by 9.15am Abbott has already taken six calls.
“One fantastic, two average and three dreadful,” he says. It is a work ethic and thirst for the job that has served Carlisle United well in his four years in charge – enabling him to pick up good players without the premium and post year-on-year improvements at Brunton Park.
It did not end in the promotion he craved but ultimately, this was another season of progress for Carlisle and Abbott.
The cup successes of the last two years were transformed into a consistency in the league that meant the club was more than a match for the division’s bigger spenders over the course of a 46-game season.
It was not quite enough to bring about the play-off finish that during much of the autumn and early spring seemed possible, but it represents another step forward on Abbott’s watch. It was – in short – a qualified success.
“It was a season that probably ended with disappointment – probably a bit like Newcastle United,” Abbott said.
“Look at the bigger picture, though, and it was a big success. The infrastructure here is better, the team is better and the club has moved forward in all respects.
“There are sound foundations there and now the challenge is to move things forward from here – which will be tough to do because our budget won’t be the biggest in the league.
“Yet the chairman and managing director now see the budget as one that we can compete on, which is part of the challenge that faces us. So we’ll roll up our sleeves and get on with it.”