Ceiling concern for Cumbrians
Carlisle will be targeting the play-offs after four years of continuous progress but some are wondering how much more Greg Abbott can squeeze out of them...
Bournemouth ｜ Brentford ｜ Bury ｜ Carlisle
Colchester ｜ Coventry ｜ Crawley ｜ Crewe
Doncaster ｜ Hartlepool ｜ Leyton Orient ｜ MK Dons
Notts County ｜ Oldham ｜ Portsmouth ｜ Preston
Scunthorpe ｜ Sheff Utd ｜ Shrewsbury ｜ Stevenage
Swindon ｜ Tranmere ｜ Walsall ｜ Yeovil
Greg Abbott is the longest-serving manager in League One, under whom Carlisle have improved for four consecutive seasons, and his team also boasts a core of long-serving players. Peter Murphy has racked up 450 appearances and Danny Livesey nearly 300. Adam Collin, Matty Robson, Paul Thirlwell and James Berrett have all topped 100 games with Frankie Simek not too far behind. However, resources are limited with no benefactor to bankroll the club and operations will only get tougher. The previous two campaigns were boosted by a combined £1.2m in JPT prize money.
Abbott has shown great imagination with a modest budget to source and develop cheap talent, a quality that obviously endears him to the Brunton Park board. His relationship with the fans has been rocky at times but the decision-makers have complete faith in him, as do the players. Murphy, Livesey, Berrett and Simek were all out of contract in the summer and had options to pursue their careers elsewhere but all decided to stay put, which speaks volumes for the day-to-day working environment.
It's indicative of today's thirst for instant gratification that United's undeniable progress since 2008 has largely gone unnoticed. Carlisle can pull-in five-figure crowds for big matches and they took around 20,000 fans to Wembley for the 2010 and 2011 Johnstone's Paint Trophy finals, but average home crowds have stagnated at the 5,200-mark. The Brunton Park matchday experience doesn't help, particularly during winter, and plans are afoot for a new stadium at Kingmoor Park. But nothing concrete has been tabled yet.
The steady progress under Abbott averages out at a climb of five points and three places every season, by which rationale the Cumbrians will be confidently targeting a play-off berth this time around. However, while they look a solid bet for another top-half finish, some suspect a ceiling may have been reached. With the path cleared of monster budgets, Carlisle look primed to step-up, but the nagging worry is that other teams will be better equipped to take a bigger leap into contention from further back.
Danny Cadamarteri (Huddersfield), Mike Edwards (Notts County), Alessio Bugno (Monza), Chris Chantler (Man City).
Francois Zoko (Notts County), Tom Taiwo (out of contract), Lubo Michalik (out of contract).
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