Carlisle United will go back into the transfer market this week, but a player who has not even signed yet dominated the build-up to tonight’s Johnstone’s Paint Trophy clash at Fleetwood Town.
It has been a difficult few days for Graham Kavanagh with the loss of former Sunderland defender Pascal Chimbonda tonight and goalkeeper Mark Gillespie for the next two months.
But they were nothing compared to justifying taking Courtney Meppen-Walter on trial days after his release from prison.
The 19-year-old was sacked by Manchester City after pleading guilty in February to causing the death of brother and sister Kulwant Singh and Ravel Kaur by careless driving. He was released last week after serving half his 16-month sentence.
“I totally and utterly respect people’s views and I was aware it might upset a few people,” commented manager Kavanagh.
“I genuinely get that and I knew I might face criticism.
“But at the same time, it is my job as manager to get the best player I can get for Carlisle United.
“He has served time for a crime he is very, very upset about. He seems very remorseful and very understanding of the negative reaction that is going to surround him.
“He has to live with this for the rest of his life, and it will haunt him every time he closes his eyes.
“Two people’s lives have been taken, but he’s showing remorse and he’s moving on with his life.
“He has served his punishment, and it is my job as manager to decide if I want to take him.
“He is getting a second chance and that started the moment he came out of prison.”
The family of the victims have condemned Kavanagh’s decision.
Central defender Meppen-Walter is undoubtedly a talented footballer, having captained England U18s and although he never played first-team football for City, he was an unused substitute against Juventus in last season’s Champions League.
Greg Fleming, a 27-year-old former Gretna goalkeeper, makes his Carlisle debut tonight but with little other experience to call on, Kavanagh will look for a loan signing.
“Mark’s torn a ligament in his knee and it looks like he’ll be out for six to eight weeks,” he said of Gillespie.
“Greg Fleming will now get his chance, and he’s earned that. We only have the two youth team keepers as back-up and they aren’t quite ready for the first team just yet. We will be looking for another keeper and we do have a few options that we’re working on.
“That doesn’t mean that they’ll come here to play right away, because Greg has a chance to show us what he can do in a game situation.”
Chimbonda has been told to take a few days’ rest after a recurrence of his groin injury warming up for training yesterday.
Lee Miller is suspended but on-loan Max Ehmer returns after Queens Park Rangers asked for the defender not to face Boreham Wood in the FA Cup.