GREG Abbott will assess his Carlisle United squad on the training pitches over the next few weeks before deciding whether to return to the transfer market.
The Cumbrians have added winger Andy Welsh, midfielder Jon-Paul McGovern and defender Stephen O’Halloran to the squad which won last season’s Johnstone’s Paint Trophy.
That will suffice for now, says Abbott, whose players returned for pre-season training on Wednesday. He will gauge the strength of his squad before deciding what further additions are to be made.
By then it should be clearer what Premier League players are available on loan. Abbott is keen to take back Sunderland midfielder Liam Noble, but realises his chances of re-signing Ben Marshall from Stoke City for a third time are slimmer.
“I’m looking at everybody in pre-season and if people aren’t performing, what we have to do is make sure come the start of the season our team is in better shape to win games,” he said. “The whole team’s under scrutiny now.”
One area the League One club have conspicuously failed to add to is the forward line, despite not having adequately replaced Gary Madine when the Gateshead-born striker joined Sheffield Wednesday six months ago.
“Rory (Loy) and Paddy (Madden) were brought in (during the January transfer window) and we explained how and why,” said Abbott. “This is their big period, the early pre-season friendlies.
“We’ll assess the situation in two or three weeks to assess where we are and where we’re going. Hopefully there’ll be a big contribution from Rory, Paddy, Craig (Curran) and François (Zoko).”
Abbott was voracious in his use of last season’s loan market, with Marshall and Noble notable successes. It seems likely he will exploit the good relationship he has built up with the likes of Manchester United to borrow more players for the coming campaign.
“It’s always in the back of our minds that Premiership clubs get their players back, they look at them and see how they’ve done, whether they think they can utilise them in the early part of the season,” he admitted. “If they don’t think they can, they look to our type of club to give them regular football. It’s an option and we’re on the mark with that.”
While Loy and McFadden are youngsters learning their trade, Welsh played Premier League football for Sunderland, McGovern began his career at Celtic and O’Halloran is an Irish international. Carlisle also tried – and have apparently failed – to sign forward Shefki Kuqi after the Finn was released by Newcastle United.
That list alone makes it pretty obvious what qualities Abbott has been trying to add to his young squad. “Experience, nous, toughness – they’re all hardened players who know the game and have been at different clubs,” he explained. “They’ve played a lot of football and there’s a mixture of different qualities they’ve got.
“Stephen’s a real tough defender, JP (McGovern)’s a good footballer, Andy’s got a bit of pace and can play wide and stretch teams. Between them there’s a nice lot of quality which we thought we needed to add to the squad, but certainly experience was an important one because we felt at times we were too young last year, and inexperienced.
“But all those players have had another year now and they’re better than they were, the likes of Tom (Taiwo) and Liam Noble if we can get him back, (James) Berrett. Rory and Paddy have had six months with us now. The future looks good. We’re optimistic that the age and enthusiasm will carry us on again.”
Carlisle’s first pre-season fixture is at Kendal Town on Friday.