I avoided this issue in my match report because, quite frankly, it’s news in it’s own right and goes far beyond the reaches of a 3rd division cup game. The stewarding, policing and protection afforded to our players following the JPT clash on Tuesday night was quite frankly atrocious and there’s been a queue of people from Leeds United lining up to blast Carlisle United’s poor organisation since.

I’ll start with the most opinionated of them all, which is quite obviously Uncle Ken, who pulls no punches by describing Carlisle as a ‘little club’ whose organistation was ‘very basic’. Not really controversial when you consider Ken Bates’ usual rants but I’m sure it’s upset a few people in Carlisle, as will his suggestion that the reasons behind the poor stewarding were ‘to save a few bob’. 

As someone not exactly alien to milking every available penny from whatever scenario presents itself, Ken Bates should be seen as a professor on the subject of maximising profits. For all his faults (and there are far too many to list) he’s shown his real skill in his time at Elland Road by helping our supporters lighten their pockets of those heavy notes that were weighing them down at every available opportunity.  

Ken Bates’ somewhat tactless comments may have hit the nail on the head. To be totally honest, I didn’t spare much of a thought to the stewarding until after the game, but given the over the top reaction many clubs put in place for the visit of Leeds United, it was somewhat restrained, which could mean one of two things.

  • 1) Carlisle naively thought there was no real potential for trouble
  • 2) Ken Bates is right and it was all about cost cutting.

I’m leaning towards the latter as Leeds United have a bad reputation in Carlisle already and anyone with two braincells to rub together could see the potential for trouble. This does mean I’m agreeing with Ken Bates, which is amongst my least favourite things (it irritates me almost as seeing Ashley Cole on the front of this mornings papers), but when a mans right, no matter how much of a distaste for him you have, you have to hold your hands up and agree.

That’s not to say I believe he’s doing this because he cares after the safety of his fellow man. This isn’t a new cuddly, caring version of Ken Bates we’re seeing. Let us not forget he once attempted to erect an electric fence around Stamford Bridge’s pitch to control the Chelsea fans. Maybe my cynicism is getting out of hand, but I can’t help thinking his motives are more to do with the possible compensation, not to mention the need to massage his over-inflated ego with another attention seeking rant.  

Grayson meanwhile was also extremely angered at the incident and says three Leeds United players were attacked while the Police and stewards were slow to react. He says he’s disappointed at the lack of protection afforded to his players and is glad the club intend to take the matter further with official complaints being made by Leeds United.

But finally – and for me, most interesting of all – we come to Richard Naylor. He attacks the stewards for making no effort to get the lads off the field and says it was stupid of them not to expect a pitch invasion. Quite right too. No matter how pointless the competition, it gives the winner the chance to play at Wembley and no matter who the fans are, they’ll celebrate afterwards.

The bit that most interested me about Naylor’s interview however was him questioning what the reaction would have been if this was Leeds United’s fans. As a lifelong Leeds United fan, Richard Naylor knows exactly how quickly we’re judged. Had this been Leeds United fans that stormed the pitch, make no mistake, it’d have been national news and we’d getting plasted from every angle and that’s the really infuriating part for me.

Whilst there was some coverage in the following mornings papers, this was nothing compared to what we’re met with when our own fans do something deemed to be unlawful. I know it’s the price you pay for being such a big club and that no one really cares about Carlisle United, but it’s not just the papers. The FA would have been making statements by now, Lord Mahwinney would be condemning our actions and everyone who is anyone would have an opinion, but because Leeds United are the victims and Carlisle the culprits, no one cares.

It’ll be interesting to see what the FA make of it all when they do decide to pay some attention to the matter. Measly fine and a statement saying ‘we hope the matter can now be put to rest’, you mark my words. That’s if Carlisle United aren’t totally cleared and the matter swept under the carpet anyway.