A true football man: Andrew Jenkins survives nine relegations, decades of debt and Knighton

Life beyond the Premiere League: 'You see the Premier League and the amount of money they waste. It’s sad'

Andrew Jenkins was eight years old. And bored. "Go down Warwick Road and watch the football then son if you want something to do," said a bloke plucking chickens.

So he went to the football, to watch Carlisle United. That was in 1944.

By 1959, by which stage he was 23, there was an invitation to join the board of directors. He accepted.

In the 90s - "I can't remember which year exactly," he says - Jenkins became chairman of his football club. On Wednesday, with his ground near full, Jenkins took the usual walk to his seat in the directors' box to watch his football club play Tottenham Hotspur in the Capital One Cup.

"We had two lads who came on as sub on 500 quid a week, they brought on the England right-back," he laughs.

Fifty-three years with a club (once we reach November). It is a heart-warming contrast to those that play with clubs (largely in the Premier League) like fashionable toys.

"It's a difficult job," he says. "For clubs of our size it's a challenge to pay the wages every month. It's very sad. You see the Premier League and the amount of money they've got and they just waste it.

"It was supposed to be for the good of football, but it's only good for big cities and big clubs. All the money they spend on transfers, they could spend some of it on home-grown players and some of it would stay in the country.

"They tend to be bullying us, the smaller clubs. More money should come down but it doesn't. At one time they were all football people, not now, they're business people and they're not bred that way. At one time they would do things for you but they won't do a lot now."

There is much to shoehorn in here, but a first appearance at Wembley, when Carlisle faced Birmingham in front of more than 76,000 fans, at the famous old stadium in the Auto Windscreen Shield final in 1995, proved an emotional one, 36 years after he had joined the board.

"There was water in my eyes," he admits. "I couldn't believe we'd ever get there. It was very emotional. That's what's good about the competition; that small clubs can get there."

In all there have been nine promotions, nine relegations, a season with England's elite (before the Premier League), two appearances at the old Wembley, two at the new, two at the Millennium Stadium and three play-off campaigns.

"My happiest memory was getting promotion to Division One [in 1974]," he adds. "We had to wait for Leyton Orient and Aston Villa, depending on their result to see whether we went up. We were in the Cumberland News office, listening to the match from London. They drew. We got into the First Division. Did we celebrate? Oh yes we celebrated. We had a drink there and then. We went top of the league after three games, we joked that it was easy. In the end we went down by five points."

His father, who started the family Pioneer business ("it's food distribution, mainly catering" with a current turnover of £32m), and was employing the chicken plucker who told his son Andrew where to go, had tried and failed to get on the board.

When Andrew succeeded, he became effectively marketing director, a new idea at the time (in 1959, the next year David Dent would follow him on to the Carlisle board). They invigorated the club, started draws, made it possible to end the annual summer clear out of players.

The last 20 or so years, since he became chairman, have been anything but dull.

"Jimmy Bendall died and we took it over, but we found it difficult and we had to look for somebody else to come in and Michael Knighton came. He was here for four years and he came in with a big bang. He tried to get Manchester United before us.

"It was good for the club at that time. He used to bring in trialists and he was really very good was Michael to start with. Eventually, one way or another he went too much the other way, he built a big stand which still isn't paid for. He got a lot of players in like Matt Jansen and Rory Delap and sold most of them. The crowd got sick of it, he got abuse and he had to go. He's into antique furniture now.

"John Courtenay came in and tried to run it from Ireland. It was impossible. We had a couple of years where we lost £2m and he lost a lot of money. Fred Storey came aboard, a local builder who was doing very well and after John decided to jack it in he gave it a big boost and we went to running it properly, like we run our businesses."

Nothing will likely ever beat the moment Jimmy Glass, an on-loan goalkeeper, scoring in the fourth minute of injury-time to stop Carlisle falling out of the Football League in 1999. "I thought we were out and then he was running up for it, it just fell for him and it was crazy. Half of Carlisle jumped on top of him.

"We've had some good moments, some good managers and we've got a good manager at the moment in Greg Abbott. He works really well with us. We hope he stays with us for a long time. He's a good bloke. He keeps hold of the dressing room. No one takes a lend of him. The players get on well.

"I don't really like being too much out in front. I like to work. I don't want to be at the club if I'm doing nothing. That's the way I've always been.

"From time to time I've put my hand in my pocket. We have maintenance people we will send down to the football club. We do a bit of that. We put money in or write it off. We try to run it like you don't have to but unfortunately, sometimes you do.

"We really need crowds of about 6,000. We are averaging 5,200. We managed to stay around the same all season. John Nixon does a very good job as our chief executive. You're always looking for a cup run."

The visit of Spurs could bring in around £50,000. It really is manna from heaven.

"I'll have been here 53 years in November," he says. "It just seems like yesterday. I love the club. I still love being involved with it. To be honest, I wouldn't like anything to happen to the club. We're all local people and we try to look after it."

And in that is something incredibly reassuring.

Arts and Entertainment
Brendan O'Carroll as Agnes Brown in the 2014 Mrs Brown's Boys Christmas special
tvCould Mrs Brown's Boys have taken lead for second year?
News
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
news
Sport
footballLive! Chelsea vs West Ham kicked off 10 Boxing Day matches, with Arsenal vs QPR closing the action
News
peopleIt seems you can't silence Katie Hopkins, even on Christmas Day...
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Jack O'Connell stars as Louis Zamperini in Angelina Jolie's Unbroken
film review... even if Jack O'Connell is excellent
Arts and Entertainment
Madonna is not in Twitter's good books after describing her album leak as 'artistic rape and terrorism'
music14 more 'Rebel Heart' tracks leaked including Pharrell Williams collaboration
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)
tvOur review of the Doctor Who Christmas Special
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all