Former Carlisle Chairman Michael Knighton lifts lid on time at club and talks American investment

Michael Knighton has spoken about his tenure at Brunton Park. Credit: PA

Former Carlisle United Chairman Michael Knighton has spoken exclusively to ITV Border about his time at the club following the takeover by new American owners.

The Florida-based Piatak family's Castle Sports Group have completed the deal to take over the club.

Asked as whether he has been following the developments at Brunton Park in recent months, Knighton said: "Yes I have, I have kept in touch with quite a few supporters over the years. Any new ownership is always an exciting time for football fans and they will be delighted that they are going to see change.

"All respect to the current owners who I am sure tried their best and did their best. Owning a football club presents its challenges, they are unique challenges, it is like no other business in the world. Of course it is thrilling and it is exciting and there is a huge responsibility because they are huge community assets.

"Carlisle United have some of the best fans in the industry and I am not just saying that, they really are. It is a wonderful city, a wonderful club and the new owners will be very excited. They are from across the Atlantic and the interest in English football has been quite fascinating.

Michael Knighton was previously chairman at Brunton Park.

"One can only hope that they don’t follow the same business model as the other US owners of Manchester United. That hasn’t been very popular to say the least. What I have seen and heard of these new owners is that they seem very sensible, very practical and down to earth.

"They are going to find this journey fascinating and fingers crossed it all works out for everyone."

Although Knighton did say that although he is optimistic about the investment coming to Carlisle United he would prefer if it came from within the British Isles.

He said: "I don’t want to sound like a little Englander, that would be absurd and football is a truly global sport. I am old fashioned and I would much rather this be an English or British takeover.

"That is a personal opinion and is in no disrespect to these new owners coming in. I am sure their intentions are more than honourable.

"America has always thought that the greatest game is baseball, basketball or American football so to see their upsurge interest in English football is pleasing to watch but I would have personally preferred a British takeover."

Speaking about his time as Chairman, Knighton reveals that although there were some controversial moments he was delighted with his time at the club.

There is new ownership at Brunton Park. Credit: PA

He said: "My time as chairman of Carlisle United was wonderful. The local newspaper made it very controversial, I have always said that. It is perhaps their job to make it controversial.

"I love Carlisle United, I had five or six amazing years and anyone who denies that is an idiot but you just look at the statistics and you look at what we achieved in the first six years. Owning a football club at that level for a decade, which is what happened, you are going to experience ups and downs, it is a journey.

"Anyone who knows the true facts of my tenure at Carlisle United would tell you a very different story from the story created by some journalists. I am very proud and very privileged to have taken that football club to its first Wembley visit. To the runaway championship, it was a wonderful time.

"Yes the last few years were controversial and I made mistakes, I am a human being we all make mistakes. I look back on my time at Carlisle with great affection. Carlisle is a great city, with great people and I wish them every success.

"I think the new ownership will be quite exciting for everyone."

Asked about appointing himself as manager during his time at Brunton Park, Knighton was quick to bat away any suggestions he was in charge over the playing staff.

Manager Paul Simpson has previously spoken about his optimism about the takeover. Credit: PA

He said: "I was never the manager, this is a nonsense. Ask any player that was there.

"Managers do team talks at half time, they select the team, they take the coaching session. I never took one coaching session, never picked the team and never once took the half time team talk. I was never the manager, I did wear a tracksuit.

"As an ex P.E teacher and an ex sportsman I did wear a tracksuit everyday and I did say to the young boys who I appointed after Mervyn Day, if there is any flack you are young, give it to me. I know it says it on wikipedia, but I was never the team manager.

"No journey is ever perfect. We had five or six astonishing years of success, both on and off the pitch. The downturns at that level are very much guaranteed.

"Unless you are a billionaire, which I am certainly not and never have been, and can through huge sums of money you are going to have these challenges. They are unique because the football industry is not like any other business. It is a performance related business, it is not a supermarket or a fish and chip shop. You are dealing with emotions and winning and you have to win.

"The minute you stop winning you are considered as a failure. Don’t go into the industry unless you understand those ground rules because that is what happens. I am a human being, of course you look back and wish you had done things better or wish you had not said something.

"I have the fondest memories of Carlisle United, I want this new ownership to be successful for the fans, for themselves and for the city, because that is what that little northern outpost deserves."

Reflecting on his time as Chairman, Knighton believes there are many ups and downs about being involved in football.

He said: "I was often slaughtered for being ambitious when I took over at Carlisle United. This is the dream business, if you are not a dreamer, what on earth are you doing in the business. It is a dream business every chairman dreams that he is going to make his football club a leading institution.

"Reach for the stars, if you hit the moon then that is fantastic. We certainly reached for the stars in my time and we certainly hit the moon. This is what some journalists like to forget, we had one of the most successful periods of the club’s history under my tenure.

Tom Piatak is the new chairman at Brunton Park. Credit: Stuart Walker

"I fell out with a local newspaper and if you do that you are an idiot for doing it. You can never win that battle. Of course the new owners are coming in with ambition, why wouldn’t they. They are going to be faced with challenges which are completely unique and different that they have never experienced.

"I am pleased that the new owners are ambitious and I am pleased they are dreamers because if you are not a dreamer get out of the business. My best goes to Andrew Jenkins and all of those lovely people they are magnificent.

"Andrew Jenkins should be knighted, he has been there since god was born. It is a fantastic achievement. He was my colleague there and I wish everyone at the club every good wish."

And Knighton has this advice for the new owners, he said: "What they need to do is have their clear plan. Certainly what I have seen and heard about this family that are leading the takeover they seem very level headed and sensible, they seem to have a structured plan and if that plan is unfolding and is a success then stick at it.

"Just take the hits that are coming on the chin. It is not how many times you are knocked down it is how many times you get up and off the canvas.

"The only advice I would give is enjoy it, communicate with the fans, explain your actions and don’t let the over-emotion get to you. I wish them well, I really do."

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