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Thursday, 24 April 2014

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Danny Livesey tells of his 'hurt' at losing Carlisle Utd captaincy

Danny Livesey no more readily dodges a question than he runs away from a challenge. Here he is on losing the Carlisle United captaincy: “It hurt. I was disappointed. I was so proud to have the armband.”

Danny Livesey photo
Danny Livesey

Sometimes in the business of questioning footballers you don’t know what’s going to come next, or wonder whether the material will be very illuminating. Livesey is the opposite: a reliable speaker who doesn’t try to talk around the topic, or lead you down different paths.

This is how he tackles his first interview since he was stripped of the team captaincy before Carlisle’s last game, a 1-0 win over Coventry which heralded Lee Miller’s new reign as the Blues’ general on the pitch.

With Paul Thirlwell also now the club captain only, we have passed into a new era of leadership at Brunton Park. Centre-half Livesey knows he is going to be asked about the transition and is happy to say what he thinks about it.

“It was tough,” he says, of the “very short” meeting in which Greg Abbott informed the men involved about his decision to anoint Miller. “He [Abbott] gave me his reasons and I have to understand them.

“It’s not something I wanted to happen, because I was so proud to be captain when Thirs hasn’t been playing. I have to take on board the gaffer’s thoughts and his point of view.”

The point of view, from the manager’s office, was that Livesey was creaking a little under the weight of responsibility. Abbott had observed a performance dip from his robust No5 and diagnosed that the captaincy was too much for him to bear at a time when United’s leaky back four was already under close scrutiny.

It is a direct link that 28-year-old Livesey himself does not sound 100 per cent comfortable with making, though he does confess that United’s defeats while he has been front-of-house have given him more anxiety than usual.

“You hear some foreign players saying it’s not that big a deal, but from an English point of view I think captaincy is a massive thing,” he says.

“It’s a sign you are trusted. I’m sure the gaffer took all these things into his thinking and he feels it’s better for me to concentrate on my own game, instead of worrying about dictating to everyone else in the team.

“From a personal point of view, when we’re losing and I’m the captain, I do take it badly. Especially in a game like Crewe, when it was my mistake that cost us, when it was a double-whammy.

“You don’t want to be captain of a losing team. It’s that pride, when you want to do something to lift people. Maybe that’s what he thought – that I should focus on my own game, give the job to someone else, further up the pitch, who’s playing well. With us having been conceding so many goals we do need to concentrate on shutting the back door.”

Livesey is keen to claim that Miller, the talisman centre-forward, will “do a fantastic job” and believes he could become an even more influential player as a result of pulling on the lycra band.

As for the deposed skipper? “I just want to play,” Livesey goes on. “It would be nice to get it back at some point but I’ll do everything I can to help Lee. As long as I’m starting games and we’re not conceding goals nothing else really bothers me.

“Maybe I do need to organise a bit more, in and around me. That’s not been going too well this season.”

Nobody will question the truth of that statement, though it did go well against Coventry, when Livesey teamed up with new signing Sean O’Hanlon at the back to fend off League One’s most in-form away team.

That third home win in a row – with a third clean sheet of the season – was much better fare for supporters, and United’s second longest-serving player insists that it has restored a happier feeling to the camp, after so many bleak days.

After the four-goal hammerings have come a trio of Brunton Park wins at a cost of just one goal, with six ending up in the correct net. Now it is the away form that needs work, but with Scunthorpe (h) the next fixture it feels right to reflect on improving fortunes back at base.

“It [the Coventry win] has given us a real boost, to know we can compete with the best teams in the division,” Livesey says. “It doesn’t matter what people say – when you get beaten, and beaten badly, it takes its toll.

“You start to question what you can do as a team. It spreads into the fans and the players. But we did keep believing and it’s nice we got the result we worked hard for.

“It got to the point when we were just getting 3,000 of our own fans coming. They are the ones who just come and want us to win. The people who just come for a moan, they have just stopped coming. So we had to do it for the ones still here.”

For Livesey and his team-mates, the challenge now is to cling on to these better feelings until they can finally get their boots back on, this weekend. The Blues had an unwanted free Saturday after the latest game, at Crawley, was snowed off, and so are trying to keep memories of the Coventry triumph fresh in the mind, even as it fades away.

When 20th-placed Scunthorpe pitch up in three days’ time, with an away record that matches Carlisle’s home returns (five wins, two draws, seven defeats) it will give supporters their second chance to assess the Livesey-O’Hanlon partnership that seemed have toughened United up, last time out.

The latest addition, who ended his debut wearing a blood-soaked head bandage, will hopefully be a symbol of better defensive times at Brunton Park. It would not be more overdue, as Livesey concedes. “We’ve been working on the defending, that’s pretty obvious, because of the number of goals we’ve been conceding,” he says.

“That week, with Sean coming in as a new player, we absolutely battered the defensive work in training all week. Then we got our reward on match-day, which was brilliant. Not just for the back four and goalkeeper, but the whole team.

“Sean and me are pretty much the same player. We like to attack the ball, head the ball. Last Sunday it worked. It’s something he really relishes and so do I. We take a lot of pride from clean sheets because that’s our part of the bargain done.

“But none of us at the back can say we deserve to be starting every week. Whatever combination the manager has used, we’ve been conceding goals. It’s up in the air a bit. Sean has come in, did well, the team kept a clean sheet and he stays in. That’s great. That’s how it should be. It’s up to everybody else to perform when they get the shirt.”

This message says that Mike Edwards and Peter Murphy, the sidelined centre-halves, have a new challenge in front of them in order to get their places back, but also that only the hasty would assume they are set for a long wait on the sidelines, given United’s generosity to opponents for all of 2012/13 so far.

Realism is a useful quality around Brunton Park just now, and Livesey also accepts that nine points from their last 15 does not yet entitle anyone at Carlisle to predict fireworks in the final 19 games.

“We have to take it each step at a time,” he says. “Get away from the relegation places and build from there. We need to nail down the conceding-goals thing first. I’m not going to say after three wins out of five that we’re going to make the play-offs.

“The sort of run we would need to do that doesn’t normally happen, if we are honest. We need to get more results first and then have this conversation again in a month’s time.”

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