League Insider - Shake on it

Jamie Casey takes a look at the Football League talking points in our weekly feature

Abbott: Has led Carlisle to two Wembley final appearances since taking over from Ward

Ward: Doesn't eye-to-eye with Abbott after their time together at Brunton Park

On a weekend when legendary Premier League managers Kenny Dalglish and Arsene Wenger failed to shake hands, Football League counterparts John Ward and Greg Abbott put their differences aside to do precisely that at Brunton Park.

While Brighton celebrated the formality of being crowned League One champions at Walsall, there no such assurance of a happy ending at Carlisle, where Blues boss Abbott got the better of his former mentor Ward in a resounding 4-1 win over Colchester.

The pair had crossed each other off their respective Christmas card lists even before the two sides met in August earlier in the season, when Paul Thirlwell scored an injury-time equaliser for Carlisle, after which Ward blanked his former colleague on the touchline.

While both managers have kept their dignity intact by remaining relatively tight-lipped over their alleged feud, there is enough evidence in place to suggest a relationship breakdown occurred during their days together at Brunton Park.

The rivalry was, perhaps, installed right from the off. Ward was appointed Carlisle manager in October 2007 when the board overlooked Abbott, who had won five of his 10 games as caretaker manager following Neil McDonald's sacking.


Deemed too inexperience for the permanent role, Abbott reverted to his position as assistant manager and, at first, it seemed a wise decision as Ward guided the Blues to a fine season run-in which culminated in a League One play-off semi-final defeat to Leeds United.

Despite the disappointment of missing out on promotion, Carlisle could look forward to the future having assembled a squad strong enough to challenge for promotion to the Championship.

Or so it seemed. A disastrous start to the following season, the 2008-09 campaign, saw Ward leave the club by mutual consent after a run of nine defeats in 10 outings, and the club looked to stop the rot with a relegation fight on the horizon.

In stepped Abbott once more and this time, determined to prove his credentials as a first-team boss, he won the board over with three wins as caretaker manager, earning him an 18-month contract to become the new permanent manager of Carlisle United.

In a clear sign Abbott did not rate the signings made by his predecessor, the new manager eventually shipped out the likes of Josh Gowling, Evan Horwood and Scott Dobie in removing much of the legacy of Ward's era.

Wembley trips

Former Bradford player Abbott has since steadied the ship at Brunton Park, establishing the Blues as a mid-table League One side while also providing fans two Wembley trips with back-to-back Johnstone's Paint Trophy final appearances, the second of which was won at the beginning of April.

In contrast, Ward has fallen short of Colchester's aspirations since he took over from Aidy Bothroyd at the end of last season. The Us went into Saturday's game needing maximum points to maintain any realistic chance of a play-off place as they await a return to the Championship, from which they were relegated in 2008.

At 60, Ward is perceived by some as a manager whose ability in the lower league game is fading, while 47-year-old Abbott, who accused his counterpart of "sulking" after his touchline snub in August, appears to have a bright future with Carlisle.

"I must have just missed Greg Abbott at the end," responded Ward at the time, but the pair ensured the headlines revolved around the scoreline rather than the touchline this time around by meeting palms at the weekend.

However, their relationship remains questionable at best, but Abbott will now set his sights on a top-half finish having closed the gap on Ward's Us to a single point with four games remaining.

For Colchester, though, they must decide how far Ward can take them if, as is likely, they miss out on the play-offs this term. Is he the man to take them back to the Championship and if not, is his former apprentice Abbott a potential successor? Another twist in the tale would be welcomed by the pundits.

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