Life has been anything but dull for Andrew Jenkins throughout his time at Carlisle United. The 83-year-old has seen just about everything during a 60-year tenure at the club.
From the kiosks at Brunton Park to the pitch at Wembley Stadium, Jenkins has been at the forefront of Carlisle United for over half of the club’s existence, experiencing nine promotions, nine relegations and six National Stadium appearances along the way.
A local businessman and a true football man, Andrew Jenkins’ love affair with Carlisle United started when he was just eight years old. Eight years old and bored, looking for something to do.
“What are you two doing with your day?” said a bloke plucking chickens (Jenkins’ family are in the meat business).
“I was eight years old at the time and we didn’t have any plans,” Jenkins recalls. “He suggested we go to the football. He told us to just go to the top of Warwick Road and just follow the crowd. And that’s how I first started watching Carlisle.”
That was in 1944 and like many young children after attending their first football match, Jenkins quickly became a fan.
Local to the area, Jenkins’ family own Pioneer Food Service, one of the largest and longest-standing suppliers of products to the catering trade in the North of England, and it was Jenkins’ father who provided the catering for Brunton Park on matchdays. Carlisle United very much in their hearts.
“It gets into your blood,” he said. “You want to watch your club as much as possible.
“After I watched my first few games I went to boarding school so couldn’t go to see them as much. I remember once biking home to watch a reserve match. I had to take all the back roads to not get seen as I wasn’t supposed to leave the school!”
Fast-forward to 1959, by which stage Jenkins was 23 years old, and he found himself with an invitation to join the Board of Directors, not that he knew much about it.
“My father used to do all the catering at the football ground for the kiosks,” Jenkins continued.
“As a local businessman he wanted to join the Board but didn’t get on right away. When someone retired the club approached him asking if he’d be interested. He actually said no, but put me forward instead – he never discussed it with me!
“The next thing I knew, I got a phone call from George Sheffield who was Chairman at the time and I joined the Board. I think they wanted someone a bit younger involved.”
So in came Jenkins, and with the appointment began an era at Carlisle that still lives on 60 years later.
“Even when we were in the First Division we only got about 14,000 so every month can be a challenge financially but I’m proud to say that I’ve never had to go to anyone for additional money. Between us we’ve always kept the club going and it’s always been our own money.
“I’ve given the club my personal money but that’s just part of the job when you’re running a football club. Most Clubs our size, without a good cup run, it can be hard.
“There was a time a few years back when we upped our wage bill to about £2million and we didn’t get out of the division like we’d hoped so we cut back and now have a pattern that we stick to in order to run the club in a sustainable manner, and that’s the philosophy we’ve got as a Board. Rather than buy players for big money, we work to bring our youth through and develop from there.
“People always want more, of course they do, but it’s really important that you live within your means. We just try to break even every year, whilst making gradual changes to improve the club.”
Here is a man whose desire and commitment can be admired by many for years to come, especially when it comes to running a football club. Sixty years at the helm and 83 years old, so what keeps him going year after year?
“That’s easy,” he answers. “My love for the club keeps me going.
“I’m an incredibly loyal person. I’m loyal to my staff at the business, the staff at the club – I think that’s important. I work hard and just get on with it. I still really enjoy being involved with the club even at my age; I still go away with the team because that’s how it should be.”
“Some people are in it for the glory, I’ve never thought of it like that. I just love Carlisle United.”