By Tony Dewhurst

In the sometimes obsessive world of football, it is refreshing to come across a man with a healthy disregard for self-importance.

Indeed, an hour in John Nixon's company would be music to any football supporter's ears.

At Carlisle United, their managing director has kept a steady hand on the tiller, since joining the Brunton Park board nine years ago.

And, crucially, as Chairman of The Football League Trust he has used a lifetime's work in the challenging world of industry to bring that experience and know-how to the conference table.

A football man with a keen sense of community, it seems the perfect fit.

"It took me some time to realise how deep The Football League Trust's tentacles stretch out into the community, and how they were embedded into so many community schemes," said Nixon, who took up his role at the start of the year.

"At first, I thought it was just a coordinating role, but they were doing far more than that.

"I couldn't believe it really, they were actually leading the whole thing and it impressed me greatly.

"Their fantastic work is opening so many doors for young people, because they've got those roots embedded in 72 clubs. It is like a huge magnet drawing people in from the community."

He added: "The Football League Trust is probably in a better position than any other provider in the country to deliver those schemes, whether that's Futsal or through the National Citizen Service.

"What probably impressed me most was the professionalism of the team at Preston, led by Mike Evans, and the way they were trying to engage the community.

"I knew then that I had made the right decision, that these guys knew what they were doing."

The straight-talking Cumbrian is determined to champion The Football League Trust's cause, and crucially his place on The Football League's board of directors will provide a strong and vibrant voice.

"The Football League Trust is a gem, and for far too long it has been a hidden gem, but that is beginning to change," he said.

'When I can go to the board and say this is what we are doing and this is why we are doing it - that's a hugely important aspect.

"What I can do is to help uncover that hidden gem, and ensure it is recognised for the good work that it does.

"If I do that then I will have achieved something. I don't want to be a chairman who turns up for the odd meeting. I want to be in touch all the time."

Nixon is fluent on football's financial outlook - and as a lifelong Carlisle United supporter is acutely aware of the powerful link between club and community.

"You don't realise until you are involved with a football club just what power that body has in the local community," he added.

"The way it pulls people in via a football club is unique - and The Football League Trust has to build on that, strengthening those already powerful ties.

"We have nearly 150 schools in Cumbria, and we brings kids and their teachers along on match days for free, giving them a taste of football in our Community Stand.

"The children get a goody bag, food at half-time and a memento from the game to remind them of their visit.

"Hopefully those children will remember that experience and come back with their parents.

"It is all about forging that link, like The Football League Trust do every day in the community.'

The former UK Industrial Director of Pirelli, Nixon was responsible for manufacturing and logistics for the tyre and cable group, establishing the Carlisle factory as Pirelli's centre of excellence for sports vehicle tyres.

Keen to foster stronger links between the company and the economy, as well as local schools, he helped establish a mentor scheme in Cumbria, with Pirelli workers acting as mentors to students.

"There are real areas of deprivation in Carlisle, as there are in many other cities, but we've got to try and give these kids a purpose in life and I think The Football League Trust can do that via their schemes.

"In doing so, they can become one of the key service providers in England.

"The Football League Trust is as committed as I am - and nationally we can get the message out."