Striker Steven Rigg looks ahead to next season with Carlisle UnitedWe spoke to striker Steven Rigg during the summer break to get his thoughts on his first season as a professional, and the challenge ahead as the 2015/16 season looms large.
"My first year in professional football has been a lot better than I thought it would be," he admitted. "I didn't expect to be involved as much as I was but, in the end, I was just glad we stayed up. That was our main priority because of how badly the season had started for us.
"I Had to be patient at the start and it took me a while to make my debut because I got injured a couple of times. That settled down and I played more games than I ever thought I would. It gives me a very good platform to build from next season.
"I had one or two little injuries, which was to be expected because of the step-up to professional football. I've been fit and available since around January time and I'm definitely more used to the lifestyle now. I was starting to feel it towards the end of the season, but I know what to expect next season. Hopefully I can get even fitter and stay involved."
"There are still things I need to work on but compared to when I first came in I've developed a lot," he told us. "That's not just football wise, but in terms of strength and the physical side of things as well.
"Danny Grainger and Gary Dicker have been really good with me to help me along. I've shared lifts with them which made me feel part of the group straight away. All of the lads have been good because they knew how much of a step up it was for me. They understood that I needed to catch up on things and they've been there to guide and help me through it."
"Like I say, scoring on my debut was good because it was such a big game for me and the fans. Wimbledon away was another important game. I didn't think we were going to end up winning that so it was nice to put us ahead in that one. We needed to win so I was pleased to play a part in it.
"I was obviously buzzing when I was offered a contract extension. It keeps me in professional football for another year and gives me another chance to improve and prove myself. I think I'd only played two games before I got injured, then I got offered a contract, so I was fairly surprised. I was just happy to get it done because it's one less thing to worry about ahead of next season.
"The gaffer likes the way I play and for him to offer me the extension shows he wants me around the team. That gives me more confidence to go out and play, so I'm just pleased with how it's all gone. I'll keep working hard and, if I am, I'll be giving myself the best possible chance to get into the starting eleven."
"The atmosphere changed after the win over Plymouth, because we knew we were safe, and that was a good feeling. We wanted a platform to build on for next year and I think the first half against Hartlepool was the best we'd played all season. Hopefully we'll start the season well this time round rather than have to look over our shoulders all year."
And on the work he has to do ahead of pre-season, he said: "I gave myself the whole of May off while I went on holiday, but I've started doing what I need to do now. Lee [Fearn] sent me a programme and I'm right in the thick of that at the moment.
"I made sure I was fit before I signed last year but I'll have more time this year, because I won't be working at the same time. I think it'll be a bit easier simply because I know what's expected. Pre-season isn't my favourite experience ever but I don't think anyone really enjoys it. It is always nice to get back together as a group of lads and start doing what you love every day though.
"My aim for next season is to try and help us finish as high as we can in the table. We don't want to put any pressure on ourselves by saying we'll win the league, because we all saw how quickly things can change last season. We need to show people that we've put that behind us and that we can be one of the better teams in the league."