Keeper Mark Gillespie on staying with Carlisle United
Keeper Mark Gillespie spoke to us on Monday morning about the contract agreement which takes him into a sixth season as a professional within the playing ranks at Brunton Park.
“I’m obviously happy to get it signed,” he said. “You always wonder what might happen when you’re out of contract, but it was in my hands and I’m pleased and excited that I’ll be able to get going again at this club.
“I know that agents, papers and things like that will have their say about interest from other places but, to be honest, I’ve been focused on sorting things with Carlisle. You do get advice along the way but my priority was to get away for a few weeks and then come back here to finalise things.”
“I let the club know I was happy with the deal in principle a few weeks ago,” he explained. “I felt it was right to let the press know I was going to come in and sign last week, and that’s where we are now. The delay was because everyone was away and, as with anything like this, it’s always about making sure everything is right for all parties.
“I think you take your time over things in any walk of life and, in this situation, there just wasn’t any need to rush it at all. Everything feels right here and I don’t think I’ve had much reason to look elsewhere. I really like the club, it’s a family club, and I know I’m going to have friends for life with the people I’ve met here.”
When asked if he felt he had anything to prove, he said: “I know in myself I need a full season under my belt. If that happens hopefully it will be with a promotion with this club, and we can go on from there.
“I haven’t been able to get through a full season over the last two years, for one reason or another, and that was discussed during the contract negotiations. I’m really pleased that the club has shown faith in me to keep me here and I’ll try to repay them by being available over the course of the next year.
“I’ve been given a target in terms of the number of games I have to play. If I’m playing and keeping clean sheets the rewards are there for me, so it’s a contract and a deal I’m happy with. It’s up to me to keep performing to make sure I get the extension and the financial rewards on offer.”
“It was good that I was able to contribute at the end of last season and nice to be able to help the club stay in the Football League,” he commented. “It’s about consistency for me now and about being out on the pitch on a regular basis.
“I’ve definitely developed as a player, mentally and as a person, since I broke in as a 20-year old, but I would think that I’d be more capable than I am now if I’d had three full seasons under my belt. I think there’s still a heck of a lot to come from me in football terms and I’m looking forward to producing that.
“I think I’m the longest serving player at the club now, which is amazing, and the manager has also spoken to me about that. It’s something I’m proud of and I think it does bring an added bit of responsibility. I want to control things at the back more going forward because we’ve conceded a lot of goals over the last two seasons, and that has to stop if we want to be successful.
“I’ve got quite a good record under this manager and if I can keep myself out on the pitch more then hopefully that will continue. It’s been massively frustrating that I haven’t played as much as I would have wanted over these last few seasons but I’m sure it’s been just as frustrating for the club, the board, the fans and the manager as well.
“I’m paid to play football so it’s up to me to try to keep myself fit to achieve that. The work I was given by the clinic in Dublin has helped. I’ve had my period of rest and I’m ready to come back and get on with it in ten days time.
“There’s good competition for the starting place with Dan Hanford and we both know it’s a clean slate when we get back for pre-season. The keeper who is in form will get the nod. We’re both good mates, we get on really well, but we’re fighting for that one shirt every day we come into work.”
On the departure of keeper coach Tony Caig to Hartelpool, he said: “He will be a massive miss for me. I’ve worked with him for nearly six years and that’s a really long time in this game these days.
“I’d like to go on record with how grateful I am for everything he’s done for me. He was there for me through the tough times, when I was feeling down about my injuries, and also when my form wasn’t great as a young keeper. There were times when I really needed him and he was certainly always there for me with a word in the ear or encouragement.
“I wish him all the best as he moves on to his new challenge and it’s now exciting for me to see which keeper coach I’ll be working with from now on. I’m sure there’ll be new ideas from him and I’ll have to work hard to prove myself all over again.”
On his hopes for the team this year, he said: “I think the start to the season is crucial. Looking back at the last two years we’ve seen that if you aren’t winning in the first ten games then it’s going to make it very difficult. We’ll be looking to kick on quickly and the process of that will start for us in pre-season.
“It’s possible some of us went into last season thinking the division was a lesser version of League One, but that just isn’t the case. You go to the teams away from home and it’s an absolute battle from the minute it kicks off. It took us a while to adjust and the new manager came in and instilled that bit of fight we needed.
“We started to see better performances and that bodes well for the future. The fact is this is a tough league and if you don’t have that ability to match the opposition physically then you don’t get the chance to impose yourselves.
“The signings we’ve made have added a bit of excitement. Obviously I know Luke Joyce from when he was here last time, because it was my first year on the YTS programme. I think we’ve got a good squad and we had really good team spirit last season, despite the struggles, and it would be nice if we could build on that.
“It will feel strange not having Pottsy [Brad Potts] and Dav [Dave Symington] in the dressing room because they’re two close friends I grew up with at this club. I wish them all the best and I’m sure I’ll keep in touch with them. You see players come and go when you’ve been at a club for this long and I’m sure we’ll get a settled team spirit again once we get back together and get ourselves going.”
And on what he wants for himself, he told us: “A successful season for me would be to play well for 46 games. That would mean I’d kept myself fit and that I was being picked by the manager. I don’t think I can ask for much more than that.”
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