Defender Tom Miller on his first season with Carlisle United
Defender Tom Miller made the step up from non-league football last summer when he joined United from Lincoln City having caught the eye with some impressive performances for the Imps.
Speaking at the time, United’s Head of Recruitment Lee Dykes said: “He's a player we tried to get a couple of times but Lincoln City felt they couldn't let him go because of his value to them.
“We've had to bide our time but that has allowed us to keep an eye on him and to get to know more about him. It's a deal we've worked hard to get over the line and it's one we feel will have a positive impact, particularly with the type of player and character he is.”
A blistering start to the season announced his arrival on the professional scene and his first ever senior goal, a wonder strike in the 3-2 away win at Hartlepool at the end of August, capped off a strong first month as he settled into his stride.
“I think I’ve given a good account of myself,” he told us. “Obviously it’s my first season in league football and I didn’t know what to expect from it in the same way as people didn’t know what to expect from me.
“I came into something I knew very little about but I started well and I think I’ve done alright overall. I’m happy with how it’s gone and I’ve really enjoyed my time here. The lads have been brilliant and hopefully I can continue to progress and improve.”
“I love it here and I like everything about the club,” he said. “Even when things haven’t been as good, with niggling injuries and stuff like that, I’ve really enjoyed it. It’s been weird at times and the floods made it a crazy season. We’ve had big cup games on top of that and you could probably write a book about this season. It’s been an unbelievable experience.
“Confidence wise it’s made me believe I’m good enough for the Football League. I was told I should be playing higher quite a lot when I was in non-league. You do take that kind of comment in, but you also don’t really know whether it’s right or not. That means there’s always that bit of doubt there, so this has helped me to put that away.
“I think I’ve improved massively as a right back. My understanding of the role has come on and my sense of positioning is better because I’ve been helped with that here. I’ve always been pushed inside in seasons gone by, to play at centre half, so it’s the first time I’ve had a good run at being a right back.
“It’s the position I want to play and it’s where I feel I can get the most out of myself. The coaching staff have developed it with me and it’s been brilliant.”
That first goal is almost certain to be a top contender when the Goal of the Season award is contested in just a few weeks’ time but his fifth of the season, bagged from close range last Saturday, was just as important as he continues to strive to achieve his self-imposed targets.
“I'm pleased with my five goals,” he said. “I'd like a few more before the end of the season to hopefully help us get in those play-offs. I set myself a target of eight at the start of the season but I've had a couple of injuries, so with the amount of games I've played I'm happy with my return.
“I feel like I've been playing well in the last few games. Coming back into the team after injury at this stage of the season was difficult, because players pick up momentum, but I think I've done well to get back and make the place my own. Believe me, that isn't easy to do when you've got the players we have.”
Looking back at last weekend’s disappointing home defeat, he said: “The Mansfield result was frustrating because we had the chances to win the game. It would have put us in a great position if we'd won but there's nothing we can do now.
“Mansfield obviously knew we would try and play football so they came to frustrate us. It worked at times, but we had the opportunities, so it was frustrating overall. We've had a lot of games lately where we should have had more than a point, or at least a point, like the Mansfield game. We've got to put our chances away, we know we've got the players to do that and hopefully it will happen for them in the next five games.
“They're all massive games and they give us a chance to get into that last play-off place. They're all cup finals now. There are a few teams in a similar position so we've got to be on it and make sure we don't drop points.”
“It doesn't feel like there's nervousness around the group,” he insisted. “If you don't get the points you feel like you've slipped further away from where you want to be, but I don't think there's a nervous energy from the lads.
“Everybody knows what they have to do and we're in quite a good position, even though we didn't get the result we wanted on Saturday. We've got to go into each game and get something out of it. In myself I don't feel nervous because I know we're good enough to go out and do it. It’s down to us now.
“There’s a genuine belief we can do it. Obviously we’re outside it now, but I haven’t come across anyone who is feeling negative about where we are. We’ve all put everything into it and we’ve had a good season. It would just be nice to cap it all off with what we deserve.
“It’s what I want more than anything. I’ll be doing everything I can to make it happen, if I’m involved, and I know the rest of the lads are the same because it would be the icing on the cake for us.”
And next up for the Ely-born defender is the return to his old stomping ground on Saturday.
“It's a huge game,” he told us. “They aren't far below us so it's massive. It’ll be a tough one but I think we've got the quality to come away with the points.
“I don't know as much about them as you would think even though I am from Cambridge. I know a few people who work there, and a lot of my friends support them, but I've never supported them myself.
“They're a good club, they aren't as big a club as us, but they've done well this season. Player for player I think we're the better team so it will be nice to go there and prove that.”
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