Defender Danny Grainger spoke to us ahead of the first pre-season training session on Thursday afternoon shortly after manager Keith Curle had confirmed his position as club captain for the coming campaign.
“There’s a lot of pride which comes with being club captain,” he said. “It’s a proud moment when I play for my home town club anyway so to wear the armband means a lot to me.
“I’ve had a chat with the manager and I know that being captain doesn’t mean my place is safe. I’ll be working just as hard as anyone else on the training pitch to make sure I’m in that starting eleven come August.”
Speaking about the return to training following the summer break, he said: “It feels like it’s been a quick summer and it doesn’t seem long since we were getting back on the bus after the Notts County game.
“I think it always feels like it comes round quickly these days but we’re all looking forward to it, and all you do is get on with it. I started to get nervous when I looked at the running track as I came round the corner into the car park.
“That’s just normal pre-season nerves because this is the hard part about being a footballer. It’s a tough slog before the footballs come out, but it’s enjoyable as well because we always pull each other through if things are tough.
“I’m sure I’ll be dead on my feet at some point and there’ll be other lads who will feel the same. That’s when you look after each other and make sure you all get through it. It’s a good bunch of lads so they will all have done their work through the summer.
“With modern day football there’s no way you can come back expecting to get fit. It’s more sharpness and things like that which you look to fine tune. Using eight or nine weeks of pre-season training to lose half a stone is a thing of the past. You have to be ready to go from day one.”
“A big part of what we do over these next few weeks is about team building,” he continued. “We saw it last summer when the gaffer put a lot of emphasis on team work and sticking together and I think we got it exactly right.
“It was fantastic and, as I’ve said before, it was one of the best dressing rooms I’ve been involved with. Hopefully it’ll be the same this year and we will kick on again. There’s a lot of optimism in the group and I think it has to be that way. We had a good squad last year and with the lads the manager has brought in we’ve probably kicked on a little bit more.
“There’ll be competition for places, which is always good, and the new arrivals are mixing straight into the dressing rooms, which is a positive thing to see. There’s nobody sitting in a corner on their own, or anything like that, and I think there has to be ambition from us all this year.
“The club has good things going on behind the scenes with Nigel [Clibbens] coming in, and things like that, so we have to be positive out on the pitch to make sure we back it up as well.”
Looking ahead to the first month of the season, which takes United on a series of long away trips, he said: “We’re Carlisle United so we always get the long ones, don’t we! I’d have loved a home game for the fans because to play in front of them would have been fantastic.
“However, we’re going to Portsmouth on the opening day and you don’t get a much bigger fixture than that at this level. We know the fans will travel and we’ll look to back that up with a good positive result.”
“There are some tough fixtures in that first month but sometimes it’s good to get those teams who are hoping to be around where we are in the table come the end of the season,” he concluded. “We’ll be able to put a marker down early on and show what we’re about.
“I think more teams will take notice of us this year. We escaped relegation the season before last so there wasn’t much expected from us last season. We’ll be highlighted as one of the teams to watch this time so we’ll have to deal with that as well.”