New signing Tom Parkes joined the club on a two-year deal earlier this week and he revealed when meeting the press that a big part of the reason for him making the move from London to Cumbria was the talks he had with United manager Keith Curle when he was going through the process of making up his mind about which career step he would be taking next.
“I first started talking to Keith and Lee Dykes during the summer,” he said. “The gaffer phoned to see if I wanted to meet up with him and we ended up having a very good conversation about what the expectations are at this club.
“From that first meeting I was really interested in taking it further because this is a good club. They just missed out on a Wembley final last season and I think coming here to work with the gaffer can help me with my career.”
“There were other offers on the table,” he confirmed. “I just feel this is a great opportunity and I’m working with a great bunch of lads. Everyone has been very welcoming and I already feel comfortable here. It’s only been a couple of days but I’m enjoying every minute of it.
“It’s a really strong squad and even this early in pre-season you can see how fit they are. Training is at a high tempo all the time and it’s great to come into that. I enjoyed promotion seasons at Bristol Rovers and this feels like it’s on a par with that. I can see us having a great chance of going one better than we did last season.”
Looking back at last season’s tough campaign with Leyton Orient, which ultimately led to the club losing its Football League status, he said: “It was difficult, there’s no getting away from that, but with everything that was going on we knew we just had to get on with things and try to win games if we possibly could.
“Unfortunately it didn’t happen for the club and you can’t hide from the fact that the off-field stuff was a distraction. Having said that, you’ve got to be able to get over it as a professional and you’ve got to concentrate on the job you have to do. At the end of the season we didn’t get the outcome we wanted but I really do wish them all the best.
“When things are tough off the pitch you learn a lot about yourself as well. If you’re not sure when you’re getting paid and things like that it can make you feel down in the dumps most of the time, and it’s not the best training or playing environment.
“Overall I enjoyed my time there but I’ve moved on, this is a new chapter for me now and I’m delighted to be here. Having been through that disappointment it makes me even hungrier to taste success again. That’s why I’ve come here because the potential of the club is there for all to see and I want to be part of it.”
And having picked up back-to-back promotions with Bristol Rovers he spoke about how important his time with the Pirates had been for his career.
“I really loved my time in Bristol,” he commented. “One promotion after another was unbelievable and it was great to be there while it was happening. The manager was the same as Keith Curle, he was always pushing us to our limits, and that gets the best out of people.
“I don’t look to the past too much, to be honest, because I tend to concentrate on what’s happening next, but it did leave me with some excellent memories and valuable experiences. I was made captain at a relatively young age down there and I learned a lot from that as well. They’re a big club and they’ve achieved some good things recently, so it was an honour to wear the armband for them.”
Speaking about the attributes he’ll bring to the side, he said: “One thing I’m trying to work on is scoring more goals but, other than that, I do like to defend and get stuck in and let the opposition players know I’m there.
“I enjoy getting the ball down and trying to play football as well so I do have both sides to my game. The most important part of all of that for me is to make sure I’m doing my job as a defender. I’m always aware that I can see everything happening in front of me so I talk to the rest of the team a lot.
“The manager has spoken to all of us about the fact we need to concede fewer goals as a team this season and I know we’ll be working on that. Clean sheets always mean you’re picking up points and that has to be our aim.”
“Another thing I think I’ll bring to the team is that I’ve played a lot of games at this level,” he added. “I know what this league is about and what needs to be done to get out of it. Part of the reason why I’m here is because of that first meeting I had with the manager, where he spoke about all of these things.
I remember walking away feeling quite hyped up, to be fair, because it was the first time I’d ever had a meeting with a potential new manager which was like that ...
“He didn’t just want to talk to me about contracts and terms of the deal, and that kind of stuff. He was very clear on where he felt he could improve my game and make me a better player. I remember walking away feeling quite hyped up, to be fair, because it was the first time I’d ever had a meeting with a potential new manager which was like that.
“It left me feeling really positive, because he clearly knew what I was about, and I also knew I wanted to come and work for him. I honestly think he can help me to push my career on. He’s openly talking about promotion, as are the players, so when you get a phone call to say a club like this is interested you’re always going to respond positively.
“Effectively you just want to play your part. I spoke earlier about clean sheets and that’s one of my personal targets, to help us get as many as we can. If we’re doing that we’ll be giving ourselves a real chance to get the success we all want.”
United PlayerHD subscribers - your platform is now called iFollow United. Click HERE to watch an interview with Tom Parkes now.