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INTERVIEW: I've made a lot of friends here

Defender James Brown on his loan spell with United

8 June 2018

We caught up with defender James Brown recently to get his thoughts on what had been a successful loan spell with United, from Millwall, which saw him make 34 appearances in his first season in professional football.

“The season as a whole has been good for me," he said. "If I wanted to be a bit greedy I would say I wanted the second half of the season to be better, and I wished I’d played more games.

"But, if you look at the season as a whole, I can’t have any complaints. I’m very grateful to everyone at Carlisle because they put their faith in me and let me play.

“I’m happy I was able to show what I’m about and get 34 games under my belt. I’ve got no complaints at all and it couldn’t have gone much better really. In terms of football I was very young when I first came to the club, because I hadn’t really played any games.

"I haven’t done anything in the game yet, so it was important for me to come out and get pitch time, simply because it’s reassuring to know that you can do it. I’ve obviously got some way to go to get into the Millwall first team, but it’s nice to know you can play week in and week out at a good standard." 

“When you come into a first team dressing room it makes you grow up very quickly," he told us. "It’s completely different to under-23 football. That's all about being selfish, because as long as you’re playing well and developing nothing else really matters.

"At first team level you’ve got to adjust, because you can’t be too bothered if you don’t play well but the team gets three points. At this level it’s the result which is the most important thing.

"It’s a different type of pressure because you’ve also got the external pressures from fans and things, as well as the pressure you put on yourself, and then there's the pressures within the dressing room.

"You have deal with a lot of things, but it’s been good for me because I know what it’s all about now. I also know that if my career does progress as I’d like it to, those pressures will only grow. It was good to be in a dressing room where everyone is fighting for the same thing." 

On what he's taken from his spell in Cumbria (apart from a love of gravy on everything), he said: “I’ve learned from a lot of experienced players during my time here, and they’re a great bunch of lads off the pitch as well.

"There are no egos or bad eggs in the dressing room, which made it a really good environment to be in. In terms of the defenders I’ve played with - Gary Liddle, Mark Ellis, Clint Hill, Tom Parkes and Danny Grainger - they've all played a lot of games in their careers, so to play alongside them was brilliant. You can't help but learn.

"Whoever was next to me was just telling me to play my own game and that’s what I went out and did. It was nice to have that experience around me and I hope the rest of the lads enjoyed having some younger legs next to them! Playing with quality players like that, who have all been there and done it, really helped me perform." 

Speaking about his highlights from his time up north, he told us: “I think my highlight of the season has got to be my league debut at Coventry. I know we lost, but it’s something that every player works towards.

"You can get your little Checkatrade Trophy appearances in here and there but when you’re thrown in for a league game that’s what feels like your ‘proper’ debut. I also found it quite pleasing to play a good amount of games, and we had some good experiences in the FA Cup against Sheffield Wednesday and things like that.

"I probably found it most pleasing to get a place in the team then stay there. You see a lot with young players that they come into the team and perform well for a couple of games, but then dip off. I was lucky enough to come in and keep my place for 10 or 15 games before things changed. It was good for me to come in and keep my performance levels at a good standard for a while." 

“There was obviously disappointment at the end of the season because we didn’t get into the play-offs," he said. "As soon as I came to the club everyone was talking about the play-offs and we knew that was the target. At the end of the day, the league table doesn’t lie, and as a group we probably didn’t do enough to get into the top seven.

"With the types of players we had, we definitely had the squad to do it, it just didn’t happen for us. That can happen in football. The overall feeling at the end of the season for the group was disappointment, but it wasn’t through the lack of trying, we just weren’t good enough over the course of the season." 

As to what happens next, he said: “I’ve been back into Millwall since the end of the season and had a meeting. They were happy with how it’s gone and they’ve had scouts at games as well as watching the footage from all of my appearances.

"They were pleased with how the loan went and, going into next season, I just need to wait and see what happens. I think they’d be happy for me to go out and play games, but it’s a case of seeing how pre-season goes and seeing where we go from there.

“There are a lot of factors to consider when it comes to being a player of my age at a big club like that. There are two really good international right backs in front of me, so I need to be realistic. The level of the Championship is getting higher and higher because of the amount of money which is being pumped into it now, so I know I need to have achievable targets.

"I’ll go back in pre-season and we can reassess it from there. Football is a mad game and things can change in a second, so we’ll have to wait and see. I’ll just make sure I’m ready for pre-season and see where it takes me." 

On the confidence he'll take away from his loan spell at Brunton Park, he said: “I’ve always believed in myself, that hasn’t been a problem, but you can never tell until you go into a men’s environment.

"You can get too comfortable in an under-23 set-up because there's no pressure, so until you go and play games in a men’s environment and prove yourself week in, week out, I don’t think you can be 100% sure of yourself.

"It’s nice to know I can go out there at League Two level and perform and feel comfortable, and not out of place. It gives me confidence going into next season, because now I’m looked at as someone who has played a few games rather than having only played development football.

"It’s nice to know I can do it and, wherever I go next, I’ve got that experience behind me that I can take forward with me through the rest of my career."

But could he be tempted to pack his bags and head back up the M6?

“I’d never say never about coming back to Carlisle," he revealed. "I keep saying it, but football is mad. I’ll just have to see what happens.

"I didn’t know I was coming to Carlisle until about three days before it all happened, so you can’t guess what will happen next. It isn't entirely up to me either, there are a lot of other people who will influence that.

"I’ve enjoyed my time in Carlisle this season and there’s nothing that would put me off coming back, but we’ll just have to see what happens and work out what is best for me and for the club.

“Whatever happens next season I’ll definitely be keeping an eye on the results and everything which will happen over the summer. I said before about the lads in the changing room, but they really are a great bunch and I’ve made a lot of friends who I’ll keep in touch with.

"I’ve been keeping an eye on Twitter to see when the new manager was announced, so I know it's also been exciting for the fans. If I did come back to Brunton Park next season with another team, or if I do in the future, I’ll definitely look forward to it because I’ve made a lot of friends. There are a lot of good people at the club and I’ll follow the results closely." 

With a few weeks of relaxation now on the agenda, he said: “It has been nice to switch off a bit because I’ve obviously spent the majority of the season up north away from my family. I was looking forward to getting home because it was a long, tough season.

"I played a lot of games considering it was my first season of men’s football, so although physically I felt fine, the mental side of things in terms of being away from family was difficult. It’s nice to now be back and spending some time with them. 

“Millwall have given me a programme for the summer but I’ve got a couple of weeks to chill out and go on holiday before I get back on it and prepare for pre-season. I’ll let myself have some down time but you can’t really let yourself go too much, otherwise it does catch up on you. I’ll keep on top of things though and I'll be ready when training starts up again."

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