Midfielder Luke Joyce made 171 appearances and scored five goals through two separate spells with United, but he confirmed today that his second three-year stint at Brunton Park had come to an end as he moves to join Port Vale on a two-year deal.
Having been through play-off campaigns, floods and a host of memorable fixtures and events through his time with the club he admitted that making the decision to part company with his adopted home town had not been an easy thing to do.
“Moving on is always a massive decision because there are so many factors involved,” he explained. “In this case it’s not just a footballing decision, it’s about your family, your future and where you are in your career.
“When Port Vale got in touch I had to consider that it’s only 47 miles away from my house, and that has played a big part in swinging me that way. It obviously cuts down on travelling and it will allow me to have more time at home with my young children.
“As well as that, the length of time Port Vale have offered me gives me a bit of added security, particularly when you consider that I’m 30 now. Football careers don’t last forever, no matter how much you look after yourself, and I’m very conscious of that.
“The other factor is that I need to look to the future and I want to start doing things outside of playing football, in terms of coaching. The closer I am to home the more accessible that side of things is to me.
“With living so close to Port Vale it means I’m going to be able to spend a couple of nights a week coaching, and that helps me to plan for what I’m going to do whenever it is that I decide to stop playing the game.
“That’s why this decision has gone way beyond football, or money, or anything else. It’s me putting one eye on what I’m going to do after my playing days are over and another eye firmly on the quality of family life.”
With so many bonds forged with the club and its supporters, he said: “It’s been a tough decision, but it always is. I’ve only really had two clubs in my career and that’s Carlisle United and Accrington Stanley.
“Obviously I’m now going somewhere totally new and that in itself is a challenge. To be honest, that’s something I’m quite excited about, but it doesn’t change the fact that I’m leaving Carlisle with more than a hint of sadness because I have some great memories and I’ve met some really good people.
“The club has been close to my heart from a young age and I’ve spent six years there in total over my two spells as a player. It’s somewhere I’ve really enjoyed being and I’ve loved playing for them. The fans and people around the place have been brilliant.”
“When I look back, we’ve been through a lot together, with things like the floods and some of the community links we’ve built up at Jigsaw, and places like that,” he continued. “That resonates with me because it’s made me feel part of the city.
“It certainly runs deep through me and it isn’t somewhere I’ll forget in a hurry. It’s been a huge part of my footballing journey. I remember making my debut as a youngster against Cheltenham in League One and I also remember scoring my first ever goal in a 5-0 win over Gillingham.
“The fans have been magnificent throughout all of it. My family have been welcomed because it’s a real footballing place where they are very passionate about their team. It’s been an honour and privilege for me to wear the strip and I’ve been lucky enough to do it over 150 times.”
On the football memories he’ll take away from his time here, he commented: “Some of the memories I have of what we’ve done are just fantastic.
“There’s playing against Liverpool at Anfield and the games against QPR, Derby and Everton as well. The way the play-offs ended last season was horrible, but it was good to be involved and it was something we had a really good go at.
“Some of the league performances over the years have been memorable and the only disappointment is that we didn’t manage to get a promotion, because it was certainly what we were geared for.”
“The goal against Crawley which won the season award last year is one I won’t forget, that’s for certain, and I’ll make sure nobody else does either!” he insisted. “On a personal level I’d have liked to have added more goals to my game and Keith [Curle] spent a lot of time drumming it into me that I needed to get forward more.
“I feel like I’ve added that to my game so it’s a case now of getting the shots on goal to go with it. Hopefully the Carlisle fans will remember me for moments like that.”
And when we asked if it was going to feel strange when day one of pre-season comes around at Vale Park, he said: “Definitely, no two ways about it.
“Other than my apprenticeship at Wigan, I’ve only ever experienced it with Carlisle and Accrington. It’ll be totally new at Port Vale because I only know one or two of the lads from having played against them. I’m looking forward to it and I’m hoping that I’ll have a positive impact.
“The manager there is talking about the fact that he wants the club to be at the right end of the table and I want to play my part in that. I’ve got used to being in the top half at Carlisle and that’s where I want to continue.
“With being in the same division I’ll have the two games against Carlisle and they’ll be the first fixtures I look for next month. It’ll be a day I look forward to when I come up here because it’ll be superb to see some familiar faces and to say thank you to the fans for the way they’ve been with me.”