Defender Jon Mellish came fresh from the National League awards ceremony at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday morning – where he’d picked up the division’s young player of the year accolade – to sign his contract at Brunton Park, which makes him a United player for the 2019/20 season.
The 21-year-old former-Gateshead starlet became hot property as he played every game for the Heed last season, attracting scouts from north and south of the border along the way, but he admitted that the move to Carlisle was near-perfect when he spoke to the press shortly after having completed the deal.
“I’m buzzing to be fair,” he said. “The season only finished two weeks ago so I’m glad that it’s been a quick and easy process.
“It was a couple of weeks ago that I heard Carlisle were interested. The gaffer [Steven Pressley] phoned me and we had a good chat. I came across last week to have a look at the club and I loved it straight away. I couldn’t wait to get the contract signed.
“I’ve had quite a few phone calls since the end of the season, and I’ve met with a few of them, but I don’t think anything compared to the feeling I had when I came here. When you see the stadium, the pitch and the facilities you can’t help but be impressed.
“But I think it was mostly the chat I had with the gaffer that swung it. He spoke about everything he wants from me as a player and he explained how he wants the team to play. On top of that he also spoke about his ambitions for the club.
“As soon as I left the meeting I knew this was where I wanted to be.”
“It feels particularly good to have this done because playing in the Football League is something I’ve always wanted to do,” he revealed. “Now I’ve got the chance I just can’t wait to get started. I’ll be doing everything I can to be in the starting 11 come the first game.
“It’s my first time moving away from home so the fact it isn’t far to travel helps. My family will be able to come and watch, which is something they really enjoy, so that’s good for us.”
The move to Cumbria signals a first step into the Football League – a challenge he is more than looking forward to.
“It’ll be my first season as a professional and I know I’ve got to be ready,” he commented. “It’s going to be tough, I know that, and I also know I’m going to learn a lot. I can’t wait to get started, to be honest.
“The gaffer has told me what his plans are for pre-season and I know it’ll be gruelling, but I’m looking forward to it. This is the next step for me and I just want to play as many games as I can. To do that I know I have to get the training part of it right as well.
“I played every game last season and I want to try to do that again. I wanted to sign for a club where I felt I had that chance and I think Carlisle will provide that for me, even though I know it’s up to me to earn it.”
Having cut his teeth in the game and developed as a regular starter at Gateshead, he admitted that it was strange to be leaving the club, albeit with a lot still going on in the background.
“Obviously everyone has seen what’s been happening with the owners and what they were going to do with the club, but we just tried to ignore that and do our jobs,” he said. “Fortunately we had a really good changing room. There were a lot of young players in there but I don’t think we really let any of that stuff affect us.
“It did get to be a bit much at the end, because we only had 14 players, but we dealt with it well and we ended up having a decent season. It’s horrible for the fans and you feel for them, but Gateshead was a superb place for me.
“I was at college for two years before I went there, which I enjoyed, and I wasn’t sure where to go next when I finished that. I was given the chance to do the under-19 programme at Gateshead and luckily it’s worked out for the best.
“I think regardless of what was going on I wanted the next step for me to be into the football league, so it felt like it was the right time for me to move on anyway.”
“Like I say, on a personal level I don’t think the season could have gone any better,” he added. “I went into the first game not sure what would happen and I was thinking that if I could get myself 10 games I would have to be happy.
“To have played every game and to have had the England C call-up as well, it shows what can come if you work hard. Pulling the shirt on for England was a really good feeling. It was an experience I really enjoyed.
“I came off the bench to play 40 minutes against Estonia for my debut and we won the game 1-0 as well. It was a fantastic experience and it’s also something I’m very proud of.”
As for what we can expect to see from him out on the pitch, he commented: “Centre half is my favoured position but I don’t really mind what the manager wants me to do.
“At Gateshead I played on the left of a back three and I’ve also played at left back. I’m the sort of player who likes to get the ball down and play it around and I think that’s maybe what’s got me as far as I have.
“I like to step in and try to make things happen from the back, but as a defender I’d say I get more of a thrill out of a block than I do scoring a goal.”
Next up for the young centre back will be the return to pre-season and his first campaign with a professional club.
“I hadn’t thought about the fact that this is a step into the professional leagues until I got here to sign the deal,” he admitted. “It’s a nice feeling but it feels a bit weird.
“It’s a big step but it’s a challenge I’m ready for. The national league is competitive, but this is really new to me. I just can’t wait.
“I do feel ready and I think getting the award on Tuesday gives me confidence that it’s the right time to do this. Getting that award [National League young player of the year] was a big surprise, to be fair.
“I got a call last week to tell me that I needed to go down to Stamford Bridge because I’d won something. I didn’t know what it was until Tuesday, and the fact that I got it is just mad.
“But, like I say, it gives me confidence and I’m just looking forward to pushing on and showing that I can be just as effective at this level with a club that wants to be going even higher. It’s fantastic to be coming here to be part of that.”
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