Striker Keighran Kerr signed his first professional contract with the club last week and we sat down with him to get his thoughts on his first professional deal with the club he's supported since he was a boy.
“I’ve been playing football all of my life so to be given a professional contract was an absolute pleasure," he told us. "When I got told about it I just couldn’t wipe the smile off my face, I was buzzing. It's what I’ve been working towards since I was old enough to kick a ball.
“On the day of the decisions we were obviously all nervous. I’ve been in and around the first team squad a bit this year and it just made me want to be part of it even more, so I’m just glad that I’ve been given the chance.
“I was involved in the first team squad a couple of days before we got told the decisions, so I did have a bit of an inkling, but until you get told you don’t take anything for granted. Those days are always hard because although it was good news for myself and Josh [Dixon], there were obviously the other lads who left. We’ve all become really close and I’ve made some really good friends, so it was hard to see them leave."
“I didn’t really know what was going to happen, to be honest, so when I found out I was just buzzing," he continued. "I’ve lived in Carlisle all of my life and I was signed by the academy at U14 level. I was buzzing when that happened, and I was the same when I got my scholarship, so to have been given a pro contract now is just unbelievable."
On the help he's had along the road to a senior deal, he explained: “My dad has been a massive influence. Since I was young, he always wanted to me to play football and he’s always driven me on.
"My dad was really proud when I was offered my contract because it’s what he’s always wanted me to do. He was in the meeting when I got told as well, and his smile was the same as mine when we found out.
"All of my family were buzzing for me. My dad has brought me to games here for as long as I can remember, so it would be amazing to be playing on that pitch in front of him and to make him proud."
“I just can’t wait to get back in for pre-season with the rest of the lads now," he said. "Especially being in and around the first team, the youth team is good, but the first team training intensity is much better and I know it will make me a better player.
“The gaffer has spoken to us and told us how fit and strong we need to be next season so I’ll be working hard over the summer. We’ve got a gym programme and I think there’s only one day off, so it’s keeping me busy. I’m doing bits of running as well."
Having travelled with the squad and featured on the bench for the away game at Stevenage in April, he said: “It was an unbelievable experience to be involved in the first team squad for a match.
"We travelled down on the Friday and stayed over, and it didn’t really seem real. I got told on the Thursday I would be going to Stevenage, but I thought the coaches were joking with me. Hopefully there’ll be plenty more of that next year.
“It was my first time travelling so the senior players were taking the mick a bit, and I had to do my initiation song, but they were all great with me and welcomed me into the squad. I sang 'I’m Yours' by Jason Mraz, but it was awful, it definitely wasn’t a classic. I was so nervous I couldn’t get my words out.
“During the game, although we were 3-0 down, I would have obviously still loved to have come on. It will be an amazing feeling to make my debut for the club I’ve supported all of my life, and hopefully I can do that next season."
Looking ahead to next season, he said: “I know I need to work hard so I show the manager what I can do.
"Hopefully, if I do that, he’ll give me a chance. I think my strengths are my pace and running in behind, but there are obviously lots of things I need to work on as well. I think of myself as a number nine, but I can play on the right if needed.
“I think training with the first team has helped me this year and it’ll be the same next year, there are some good players there who I know I can learn from. Hallam [Hope] scored a lot of goals last season, so hopefully I can do the same next year."
“It’s good that there’s a few of us going into the first team together because it is a nerve-wracking experience," he told us. "Myself, Josh and Liam [McCarron] have been together for four or five years now so that friendship will help next year. It’s brilliant for Jarrad [Branthwaite] to be involved as well, even though he’s a year younger, and hopefully we all get a chance next year.
“The gaffer is happy to play young players if we show we’re good enough, so hopefully we can all show what we can do and get our chances."
As to whether the enormity of what is about to happen has sunk in yet, he commented: "I don’t even think it has. I think when we come back for pre-season with the first team instead of the youth team that’s when it will hit us.
"We all trained with the trialists we had in last week which was good, the manager is obviously looking at whether we’re good enough to be involved next year, so it was good to be able to show him what we can do again.
"Hopefully that will continue next season and we'll all be able to help the club push on."
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