Striker Hallam Hope bagged his first goal of the season for the club on Tuesday night in his third start of what has been a stop-start campaign for the front man so far.
A hamstring and lower back problem ruled him out of the final stages of pre-season and he also missed the first two league games as he continued to work his way back to full fitness.
International duties with Barbados meant he was absent for the Exeter City home game at the start of this month, and constant speculation about his immediate future, with a number of clubs declaring an interest in his services, has served as a distracting backdrop throughout the long summer months, and beyond.
We caught up with him this week to get his take on what has been a frustrating few months for one of the most reliable players in the squad.
“It was great to get a goal on Tuesday and get off the mark for the season,” he said. “I was buzzing to get some minutes and obviously pleased to top it off with a goal, although it wasn’t the result we wanted.
“It was a really good ball through from Christie [Elliott] and he’s got that in his locker. He’s done it a few times this season and my eyes lit up when it fell for me, and thankfully I managed to put it away nicely.”
“I’ve only made one league start this season so far, so it was good to get 90 minutes under my belt,” he added. “It was good to be able to put in a decent performance and get a goal as well.
“It’s been frustrating not to be starting every week but it’s obviously up to the manager. I’ve just got to work hard in training and try and get back in the team.”
Speaking about being given the duty of team captain for the night, he told us: “It was the first time in my professional career that I’ve been given the armband and it was a real honour.
“I enjoyed it, and I wanted to try and perform and lead by example. It was a young team, we’ve got a lot of promising young players here, and I thought it was a good learning curve for them.
“I’ve been in that situation myself, but I’m 25-years-old now and I’ve played over 200 games, so if I can help the young lads in any way then I will.”
“I hope I’ve given the manager something to think about after my performance on Tuesday, even though it wasn’t the result we wanted,” he continued. “I feel as though I performed well and scored a good goal.
“It gives any forward player confidence when you’re scoring, assisting and putting good performances in, so it was good to get my first goal. I scored quite a few last season and I’d like to do the same this season, if not better it.”
The popular forward ended last season knowing that he had another year to serve with the Blues up in Cumbria, but a conversation with the manager allowed him to indicate that he would be open to a move to another club, should the deal, club and location be right.
“It was obviously a confusing summer when things were a little bit up in the air,” he confirmed. “I spoke to the gaffer but I never once told him I wanted to move away from Carlisle.
“I’ve been here two years now and I like being here, I’ve enjoyed my time here and I love everyone around the club. I’ve got good relationships with the lads and the staff, and the club means a lot to me. Every player’s ambition is to play as high as they possibly can, so that’s all our conversations were about over the summer.”
“When clubs at higher levels are interested in you, it’s always going to be something any player will look at,” he said. “As I’ve said before, every player wants to play at the highest level they can. But whenever I spoke to the manager I always made it clear to him that if I stayed here I’d still continue to give my all, and there’s nothing that would ever change that.
“I’ll always be committed while I’m at this club. I’m happy to be here and I want to progress and help the team do well. I want us to achieve what we know we can achieve. It’s in the past now. I’m focused on being here and I’ll always give my all for this team because I’ve got too much respect for everyone at the club not to do that.”
But did the situation become a distraction, particularly is it encroached into the first month of the season?
“Like I say, I’ve put all of that behind me now and I’m 100% focused and committed to this club and to doing whatever I can to help us get results,” he insisted. “It is a distraction, and the injury I had made it even more difficult because I was in quite good form until then. Obviously I then went away on international duty, so it’s all been a bit stop-start.
“I scored a few goals in pre-season, but that injury did get in the way and I think it made it more difficult that I wasn’t able to play. I probably agree that I’ll have to win some fans back over but I’m happy to do that through how I perform on the pitch. I’m looking forward to just getting my head down now and hopefully helping the team.”
The mention of his exploits with Barbados reminded us that he’d been the subject of confusion as registration issues had led to a temporary suspension and deletion of his first two international goals, scored in a 2-2 draw with Guyana in September last year.
“There was an issue with some paperwork which meant there was me and another player for Barbados, Krystian Pearce [Mansfield captain], who weren’t registered correctly when I first played for them,” he explained. “It was because I played for England under-19, it was literally one piece of paper that hadn’t been filed properly, or something like that.
“Mine has all been resolved now, but I think Krystian is still waiting for his to be sorted. I’m not sure how it works in terms of whether or not my goals count before it was all resolved, but I’m counting them no matter what anyone else says!
“It’s really good to go over and play international football. It’s a different style of football to here and the heat is unbelievable at times, which makes it hard. We have to train late at night because it’s too hot during the day and things like that. It’s always a proud moment when you pull on the shirt.”
Back to domestic matters and next up for United is the visit of Oldham Athletic on Saturday.
“We want three points from the Oldham game, nothing else,” he said. “We know we need to improve our home form, but I don’t think we’re doing much wrong because the performances have been there.
“We need to be more effective in both boxes, and hopefully if we do that we’ll get the results we want. It’s been frustrating for the lads because we’ve been putting in decent performances without getting results.
“It’s hard to watch when you feel like you can help, but when I get my chance I’ll just be doing whatever I can to help the team get three points. I think we’ve looked more solid since we changed formation, and I think it maybe suits our players better.
“When I have got my chances I’ve enjoyed playing in it. You can see we’re doing good things every time we play, we move the ball well and we’re a threat, so we just need to turn that into results and points.”
Click HERE to watch an interview with Hallam Hope on iFollow United now.
Click HERE to see a clip from this interview on our YouTube channel. Follow the same link for more FREE content right from the heart of the club.