United’s last training session before Santa’s midnight visits begin was a Christmas Eve get together at Penrith Rugby Club in what, it has to be said, were extremely cold and crisp conditions.
We managed to make captain Nick Anderton freeze for a few minutes more as we spoke to him about the festive period, and about what the lads have done through the first 19 games of the campaign.
“Boxing Day is a big game for us because we want to get back to winning ways at home and in the front of the fans,” he said. “We’re here to get the work done leading up to the game so that we go into it on the front foot.
“Obviously we have Christmas Day to enjoy but we’re professionals when it comes down to it. We know we can’t drink or eat too much, but we can still enjoy it with our families.
“It’s a strange time, especially this year for everybody with the bubbles and stuff, and with being in different tiers, but we’re the same as everyone else in that we’ll enjoy it as much as we can.”
Picking up on the word professional, that’s exactly how it’s been at the club since the group got back together in August.
“We’ve just tried to enjoy it and win football matches,” he commented. “It’s been about hard work. We’ve had quite a few games where we’ve done well and got the points, but we’ve also lost a couple, and we want to really get on a long run now.
“Looking back, I think we knew we had a good group of lads. Everybody wants to be successful within it, but it did take a little bit of time for us to really get going.
“We’re in a good position now, we know that, but we’re not even halfway through yet. We want to continue doing what we’re doing and make sure that we keep improving.
“There was a confidence with us all that we’d do well this season, but you’ve got to be confident. If you’re not going out feeling that way then you don’t do well. It’s a cliché but we knew we had to work hard, and a lot comes from that.
“You quickly get to know what players you’ve got and how they play, and that’s when you work out what you need to do to be successful.”
As we’ve stated before, a feature of this season has been the strong relationship which has built up between the players and the fans.
“I’m glad it’s gone the way it’s gone,” he told us. “We knew that if we worked hard before the fans got back that they’d then have something to really get behind us about.
“I’ve said it already but it is just about working as hard as we possibly can, and winning. Those are the two biggest things in football. If you do the work you usually win, and the fans will always get behind you when they see that.
“It’s great to be part of it all, to be honest. We’re playing well and we know that if we get it down in the final third, as we are doing, there’ll be shots and crosses coming from it.
“Obviously I’m captain and it’s a great feeling to know the manager backs me in the role. There are plenty of lads in there who are leaders but we’re just a close knit group on and off the pitch.
“Being captain, I don’t really look at it any differently than I normally would, but it’s a pleasure to wear the armband for this group of lads.”
Looking ahead to Bolton, he said: “We were so disappointed last weekend because we know it was an opportunity.
“It didn’t go our way, so we’re all massively frustrated about that, and that’s why we want to put it right as quickly as we can.
“As we go into January we want the results to keep coming and we want to continue improving as a group.
“We’re still a new group, and there’s still a lot of learning to do with each other, and we hope that even more fans can get into Brunton Park to watch us, because we really appreciate the support they’re giving us.”
Merry Christmas from Nick and the lads to United fans everywhere.
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