Defender Max Hunt joined the Blues on an 18-month deal during the January transfer window having spent the first half of the season on-loan with National League side Aldershot, where he made 22 appearances in his four-month stay.
With parent club Derby County keen to extend his services, United boss Chris Beech moved quickly to bring the imposing young centre half up north, where he remained patient before working his way into the starting line-up just before the current lockdown was imposed.
Speaking about the last 15 weeks away from what would be considered normal methods of work, he told us: “Lockdown has obviously been very different for everybody. It’s a completely different lifestyle to what I’ve been used to as a player, in terms of not being able to train and things, but at the same time it’s been nice to spend a lot of quality time with my family, which I don’t usually get when I’m living away.
“Some aspects have been really enjoyable, but I’ve still been focused on keeping fit, as have all of the lads. Before we knew whether or not we’d finish the season, and everything was still up in the air, we were trying to keep as much match fitness as we could.
“You can probably appreciate that’s very hard to do when you aren’t in proper training and you can’t do any of your work with anyone else. You’ve just got to push yourself to the next level as much as you can.
“The gaffer, Gav [Skelton] and Dave [Waldie] have given us specific sessions to make sure we’re still doing as much work with the ball as we can, and we’ve all been given specific things to do to keep us sharp and to improve us as players.
“Even once it was announced that the season was over, it wasn’t a case of us just relaxing because we’ve still got to maintain our fitness and make sure we’re ready for whenever we do start again.”
Having played the last two games before the 19/20 season was called off, he admitted that the timing wasn’t great with him having put in some decent personal performances.
“On a personal level the lockdown came at just the wrong time because I’d played the last two games in the lead-up to everything being shut down,” he commented. “We were disappointed with the Colchester performance on the Saturday but we were able to put it right against Newport on the Tuesday night, and we were all happy with the clean sheet.
“There were still a lot of things I needed to improve on, and I feel like there’s a lot more to come from me. Obviously I was hoping to kick on from those two games and play in the next few games towards the end of the season.”
Having joined the Cumrbians just ten days into the winter transfer window, he said: “It was difficult coming in at first, but I think it always is when you join a team in January.
“I didn’t play a lot of football and that’s always challenging, because I really feel like the best way to improve and get better is by playing games. When I was in and out of the team I found it difficult to get a rhythm going.
“I know there are aspects of my game, both defensively and in possession, that I can improve on. I’ve been working with the gaffer a lot on those things and I’ve been doing specific training sessions to get better.
“I know the gaffer thinks a lot of me and that does help with my confidence. He’s put a lot of work in with me and hopefully we can get back to doing those sessions and I can keep making big improvements. It means a lot to have his backing and support, so now I need to repay him with my performances.”
And with some very experienced heads around him he also confirmed that it his first few months with the club had provided an excellent learning background.
“Obviously Byron [Webster] and Nat [Knight-Percival] have both got a lot of experience and they are both players who I’ve grown up hearing about play in the football league,” he told jus. “They’ve both got a lot of league experience and that’s where I want to get to.
“To learn off them as well as all of the other senior lads in the dressing room was a great pleasure and invaluable for me. It’s about learning as much as you can every day and having good players who are willing to share their knowledge helps massively with that.”
“The experience I had at Aldershot in the first half of the season was a massive help for me as well,” he added. “It’s actually a big part of why I came to Carlisle. I could have stayed in the U23s at Derby, but some of the boys who have done that then find it difficult to get into a first team set up when it comes to an end.
“I’m really thankful to Aldershot and their gaffer for giving me a chance to go there and put myself about at that level. We had some really great times there and that’s what pushed me on to want to go and play at the next level. I just want to keep progressing here now.
“That’s why my aim over this whole lockdown period has been to make sure that, when we do come back, I hit the ground running so I can get myself into the team and establish myself. I’ve done a lot of work on my fitness and my focus and I know the gaffer will be looking to assemble a really good set of lads next season who can push up the table.
“Everyone involved at the club at the moment has got that ambition and that can only be a positive thing. We know where we want to go, and everybody is excited to get back to it.
“The gaffer and Gav push us really hard and the training is probably the hardest I’ve been involved in. The work ethic from everybody is spot on and with the coaches pushing us on there’s no limit to what we can try and achieve next year.”
Moving away from his base in Chesterfield – be it to Aldershot or Carlisle, clubs at either end of the country – throws up a different set of challenges away from the football side of life.
“Living away from home obviously has some challenges, but I got a bit of a taste of it when I was at Aldershot, which I think prepared me for coming up here,” he said. “The distance from my home in Chesterfield was similar to both Aldershot and Carlisle.
“Being three or so hours away means you can’t just pop home, but I have got used to it. I do miss my family and everything, but it means during the week all I’m doing is focussing on my football and I put everything else to the back of my mind.
“I find that it’s quite easy, to be honest, because at the end of the day the reason I’m up here is because I’m doing what I love, which is to play football.
“I’m really looking forward to getting back into training and playing games. I think it’s important we get back to our usual schedule and routines, not just as players but as fans and people around the club as well.
“The sooner the fans can be back in the stadium supporting us, the better. We’ve all kept in touch in the group chat and everyone is just talking about how much we’re looking forward to being back.”