United defender Aaron Hayden confirmed on the official site on Tuesday that patience and self-belief were big factors in helping him through what was a tough first half of the season, and that inner determination has led to a run of three goals from 24 appearances, with 21 of those appearances coming since the end of November.
And he admitted that a very open and honest relationship with new boss Chris Beech has underpinned a series of strong performances which has seen him pick up three man-of-the-match awards and a wave of plaudits from reporters and fans alike.
“I’ve got a really good relationship with the gaffer and I’ve got a lot of respect for him,” he told us. “I don’t always agree with him, but we talk a lot and we’re always transparent with each other.
“I’ve never had that with any other manager, where I’ve been able to speak to them so openly. You always know where you stand with him and he isn’t afraid to speak his mind, and I like that about him.
“I always make sure when I’m on the pitch I give 110% for him because he was the one who gave me my opportunity.
“I still train as hard as I did when I wasn’t playing, even though I’m in the team. If anything I probably train harder now, because when you get somewhere and get a taste of it, you’ve got to do everything you can to maintain it.
“I still make sure I do my extras after training, along with extra gym work and what not, because the aim is always to improve.”
A solid and increasingly dependable central defensive partnership with Byron Webster has been one of the main features of improved results, and he confirmed that he’s learning a lot with every minute he plays.
“Having Byron next to me has been a massive help, as have all the lads, to be fair,” he said. “Byron especially talks to me all the time during games, telling me where he wants me to be and what he wants me to do.
“He gives me vital bits of information that I feel have really helped my game when I’ve taken them on board. I feel like we’re at a point now where he doesn’t really need to tell me too much, because I know what he wants from me and what I need to do.
“We’ve got a good partnership going where we’ve got that connection and we know where we’re going to be and how to cover each other, and things like that.”
With the good personal displays has come a bond with the supporters which, of course, is important for any player.
“The fans have been a massive part in me settling into the team and the club so well,” he confirmed. “I really appreciate them because they’ve supported me from day one. I’ve tried to repay them by trying to play as well as possible, and obviously getting a couple of goals to go with it has helped.
“I feel like the Carlisle fans really reciprocate what they see you putting in, and if they see you working hard they’ll appreciate that.”
“My dad is one of the fans now as well!” he commented. “He doesn’t get to many home games, but he goes to a lot of the away games and he loves it.
“He’s always singing and chanting and he already feels part of the Carlisle family. You often see pictures of him in the away end where somebody has got their arms round him. It’s fantastic for us all that it’s happened like that.”
But what about those man-of-the-match awards, do they also help him to feel that he’s now a big part of the team?
“I think I’ve got three of them now and it’s nice to get that little bit of recognition,” he admitted. “I’m very self-critical, so those little things give you a bit of a boost. Even when I do well I always think I can do better, because I’ve got such high standards, but it’s very rewarding to get those trophies and things.
“I’ve obviously got three goals as well and I’m really pleased with that. It was something I always had as a kid, that threat in the box for set-pieces, but it sort of went out of my game when I was in the academy system.
“When I went back into non-league, the threat you can be in both boxes is a massive part of the game. I did a lot of work with my dad in how to be aggressive and to have more of a presence.
“It’s obviously most important for me to defend, but it also helps when we have attacking set-pieces. Whenever we get them now I always see it as an opportunity for me to score. I know we’ve got great delivery from Elliot [Watt] and Nath [Thomas], and they can put the ball right on the money.
“I’ve just got to make sure I arrive at the right time, and thankfully it’s came off three times so far. It’s so important to know that the delivery is going to be right because it gives you the confidence to go and really attack the ball.
“When you aren’t sure about the delivery, it can put a bit of doubt in your mind and delay your movement by just a second, which can make all the difference.
“My goal against Morecambe is a good example. I knew for a fact that Elliot was going to put the ball right where it ended up, so it meant I could make sure my run was right and I was there to head it in. Once the ball comes your way, it’s quite easy from there, to be honest.”
So which of his strikes is his favourite?
“Even though I don’t think it was the best one, my favourite has got to be my first goal for the club against Forest Green in the FA Cup,” he said. “I enjoyed it so much because it was such a release of emotion after all the months I’d spent not playing.
“The feeling was indescribable, and it won the game for us, which made it even better.”
His sudden emergence through the festive period led to a new deal, and the security of knowing his contract is sorted at a time when uncertainty reigns, with the current national situation at the forefront of everyone’s thoughts.
“It was good to get a new deal and I think that was really important in helping me to feel that I could really kick on,” he commented. “Once I got that sorted out I was able to put all that sort of thing to the back of my mind and concentrate on football. I can just focus on improving myself and in turn helping to improve the team so we can all kick on.
“It was really good for myself and my family, I think everyone knows I’m expecting my daughter in May, so it’s good to have that security for her.
“As soon as I signed my deal I knew I’d be in Carlisle for the foreseeable future, so I’ve moved up here full-time and my missus and my little one will be up here with me when she arrives, and that’s really settling for me.
“It means after games and training I haven’t got any travelling to do before I see them, and I’ll have them around me.”
And with football currently suspended for an indefinite period, he explained how the coming weeks will be as movement around the country is minimised for everyone.
“The current situation is all a bit surreal,” he said. “Everything is up in the air and it’s all happened quite quickly. We were due to travel on the Friday morning to Grimsby when we found out, but just before we left it was announced that there would be no games until at least April.
“That’s been pushed back until the end of April since then, and I suppose the frustrating part about it is that there’s no date for when it will come back. That’s a minor thing, though, when you think about the bigger and wider implications of not doing this.
“The health and safety of everyone is the most important thing. We’ll do whatever it takes and whatever we’re advised to do to help with that. In terms of playing football, all we can do is try and stay fit whilst we’re off.
“We hope that we’ll get the games played at some point, but that’s out of our hands. Dave Waldie has given us all some really detailed daily programmes and we all have to check in to make sure everyone has done everything.
“We all need to make sure we’re in tip-top shape because if we do start playing again, they could all be quite close together and we could end up playing a lot of games in a short space of time. As long as everyone follows the schedule we’ve been given, we’ll be ready to finish the season off - if and when the time comes.”