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INTERVIEW: I'll help the team in any way I can

Rhys Bennett on joining the Blues

13 November 2020

New arrival Rhys Bennett put pen-to-paper on a short-term deal on Tuesday morning, bringing an end to uncertain period which had seen him employ a great deal of patience as he bided his time for the right opportunity to come along.

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A player with an excellent reputation, he inevitably courted interest from clubs higher than the Blues in the football pyramid, but admitted this week that he couldn’t be happier having made the decision to commit to a move to Brunton Park.

“I’ve been speaking to the manager for most of the summer and I have a good relationship with him,” he explained. “That had an influence on my thinking, being honest, and I’m just very pleased to get it done.

“Being honest about the last few months, it’s been hard. I think the last time I played football was before March, so I’m relieved that I’m able to get back to doing it. It’s the thing I love to do so I’m buzzing that this has happened.”

With so much uncertainty around life in general since the pandemic struck, we wondered what it had been like to fall out of contract in an industry that was already so volatile.

“It’s been completely different to normal,” he agreed. “What you accept is that in terms of being a footballer there’s never really been that much certainty about the job anyway.

“With the pandemic and the affect it’s had on football, this has all felt really strange, and I think that’s why it’s such a relief to be here with Carlisle United now.

“In previous seasons you’d back yourself if you were released. This new situation has thrown up so many difficulties and we can’t avoid that as a fact.

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“The summer for me went on a lot longer than I anticipated and hoped it would, so it’s good that the manager has spoken to me and given me this chance.”

“I’ve spent a couple of weeks with a few clubs to keep my fitness up, and things like that, but that’s tough because you sometimes have to drag yourself out there to keep going,” he added. “That’s particularly the case when you know that you’re not really part of what they’re doing going forward.

“You have to keep going when you’re on your own as well, because this game is all about fitness, and it does start to get frustrating when all you really want is for that text or call to come through.

“It’s been a lonely feeling at times, and that’s why it’s just been amazing to have been here and to have trained properly again this week.”

But was there a point when he started to doubt that something would come his way?

“I think when you don’t have a job in the current climate it isn’t great, and that’s the same for everybody,” he said. “It isn’t nice, but I’m the sort of person who takes a step back and looks at how I can make a way for myself.

“I’ve always had that belief, but you do start to feel a little bit of pressure when you’re coming towards it being six months since you were in any kind of contract at all.

“That’s where you can’t let your standards drop, so you have to keep believing in yourself and believing that something will come through for you in the end.

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“There was some interest and talk, but tentative isn’t real and how long do you wait until tentative becomes real? There are only so many times you can be put off, and the good thing about Chris is that he made it clear that the opportunity was here for me, if we could make it fit.

“That’s the kind of thing that matters because this is what I love to do, and I’ve been given a chance to do it at a club that’s on the up and which has a great manager.”

“Like I say, I have a good personal relationship with the manager and we’ve kept in touch since I played for Rochdale and he was assistant manager, and that was about six years ago,” he commented. “I was as excited for him as he was probably as excited for himself when he got this job.

“I just really wanted him to do well and I’ve been looking at the results from afar from the moment he took over. Carlisle are doing really well so it’s going to be a tough job just for me to get into the team.”

As for the type of player we can expect to see, he said: “Going back to my Rochdale days I think I played every position on the pitch.

“I don’t mind that, if it’s needed, I know I can play wherever a manager wants me to play, but I think it’s important to try to nail down one position if you can, and I think my best position is probably as a central defender.

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“Obviously I’m quite tall and I like to think I’m athletic. I’m quite calm and composed in my defending and I’ll work hard to help the team in any way I can.

“The fact is that I’ve come in at a time when the club is doing really well, so why should I expect it just to happen for me when that’s the case.

“I’m going to have to fight very hard just to get myself into contention, but that’s no bad thing. From what I’ve seen this club is going places and I want to do what I can to help.”

With it being a short-term deal it presents its own challenges, but that’s something he’s looking forward to dealing with as he seeks to make his mark.

“Even when you’ve had a few moves before in your career you still get that ‘going to a new school’ feeling,” he admitted. “You wonder if you’ll fit in and things like that, but that very quickly goes away.

“I’ve trained with the lads for a couple of days now and I’m really enjoying it. Everyone has been fantastic with me and it seems like a tight-knit set of staff everywhere you go.

“When you come to a place like this you can see why it’s doing so well, so it is really good to now be part of that. The standard in training is high and everybody has clearly bought into it.

“With coming from a background of not having played for a few months it was a little bit like – oh my word, I’m feeling a bit out of a place here – for the first couple of sessions.

“You soon get back into it though and it really has been superb. I know a few people, Lewi Alessandra was at Rochdale, and even those I don’t know have made me feel really welcome. What more can you ask for when you’re made to feel at home straight away?

“I’m here for a couple of months so it’s an opportunity to get my head down, get some game time and help the lads to push on from where they already are.

“I want us to do as well as we can then we’ll see what happens in January.”


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