United’s season kicks off with the home game against Fleetwood Town on Tuesday night, and club captain Nick Anderton admitted that it has felt a long time in coming when he spoke to the press ahead of Saturday morning’s training session.
“I can’t wait to get started, to be honest,” he said. “It’s been a long while with all this Covid job going on, and it’s just been good to get back into the full swing of things.
From March, when everything shut down, it’s been a long few months without really knowing what was going to happen. When we finally find out what day we were going to be back in training it was good for us all.
“Everybody has kept fit while we’ve been away, and that meant we could come back in and work really hard as a team. We’ve got a togetherness in the squad that has allowed us to work towards getting match fit and enjoying football again.”
As for his new job within the dressing room environment, he told us: “I’m enjoying and I think it’s good for me. At my age, 24, I feel like I’ve played a few games in terms of men’s football, with being in the National League, a few in League One and in League Two.
“I feel like it’s a role I can thrive in. On the pitch I try to play with honesty and hard work and I look to get the lads together. It’s massive at this level if you can do that, it helps you to be successful.
“The gaffer first told me he was giving me the armband at the first session back after the lockdown. He pulled me to one side up at Creighton and he told me that he’d like me to lead the team forward, along with Aaron as the vice.
“Since I’ve played with Aaron he’s been a great character, and a great player and leader. To be honest, we were in contact with each other all the time over the summer and we both have the same goals individually and collectively. We just want to be successful and we want to win.”
A total of 13 new signings have kept things interesting through the month of August, with the squad now focused on getting things off to a good start.
“We’ve gelled very quickly and there’s a lot of lads of similar ages,” he commented. “There’s a lot of players who feel they have something to prove out on the pitch, because it either hasn’t gone well at other places or they’ve had injuries.
“It’s a young, hungry squad and with the addition of Dean coming in, he’s been brilliant over the last week with us. You can definitely see the level he’s played and that he can continue to play at. He’s experienced and he’s comfortable on the ball. I think it’s a good mixture of youth and experience which should serve us well.
“All the lads want to work hard, which is what I want to do, and we all want to be successful, which is what we’re trying to do together. It’s going to be a long season, but to finally be back and looking forward to a game is brilliant.
“The feeling within the dressing room is good, the friendlies have been really good for us. It’s just been so enjoyable to be back playing football after such a long time. We’ve tried different systems in the games and done some different things. The gaffer has a way that he wants us to play and we’re all buying into that which, again, will hopefully make us successful.”
With the bookmakers currently giving the Blues just an outside chance of a shot at promotion, he said: “As far as we’re concerned, and with everything we’ve been through with Covid, we just want to compete.
“We know that if we’re together we can cause problems. I watched Dean Furman’a interview and he said that it may be that we’re not favourites with the bookmakers, but we feel like that if we get the togetherness we’re talking about we can upset a few teams.
“We just want to work towards a goal of winning and getting Carlisle to be successful again. We want the fans to really bond with us and we want to go out on the pitch and play in a way they’ll appreciate. That’ll happen if we give our all.
“There are always the teams in any division that go for it, and they’ll be spending the money with a big budget, but there are also always a couple of surprise teams. I think if we can continue to be competitive then we’ll have a good season.
“It will be relentless with a lot of games to fit in, but I think the way we do our training days will change. How much we’ll do will depend on who plays, because at the end of the day it’s all about the points and the games. It’s going to be a busy schedule but it’ll be enjoyable for the players, because all we want to do is play.”
Something everybody will have to get used to is a stadium without fans – although the hope is that they’ll be allowed to return sooner rather than later.
“I personally haven’t thought about it too much because there’s nothing we can do to change it,” he said. “It’s our job to be professionals and these games will have three points on the line.
“I know there are a lot of competitive players in our squad and they’ll want to win every game we play. Obviously the crowd does help massively when you’re going for a goal, or if you have a good move, or if you’re putting pressure on the opposition.
“They get right behind you, and you can feel that, but I haven’t thought what it will be like without them because there’s nothing we can do about the situation. We’re professionals and this is what we’ve got to get on with.
“We just need to make sure we’re in a position so that when the fans are allowed in they have something to cheer about.”
Having spent three seasons at Holker Street we took it for granted that the skipped would be looking forward to those particular fixtures.
“Hopefully the fans can be allowed back in for them, even if it’s just the home fans,” he told us. “It’s great for Barrow to finally be back in the football league after so long.
“I really enjoyed my time there and it’ll be good to play them. I think we finished seventh in the Conference when I was with them but we didn’t make it into the play-offs, because they hadn’t restructured it then. They changed it the year after.
“Last season they did brilliant. I know Scott Quigley, the forward, I was with him at Blackpool and he scored a lot of goals. He said they play a lot of football and that it’s a good time for the club. They’ll be good games we can all look forward to.”
But next on the agenda is tonight’s season opener against Fleetwood.
“It’s good that the game has been moved forward because it allows us to get into it sooner,” he commented. “We played them in a friendly a few weeks ago and that was a good test.
“This game will be completely different and it’ll be great to finally get back to Brunton Park and playing a game.
“It will be brilliant on Tuesday when we’re getting ready for a competitive game after such a long time. We’ve got a couple of cup games to get us back into it because the league season starts, and it’s going to be really exciting.”
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