United’s first game of the 20/21 league season is the trip to face Cambridge United at the Abbey Stadium on Saturday. Chris Beech spoke to us about the fixture at his Thursday morning press conference.
“I’m looking forward to the season, and that’s why we’ve got to look to get ourselves going,” he said. “From there we can see where it goes.
“I’m sure if it does get going that it’ll get supported well by the fans. I have no real sort of ‘we’re going to do this’ approach, because football doesn’t work like that. We’ve just got to make sure we stick to our traits, because they represent us well, and we’ll definitely see where it goes.
“We head into it feeling determined, organised, competitive, and we want to represent everybody attached to the football club in the right way, whether we’re ground staff, office staff, players, the manager, admin, media - I want us to be united and to really enjoy a challenge in these strange times.
“We don’t know what’s around the corner, but we’ve worked really hard to make sure the club’s still here, and we’ve worked hard to make sure we’ve got a squad to represent us. It’s baton-passing time now the work’s been done, over to the boys, we support them as much as we can, go and represent us with everything you’ve got and with great honesty.”
“On a personal level I’m feeling very excited and very good,” he continued. “I can’t wait to get on the bus and get down to Cambridge because the lads have been excellent in training.
“The quality has gone up, and the standard on Tuesday was very high. As I’ve said in the past, we’ve had to curtail a lot of it, and I think a lot of the anomalies we’ve had with injuries is what other teams will start to get now.
“We did have some really competitive friendly games, almost like you were in the third or fourth round of a cup competition, and the Fleetwood Trophy game was also very competitive and high intensity. I think we’re now in good spirits and we’re ready.”
The earlier fixtures of any season always throw up the interesting challenge of not having to hand a wealth of information or footage on the opposing team, with styles of play and tactics often still to be discovered rather than planned for.
“They’ve not really been doing anything too different in the games they’ve been playing so far,” he commented. “They were strong against Birmingham, they did well in the Trophy, even with a few changes to personnel, and they’re doing what we all do in that they’re working hard to win football games.
“We know what they’re going to try to do and we’ve got to make sure that we represent ourselves correctly by countering that to win these three points. They’re setting up in a 4-4-2, they’ve got a couple of good results under their belts, and they’re still a team that’s coming together.
“It’s another new manager who was doing excellent when we played them last season. I think ours was the first negative result he’d had in that period.
“They have some really good players in there, which we’ll have to be aware of. Wes Hoolahan is obviously elongating his career with the technical skills he’s got. He’s an unbelievable professional.
“But they’ve got other really good players too. We know what they’re capable of, we know what we’re capable of, and we just have to make sure we’re ready, set and don’t give them any head starts.”
One very familiar face is that of defender Jack Iredale, who left the Blues in the summer before making the move to the University city.
“In my opinion Jack doesn’t have a point to prove to me or the Carlisle supporters,” the manager insisted. “I think he served the club to the best of his abilities, as he did me and himself.
“The pandemic threw all sorts of questions and anomalies up. One was that Jack asked me if he could go back to Australia when we didn’t know if the season was coming back on, because of personal circumstances, to see his family.
“These things throw all sorts of different things into equations. In terms of Jack, great personality, really good lad, very good at crossing on the move, has his long throw, we utilised that to the best of our abilities last season, and he helped us get away from a side that possibly looked like it could get relegated.”
As for the Cumbrians, it’s highly likely that Cambridge will also still have some recruiting to do before the window closes in October.
“Teams are coming together and there are still a lot of players out of contract, and that’s with the season starting this weekend,” he said. “It’s quite surreal. I’m still talking to quite a few of the boys who are in limbo, and I see people like the Wigan player who signed a month-long contract just to get the season started.
“It’s mad. I think the situation will change a lot over the next two or three weeks and it’ll end up almost like a car boot sale where people are watching you unload your car at six in the morning just to see what you’ve got.
“Cambridge have some new faces and I do expect them to be very competitive. They’ve had a good start and their spirits will be very high. They’ll come at us full tilt, and I expect us to be at full tilt.
“As ever it’s all about the result. That’s what we’re all trying to achieve. Cambridge will be looking for that, as will every other team playing on Saturday.
“That’s what comes with the industry you work in, but when the lights go on, when it’s fight time at 3 o’clock, we’ve got to be ready.”
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