It feels like at least a month (oh, in fact, hold that thought, it has been) since the Blues went to Walsall to welcome in 2021, and every player we’ve spoken to has confirmed exactly how strange it’s felt to have gone through another extremely strange month.
Midfielder Callum Guy was no different when we caught up with him yesterday to talk all things Carlisle United, with a few other things thrown in besides.
Speaking first about the seemingly never-ending lay-off, he said: “It’s been a frustrating one and obviously we had a period of time where we had to isolate for 10 days as well, so it was even tougher with not being able to go into the training ground and see the lads.
“We were given our programmes to do at home and everyone stuck to that really well. Things are looking positive now and we’re hoping the game goes on this Saturday and we can get back to where we left off.”
“The most stressful thing about the whole situation is that we were doing really well, we were picking up points and we were on a run of something like five wins out of seven,” he continued. “We’d just played well away at Walsall and to not play a game since then has been tough.
“It’s been made even more frustrating with the fact we’d travelled to some of the games, or been on our way, only to hear they were off. Basically we were getting psyched up, doing the things through the week to get ready, as we normally would, only to have that happen.
“At Harrogate we were sat outside in the coach for two hours, but we couldn’t do anything about it. It’s part and parcel of football and you just have to put it behind you and get on with it.”
One of the challenges of a spell like this is to make sure you stay fit, sharp and ready, particularly with an important run of games now looming very large on the near horizon.
“We have a little indoor pitch at the stadium which we’ve used quite a lot,” he explained. “It’s obviously not ideal but it gets work into the legs and it keeps us topped up.
“Along with that you have to motivate yourself to go out on a local park or even just run round the streets which, again, isn’t exactly ideal. We’re happy to do things like that though because we all want the same things at the end of the season.
“It’s also something we want to do because when you haven’t played for so long you just get more and more eager to be out there. When we step out on that pitch and the first whistle goes against Exeter we’ll be raring to go and at it.
“We’ll be in their faces straight away because we haven’t done it for so long, and it’s what we love doing. Sharpness won’t be an issue because, like I say, we’ve done things right.
“We had a training match on the pitch on Wednesday and it was really sharp. Everyone looked fit, we were bit tired at the end but that comes with not having done that for a while.
“Come Saturday we’ll all be ready and with the competition for places we have we’ll all be hoping we’re in the team. We know that anyone can be in it, and that shows in training with the way everybody is on it all the time. We have to be at our best or somebody else will get the nod.”
Having lost down in Exeter back in October, he reminded us that the game had gone right down to the wire despite the Blues having been reduced to 10 men with over half an hour left to play.
“It’ll be the same as when we played them at the start of the season, a tough one,” he commented. “We lost, but I thought we created some good chances and played well. We probably should have got something from it, but we didn’t.
“They’re the highest scoring side in the division, so they’re a threat going forward, but we know we can beat anybody in this league. We’ll look to take the game to them and I think it’s one we can definitely get something from.
“We’re ready, even though it has been a strange few weeks. All you can do is put that behind you and look to the next game. For us, that’s Exeter.
“There’s no point dwelling on it because there’s nothing you can do about it. Obviously it’s frustrating at the time, particularly when you’ve done all of the preparation, but the quicker you put it behind you the better.
“With the games coming thick and fast you just have to keep looking forward, and hopefully the Exeter game will be on so that we can get on with it again.
“Having the break will probably work well with the crazy schedule we’re about to have now. It’s going to be Saturday-Tuesday every week so maybe having this will do us good in the long run.
“We’ve got a good squad with some really good talent so if anyone is feeling it, or we get some knocks, there’s always someone who can step in. We’ve proved that already when Taylor Charters comes in and deserves his man of the match.
“Jack Armer did the same, and he also got man of the match. Gime and Deano are waiting to play all the time, and whenever a player does it they play well. That’s how we all feel now. We want to be in the team to face Exeter, so the gaffer will have some tough decisions to make.”
Another hangover from the Covid-19 outbreak has been playing behind closed doors, with United having been luckier than most with fans allowed into six of the club’s games (home and away) so far this season.
“That’s something else we’ve not been used to, but it was a case of having to get on with it for most of the early games,” he commented. “Then the fans came back in and that gave us an extra 10 or 15%, which was really nice.
“For that to be taken away from us, and from the fans as well, because all of this means so much to them, it’s just really frustrating. Hopefully the sooner we can get them back in the better, but in the meantime, we’ve got to do our business on the pitch so we can put a smile on their faces when they’re sat at home watching us.
“When they came back it reminded us what it was all about. You’d think with it only being two thousand in our large stadium, you don’t think it would do too much, but what we’ve had off our Carlisle fans has been exceptional.
“The gaffer had us doing the clap at the end of the warm-up when they got back in last time and that really riled up the fans. That set us all off on a good tone and we all worked off each other. It’s on us now to carry on playing well, treat them all as normal games and hopefully still pick up the results.”
And a victory against one of our closest rivals will keep things very interesting in the upper reaches of the division.
“The gaffer keeps reminding everybody that games in hand mean nothing until you get the points,” he said. “We’ve still got 25 games to go, and we’ll all have played 46 when it comes to a close, and that’s all that matters.
“It doesn’t matter what anyone else does, or when they do it, we just have to treat each game properly and not leave it down to waiting to see what other teams do.”
We'll have more from Callum Guy on the official website on Saturday morning.