New signing Manasse Mampala admitted that he ‘can’t wait to get going’ when he met the local press for the first time on Thursday, with the season opener now just eight days away.
The striker was handed the perfect birthday present last week (he turned 21 two weeks ago) when his summer trial spell was turned into a one-year deal, with him having impressed in training as well as out on the pitch.
“It’s very exciting,” he told us. “I was relieved when the gaffer told me because I’ve got a lot of mates who were in situations where they don’t have clubs, and that makes it hard for them.
“That’s why I was over the moon that I came here and got a contract. Like I say, it isn’t easy when you don’t have a club, so it’s a big relief. It was my aim when I came, to get it, so I’m pleased.
“Being on trial is tough because football is so up and down. You can have a good day or a bad day, and sometimes you need time to get yourself going.
“I hadn’t played for a few weeks before I came here so I knew I needed to get sharp very quickly. It was about showing the manager what I could do.”
The uncertainty of being on trial brings with it an added pressure, but that’s something else that has to be dealt with as the ultimate prize of a contract is pursued.
“It’s so difficult, but all you can do is keep concentrating,” he explained. “I was here with a friend of mine initially, but he left and I was asked to carry on.
“That gave me a bit of confidence that maybe I was close. I felt like I was doing well but obviously I had more in me to show.
“The manager thought the same so he was getting me into his room and showing me clips, and reminding me what was expected of me. At the end we got there.
“I’m excited, I can’t wait to get going. We’ve started pre-season well, I’ve scored some goals and I want to take that into the season.”
And on how the opportunity at Brunton Park came about, he said: “I was at home training with a few friends, which is what I do before every pre-season, when I got a text from my agent saying that I was going up to Carlisle.
“I’ve heard of the club before because Jarrad Branthwaite was here, and I played with him at Everton and he’s still texting me at the moment to see how it’s going. He had so many positive things to say.
“And I knew Morgan Feeney from before as well, and he took me under his wing as soon as I got here.
“He said good things about the club, and I also heard that the manager likes to give young players a chance. It felt like a good opportunity to come here and show what I can do.
“It’s been really good. I’ve never really played with a first team at this level and seeing the way these players play is really good for me. I have to adapt to it, so that’s good for me as well. I’m happy with everything, to be honest.”
With so much hard work done, and with fans who had been to the friendlies mounting a mini ‘#announcemampala’ campaign, the good news was delivered after a rather decent goal had been bagged in the Workington friendly.
“The manager spoke to me outside the dressing room after the game and I was so happy because it was something I wanted from the moment I arrived here,” he confirmed.
“I was happy, I called my parents and they were over the moon, they know how much it meant to be. Obviously it’s good getting the news but it’s the stuff after it that counts now.
“It gives me that motivation to keep going, as I have the chance to do what I want to do. After leaving Everton this is what I wanted, playing first team football.
“I’ve played youth football for a long time now, I feel this is the best time for me to step up and do it in first team environment.
“It’s a lot more physical than under-23s, the players are smarter and you have to be switched on. You can’t step off because the players react quickly and they’re on you. You have to be alert at all times.
“It’s an opportunity I’m very determined to take and I’m hungrier than ever. I want to do well, score goals, make assists and contribute to the team. This is a perfect place to do that.
“There’s loads of good players in my position but that’s good for me because I know I have to work really hard to get that staring spot.”
Having taken his first steps in football with Bradford, at the age of 14, he quickly found himself at Everton, where he went on to become a regular in the under-23 side.
“It was hard to leave Everton because with being there for five years it was all I knew at that time,” he commented. “The pandemic was on as well so you didn’t really know what was going to happen next.
“A lot of clubs weren’t taking as many players as they otherwise would have because of the financial problems, so I was very grateful to get signed by QPR. Like I said, a lot of my friends didn’t even get a trial, never mind the chance to sign anywhere.
“Now it’s just great that I’m here. Now I want to get in the team, I want to contribute to the team from the get-go. That will be a big thing for me, starting.
“We want to be promoted so I want to contribute to that.”
And he revealed that the hard work had started almost from minute one with the manager taking time to point our areas where he can improve his game.
“My relationship with the manager is very good,” he said. “From the get-go he’s been speaking to me, telling me what he wants from me, showing me clips, getting me in his office and explaining things.
“I really appreciate all of that. He’s told me the quality’s there, and he wants me to work hard first and foremost, and then he wants me to show what I can do whenever I get the chance.
“What he wants from the team is clear and I want to be part of that. I know this is a very important stage of my career. It’s something I’ve been working for, playing in the first team environment.
“It’s my first season in that and I want to give a good impression. I believe in myself, I know what I can do and it’s all about putting it on the pitch now.
“I like running with the ball, dribbling, bringing the team forward, running in behind, and I’d say Im an exciting player because I do have a few skills. It’s goals and assists that I want to aim for.
“I’m quite versatile, I’ve had spells playing behind the striker as a 9, out wide, I’m pretty comfortable there, wherever the manager puts me really.”
As for the instant and very positive relationship with the fans, he told us: “It’s crazy. I’ve seen it with other players, and it happening for me is great, it gives you confidence, knowing there are people behind you supporting.
“We played our first match in the stadium on the weekend and it was good, the fans were loud. I’ve been seeing them on the internet as well, they’re very supportive, I can’t wait for the first game of the season, to have the fans here.
“I’ve been seeing what they say on Twitter, Instagram and it gives me the confidence to continue what I’m doing.”
Part of ‘what he’s doing’ was a stunning goal against Everton on Tuesday afternoon – a moment which put a huge smile on his face.
“It was a nice moment because the old Everton lads were giving me a bit of stick,” he said. “Scoring against them was really good.
“We laughed about it after the game and it was good to see them all again. I spoke to the coaches and the players and I hope they do well.
“They were such a good club to me. It was great, playing with top quality players. We won the league and cup there, the calibre of players was excellent.
“They helped me improve, because when I went there at first I was just physical, quick, strong, but they helped me improve technically and tactically. It was a good experience there.
“But scoring a goal like that, I couldn’t have asked for anything better. I know Gime Toure was screaming at me to pass, and he’s a funny character.
“It’s just such a good squad and the season is only a week away now. We’ve all enjoyed the work we’ve done and we want to carry it into the season. We can’t wait.”
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