Cumbrian-lad Gabriel Breeze would bleed blue blood if you were to chop him straight down the middle, so you can imagine how proud he felt when he was offered a senior two-year deal at the end of last season – with still a year of his scholarship to run.
The 17-year-old was a latecomer to the club’s academy, snapped up from the Penrith youth circuit at the age of 14, but enjoyed the kind of season young lads all dream about having travelled with the first team and trained with them on an almost daily basis.
We caught up with him to talk contracts, and about playing for the side he’s supported from the Warwick from a very young age, earlier this week.
“It’s an honour to be given a professional contract,” he said. “I’ve stood in the Warwick watching the games every week so to be playing for the club is amazing really. It’s a dream to be here and be part of the club.
“When I was first told I was getting a deal it was just surreal really. I couldn’t believe it, but I’m loving every second of it so far.
“I rang my mam and dad as soon as I got told and they just couldn’t believe it either to be honest. They were screaming down the phone at me and they’re obviously really happy for me. It’s been a couple of months now since it happened but I still can’t believe it.”
Having worked so closely with the first team prior to the offer being tabled we wondered if he’d had any inkling at all that it was coming his way.
“I trained with the first team a lot last year and I was on the bench for the game at Mansfield, but I’ve just been concentrating on trying to do well,” he insisted. “I wasn’t really thinking about contracts yet.
“I’ve just been turning up for training, so to be offered a contract was unreal. When I walked out of the meeting after I’d signed it I just couldn’t believe it. I was lost for words because I didn’t get picked up by the club until I was 14.
“I was playing Sunday League in Penrith for Castletown until then. When I got picked for the academy I was excited enough, then it was amazing to be given a scholar when I was 16, and now I’ve got a pro deal a year later. I honestly just can’t believe it.”
As for the next steps, he said: “Everybody says it but the hard work starts now. I know I’ve got to work hard and knuckle down to make sure I keep improving.
“It’s been a privilege to be in and around the first team. The game at St George’s Park for the reserve cup at the end of last season was really enjoyable, it’s just an honour to put the shirt on whenever I get chance to play for the badge.
“Training with the first team is really good because you can learn a lot from all of them, not just the other keepers. They’re all really good at what they do, they’re always talking and giving you advice, so it’s really good to be able to do that every day.
“The difference between the youth team and first team training is massive. Everything is faster and quicker, and the shots come at you a lot harder as well. I just put more tape on my hands!
“I do feel like I’ve earned this opportunity because I do work really hard. My hard work has paid off but I know I need to just keep going.
“I enjoy doing the jobs, I’ll always sweep the changing rooms and do whatever is needed. I don’t think the coaches would let it go to my head but I won’t either.”
One of those next steps was keeping goal for the first friendly of the summer, in front of just under 700 noisy fans at Frenchfield Park.
“I think the Penrith game the other night will definitely be the biggest crowd I’ve ever played in front of,” he confirmed. “It was strange to be honest, when I last played there I think it was a reserve game and there was about ten people there, so for there to be around 700 was weird, but good.
“You obviously get reactions from the crowd when anything happens, which was different. Hopefully I’ll make less mistakes next time once I get used to it a bit more.
“The mistake I made the other night wasn’t great, but I knew I needed to react in the right way and I managed to make the save. It’s always nice to keep a clean sheet as a goalkeeper.”
And helping him along the way will be new keeper coach Dan Hanford, who teamed up with the Blues just ahead of the first July training session.
“It’s been good to work with Dan for the last few weeks,” he told us. “He’s a nice lad and he’s always giving me advice. I’m looking forward to working with him through the season, as well as the other keepers.
“It’s nice that Scott [Simons] has got the same deal at the same time because we’ve got a good relationship after being together for the last few years.
“I think my main strength is that I’m a good shot stopper, which is pretty important for a keeper. The thing I probably want to work on the most is my passing and distribution which is getting more and more important for goalkeepers now.
“My aim for the next couple of years is just to play for Carlisle United. I want to get game time.”
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