United boss Chris Beech added a new face to his management team this week with former-Blue Dan Hanford joining the ranks as the club’s first-team keeper coach.
Hanford, 30, spent two years with United between 2014 and 2016 and made 33 appearances, playing much of the 2014/15 campaign between the sticks.
With non-league experience with Gateshead and Southport in the interim period, he brings a wealth of experience to his new role.
Speaking about his return to Brunton Park ahead of the Saturday morning training session, he commented: “As soon as I got the call to see if I was interested I knew it was something that was impossible to turn down. I jumped at the chance.
“Knowing the manager and the club helped a lot with the decision, and only living up the road also helps. I played here for a couple of years and I’ve followed the lads ever since I left, so it’s great to be here again.
“In terms of the club, knowing how everything works here is a massive help. It isn’t just the manager and staff, it’s also the people above them.
“We all know how they want to work and which direction they want to go, and the club is heading in a much more positive direction than it was when I left. That’s why getting started here again in a new role is very exciting.”
And having worked under the gaffer as a 16-year-old youth player at Rochdale, he also comes with valuable insight and knowledge as to how he will be expected to fit in and perform.
“I did my YT with Chris, so I know him well, and I obviously know Gav Skelton,” he confirmed. “Obviously all of that makes it easier to come in and settle into my new role.
“I know what Chris wants and the demands he sets. It’s very challenging, but that’s how it should be. It was different for me as a boy because it was the first time I’d moved away from home to play full-time football.
“But I was looked after and I enjoyed it. Even back then everybody knew he had high standards and that if you fell short it wasn’t good enough.
“He’s shown what he’s about again from the moment he came into this club. He nearly got us into the play-offs, and he’s pretty much built a new team with a new style of playing. We were so nearly there last season, so hopefully this time round we can reach it.”
Still at a relatively young age for a coach, he spoke about how much that factor is making the prospect of taking on the first-team coaching role at a football league outfit has added to the sense of excitement.
“It’s just a great opportunity,” he told us. “The manager has put his trust in me, from knowing me as a person and as a player, and the club has also shown a belief in me.
“They’re giving me a stepping-stone to progress in my career on the coaching side of football and I want to repay that from the day one.
“It’s massively exciting to take on a challenge like this. As you know, I’m not a very nervous person, but I am feeling nervous about this because it’s a new role and it’s such an important one to take on.
“It’s completely different to everything I’m used to but I’m looking forward to getting stuck right in. I have changed because when I first came here I was a young lad – ‘cocky’ is probably the right word to use.
“I’ve grown up now, I’m a dad, I’ve settled down with my family and I’ve been part of Carlisle for a long while. I’ve matured, shall we say.
“Being the keeper has a real responsibility that goes with it. I have to bring the way I do things to the job, and hopefully add to that to make myself and the lads I work with better.”
And building up that close relationship with the goalkeepers under his charge is a process he’s also looking forward to, with his two training sessions already under his belt.
“I worked with Magnus [Norman] for the first time over the weekend and it’s good to get a fresh start on a relationship,” he told us. “It’s brand new for both of us.
“We’re both on a clean slate and Magnus is obviously going to be pushing for that number one spot. We’ll bringing in another keeper to challenge that, it always has to be earned, and I’ll be learning from them as they learn from me.
“My style of coaching is to react to what’s needed at the time. I think there’s a time and place for everything – whether that’s a disciplined approach, a more light-hearted approach, intense session or something just to keep them ticking over.
“The situation at the time dictates that, but there’s always got to be professionalism and high standards. As a keeper you know it’s a lonely position, so you have to train to be the best you can be.
“I’ve played plenty of games in the league and in non-league so I know exactly what the lads will go through. I think that will help me to help them, because they’ll come up against things I’ve been through already, and I’ll know exactly what’s going through their minds.”
That ability to deal with the stresses and pressures of what is a unique position to play is something else that has to be coached, mentored and managed.
“The mental side of the game for a goalkeeper is completely different,” he said. “You’re stood alone for most of the 90 minutes and you know if you make a mistake it’s probably going to lead to a goal.
“The role of a goalkeeper has changed over the last 10 years or so and for all of us it’s about keeping up with it. As I’ve said, on the mental side of the game, I’ve probably been through the majority of what they’ll go through this year, so again that should help them.
“The biggest thing is that the life of a goalkeeper is a lonely one and it can be hard. When I look back, when I was a player, I think the thing I would have liked to have had more of is patience.
“It’s about getting your head around sitting on the bench and being calm about it, because that’s the way it is for keepers.
“It’s a lot about how you deal with making mistakes, because it’s bouncing back that makes you stronger. Looking back, I’ve learned a lot and I’ll be able to give some good advice to the lads this season.”
Switching back to the subject of his new challenge, he admitted that it was good to get it done just as the club’s pre-season programme got under way.
“It was really good to get this sorted just as the lads came back,” he confirmed. “It all happened really fast, it started with a text, then a phone call, then a meeting, and here we are.
“It’s such a great way for me to progress my career. Playing doesn’t last long and it was a family decision to make this next step. I’m really excited, but there are a few nerves until I get going with the lads and settle in.
“I’m looking forward to slowly implementing the way I want to do things and learning from the other coaches.
“The other thing is, I’m a fan of the club and I really feel part of the place. When I was here playing we had the floods and there were a few different things going on which meant I really became part of the local community.
“Carlisle is a tight-knit community and everybody tries to help each other. My missus is from here, our kid goes to school here, so I’m still part of it.
“I’ve been in a few times seeing the staff since I left and I’ve trained a couple of times over the past few years as well, so it’s just the next step. It does feel like everything fits, it’s mad how everything has happened, and I’m just looking forward to getting going.
“Everything about the club is about going forward. The fans are always wanting to drive it on, everyone around the club is driven by performance and winning.
“When I first came here it was just after we’d come down from League One, and the fans were still trying to push the club back up no matter how bad things were.
“We weren’t far away last year so hopefully this time around we can take that next step and go for glory.”
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