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INTERVIEW: We've learned a lot about ourselves

Aaron Hayden on what was a very strange season

20 May 2021

Earlier in the week defender Aaron Hayden confirmed that a season of 49 appearances had helped him to both learn and develop, particularly through a three-month period which brought 11 solid weeks of relentless Saturday-Tuesday fixtures.


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“It feels like all of those games and weeks went by in a blur,” he said. “It was really intense and it was the first time I’ve ever played so much football.

“I was talking to my dad about it, and it isn’t until something like that when you realise that you’ve played nearly 50 games in nine months. I’m pleased with how I came through it and it shows I’m looking after myself and doing the right things.

“It’s been really intense for all of us but everyone has gone through it, and we’ve done it as we made ourselves hard to beat. Yes, we wanted more wins, but we didn’t use the number of fixtures as an excuse, we just got on with it.

“If anything we hit the challenge head on. When I got my hamstring problem at the last game I was gutted because I really wanted to play. I had some personal targets to reach. I would have liked to score one more goal, be part of another clean sheet and hopefully another win.

“I just felt tight in my hamstring, and there was no point risking a serious injury. I’m just happy it happened when it did because I know I’ll be fully recovered by the time I get back with the lads again.”

Having played a full season for the first time at senior level, he commented: “This season was massive for me. Playing in 49 games is something I’m really pleased with.

“I set myself a target of how many games I wanted to play and I hit that. I’ve got a lot of minutes under my belt and a lot of experience, and I feel like that experience will help me a lot going forward.

“For so many of us this was our first full season of playing regular football, but we’ve all had the experience together and we’ll be better for it next year. That will only stand us in good stead for any situations we might face.

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“It’s so frustrating that we didn’t achieve our team goals, but that’s life sometimes. No matter how hard you work you don’t always get the outcome you feel you deserve. The only thing you can do when that happens is to just keep working hard. If you do that, it means you’re giving it everything, and that’s what we all did last season.

“We get another bite at the cherry next season and we’ll be doing what we can to take that extra step. The circumstances won’t be extreme, that’s one thing for sure, so hopefully when we build momentum it will just keep going.”

With so much being thrown at the group through a season of ups and downs, we wondered what lesson he felt had been learned best, both individually and as a group.

“I think an important thing for us all is that we’ve learned a lot about ourselves and about the characters all of the players are,” he said. “We’ve been through some really tough times, that long lay-off being one of them, but it’s when you go through things like that you find out what people are really made of.

“You see who will roll their sleeves up and who is willing to go the extra yard. That can only set us in good stead going forward. That ties in with how many games I’ve played. I know I can manage myself through it, and I know how to look after myself off the pitch.

“I’ve also learned how to manage different sort of pressures that I haven’t come under before now in my career. And I’ve taken little bits and bobs from my counterparts that I’m going to try and add to my own game for next season.

“That’s always going to be the case when you play beside people like Rod McDonald and Rhys Bennett. I’ve taken things off both of them and tried to add them into my game, because they’ve both got a few years of experience on me.

“I try and look at things that I like from their game and apply it to mine. Rod and Rhys are quite different so they’ve both shown me plenty of things I can improve on and take forward into next year. Playing with experienced players always helps and it means you can learn things every day, which is great.”

An important factor of the lessons learned is that the majority of the group will be together again for next season, with an opportunity to kick on having had these shared experiences.

“I’m very excited about that because we all know each other and we know what makes each other tick,” he confirmed. “It’s not like going into a new season where you’re meeting a lot of new faces and you have to get to know everyone.

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“We’re all like brothers and it’ll be like coming back to the family once we get together. There will be some new faces, but it’ll be more about getting on with the work rather than having a big number of players who need to settle in.

“We all want more from next year and I think everyone has to look at themselves and bring that little bit extra. We didn’t come up that short, if you look at the grand scheme of things. We had a long period where if we’d turned a few draws into wins, or losses into draws, we would have achieved what we wanted to do.

“By increasing that extra 5 or10 per cent from everyone, it will make a big difference, so that’s what we’ve got to do.”

And, fingers crossed, roaring them on to do just that will be the fans.

“Honestly, it’s been horrible not having them in with us, for me personally,” he insisted. “I really thrive off the energy of fans. When you do something well, they give you that clap. When there’s thousands of people doing it, you get so much energy from that.

“We had a few games this year when we had them in, and I scored in the Bolton game, and after that, when we went back into lockdown and they had to leave, there was like a hangover of energy.

“I really have missed having them. It’s the main thing I’m looking forward to next year, having them back. I’ve said it before, but I think at times it could have helped us when we needed that little extra push this year.”

With him having moved up to live in Carlisle last summer, it’s added an extra dimension to his reasoning for wanting the club to achieve success.

“This city and area just fits like a glove, honestly,” he told us. “I was saying to my missus the other day that we both feel so comfortable up here and we’re made to feel so welcome around town.

“My neighbours are Carlisle supporters and I speak to them every day. If I don’t play so well or if something isn’t great they have a word with me, and I like that.

“When we do well they’re so pleased, and it’s nice to know that people so close to where I am are supporting me in that way. It’s one thing I’ve felt since I came up here is that you get support from every angle. We love it up here.”

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