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Interviews

INTERVIEW: I've enjoyed every second

Max Kilsby on his first pre-season as a pro

30 June 2022

First-year pro Max Kilsby became the last of last season’s second-year crop to receive confirmation of his graduation into the first-team ranks having completed his scholarship successfully with a string of impressive youth and reserve team performances.

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The 18-year-old came to the club’s academy at the age of 14, and caught the eye with his versatility in the under-18 squad last term as he filled a number of positions, bagging some important goals along the way as the team finished second in the North West Youth Alliance Division.

Speaking about the step-up this week, he said: “I’ve had six weeks or so for the news to sink in now, but I’m still so excited.

“We’ve had the first week back and I just love being in the club and around the first team. I feel like I’ve done well and I’ve really enjoyed it.”

“During the season there were other lads getting their contracts before me, but I was always confident,” he added. “Sometimes I’d feel more confident after a good game or a good week of training, but when you see all your mates getting them before you’ve been spoken to, you do start to think.

“I was absolutely buzzing for everyone who got one but I was always confident. I had my family supporting me all of the time which really helped. They came to watch me in every game and filled me with confidence which reassured me that I was doing alright, and in the end it worked out.”

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And he explained that it had happened quite suddenly as the end of the season drew to a close.

“We didn’t really get an official date of when we were going to find out,” he commented. “One morning we just got told we would find out that afternoon.

“I was shaking when I went in, but when I got into the office with Birchy he just sat me down and told me I’d got one.

“That was all I wanted to hear from the moment I got here, so I can’t put into words what it felt like to finally hear it.

“It felt like all the hard work we’ve put in was worth it. I would come to training after school and travel an hour and a half with my parents while I was in the academy, and it felt like it all paid off eventually.”

“My parents weren’t with me because we were only told on the day that we’d be finding out,” he added. “I rang my dad straight away when I got out of the meeting.

“I hadn’t told him I was finding out so it was an unbelievable feeling to be able to tell him. He’s wanted it just as much as me all these years, so it was great.

“I rang my mum and my grandad after that, then we had a full family call, they were all just delighted for me. It was just an amazing feeling.”

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And with the ink dry on the contract, it’s now a case of knuckling down and working hard, with a place in the first team the ultimate prize.

“Simmo has said he wants to see me work really hard and fight for a place in the team,” he confirmed. “He said there’s no reason I can’t play just because of my age, and I think if I’m good enough and do well in training then I’ll get opportunities.

“It’s just about taking them. I’ve got to work really hard during pre-season and show him I should be in the team.

“Looking back, this means a lot because I was released by Newcastle when I was 14 and I think getting that bad news has made me want it more.

“It makes you want to work harder and prove people wrong. Although I was gutted at the time, I think it was actually really good for me. Coming to Carlisle has helped me come on leaps and bounds and I think I’ve improved a lot since I’ve been here.”

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The aforementioned versatility, with him being used at left back, left wing back, in midfield and in the centre of the back line has certainly done him no harm.

“I played quite a few positions in the youth team and I enjoy playing in them all to be honest,” he said. “I think it’s good to have some flexibility, but I like them all. I like scoring goals as well, but wherever the gaffer wants me to play I’ll do it.

“I do feel part of the first team now and I think I’m starting to get amongst it a bit more after the first few days. I came up to train with the first team last year, but you still feel like a youth team player when you do that.

“Obviously you enjoy it, but I feel like it’s really time to kick on and be a part of the team, which I feel like I’m doing.

“Even playing in the friendlies as part of the first team will feel amazing. I can’t really describe it, I can’t wait for the games to start and I’m really looking forward to it.”

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So, what we be a good season for Mr Kilsby?

“I think a good season for me would be to make my debut and get a few games under my belt to add to my experience,” he replied. “Even getting on the bench, I had a taster of it against Bradford for the last game of the season in front of a good crowd.

“It gives you a taste, which just makes you want it more. If I can get a few games and get on the bench then I’ll be happy.

“Obviously Sam [Fishburn] played a few games and Jack [Ellis] played the last couple of games of the season, so it shows that the gaffer doesn’t mind giving opportunities to youngsters if he thinks we’re ready.

“That’s a really good feeling because I know if I do well and the gaffer thinks I’m good enough then he’s got no problem playing me, which is really good. Hopefully, if I put the work in, I’ll get a few opportunities.”

“Pre-season has been hard, which is what I expected, but I’m really happy to be back,” he concluded. “Although it’s tough I’ve enjoyed every second of it.

“I’m looking forward to this week of training before the first game on Friday.”

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