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Interviews

INTERVIEW: Always where I wanted to come

Ben Barclay on his move to Cumbria

30 June 2023

Interviews

INTERVIEW: Always where I wanted to come

Ben Barclay on his move to Cumbria

30 June 2023

Defender Ben Barclay has been a target for manager Paul Simpson since before last season finished – and he was just as pleased as anyone to finally marry up with his new (old) teammates on Friday morning – even though it was one heck of a return as he was thrown straight into an extremely tough session.

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“It’s nice to be back,” he said. “I’m glad to get it sorted, it’s a bit of a relief, as soon as I was back from my holiday I just wanted to get it done.

“As soon as the season finished the gaffer told me he wanted me back up here so it was a case of just enjoying the short break we had then sorting it out once we were home.

“We didn’t have long off but you’d do that every year if you could finish it like we did at Wembley. As soon as I knew the gaffer was interested I told my agent I wanted to come up, I just needed to sort things on the other side of it so that we could make it work.”

“To be honest, I was only back in with Stockport this week, so it wasn’t like it dragged on for ages,” he commented. “I wish Stockport all the best going forward, it’s a good club and they’re heading in the right direction. I’m just glad I’m here and a Carlisle player officially now.

“When Stockport put it out that we’d cancelled my contract I saw all the things on social media about me coming back here. I just tried to keep it quiet even though it was probably obvious what was happening, then I’ve just come up this morning to get everything sorted.

“This was always where I wanted to come as soon as I knew I was going to leave Stockport. I was always coming here, I didn’t really have any contact with other clubs, I just wanted to come back here and crack on in League One. Hopefully we can carry on from where we left off last year.”

And it goes without saying that with a year at Brunton Park already under his belt, it makes the decision-making process that much smoother.

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“It does make it easier to come to a club where you know everyone already, that’s why I made the decision so quickly,” he told us. I’m comfortable here but it’s in a good way.

“I’m comfortable around the lads and around the place but it isn’t in a way that’s going to make me take my foot off the gas.

“I wasn’t sure if I was going to train or not when I came up this morning but everything was sorted quickly, which meant I could join in with the lads.

“I’ve got friends here that I made last season that I’ll be friends with for life. I enjoyed working with the manager and all of the staff, and I love playing at this stadium in front of the fans. I’ve come in today and everything has just felt like normal.”

But he knows he’s at a club where competition for places within a tight-knit group is going to be key.

“When I came in during pre-season last year I wanted to make a mark from the off, and I played a couple of games which I thought I did alright in, but then had a tough few months with injuries on and off,” he explained.

“After Christmas I got a few games then I got my real run towards the end of the season, and it was a special ending to the season, to say the least.

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“There were some injuries when I got my chance towards the end of the season, and I felt a bit of pressure because the lads who were playing before me were obviously doing really well.

“I did it and played in a few different positions, I didn’t think I’d ever be a wing back! When you play in front of the fans who are all right behind you it makes it so much more enjoyable.”

His very own chapter in the club’s history books was written when he bagged the goal that secured United’s place at Wembley and a play-off final appearance.

“People still ask me now what the goal against Bradford in the play-offs was like, but I still can’t really describe the feeling,” he admitted. “If you watch the celebration back I think you can see that I don’t really know what I’m doing. I was just buzzing to play a part.

“I’m still not sure any of it has sunk in. When I was going on holiday in the summer and I was catching up with my mates they were asking me how Wembley was, and it was impossible to answer.

“I really don’t think it’s sunk in at all. Even being here now, I don’t think it has. I think when we get to the first league game it probably will.

“I think as a group we all deserve to be up in League One after the efforts last year. Hopefully we can reward the fans and everyone that played a part by having a good go this year, and we have to make sure we all enjoy it as well.”

As for what’s required from this next phase of his career, he said: “I haven’t really had that conversation with the manager yet.

“I spoke to him at the back end of last season and this summer it’s been more a case of getting a deal sorted.

“He told me at the start of last year, from the first day that I came in, that there were going to be five centre-backs and only three that could play.

“I had to fight for the place last year, there was no certainty I was going to play, and I guess it’s going to be similar this year. We need healthy competition all across the pitch in the squad, so that’s what you expect.

“I’m glad I’m here for two years. Whether I was here for a year on loan or a two-year contract, it doesn’t matter to me. Once I’m in the building I’m a Carlisle player, so my efforts won’t change.”

The small matter of pre-season has to be dealt with first and foremost.

“It’s tough but it always is,” he said. “It’s never easy, never nice, but you get this ground work in and it sets you up for a good season.

“I know I missed the first couple of weeks last year and everyone told me then that they’d had a tough first few weeks.

“I came in around week three and the work we do shows, because we finished the season looking strong. To be fair, we looked strong all season and that comes down to what you do from the start of pre-season.

“Overall I’m just glad I’m back. They’re all proper friends and I’m looking forward to spending the rest of the season with them. We work hard, we do what have to, but we have a laugh as well. It’s a good place to be.”


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