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INTERVIEW: We're all striving for the same thing

Paul Huntington on the Wembley final

27 May 2023


INTERVIEW: We're all striving for the same thing

Paul Huntington on the Wembley final

27 May 2023

The absence of Morgan Feeney from the last eight games has seen Carlisle lad Paul Huntington don the armband, but he was quick to admit this week that he’ll be more than happy to had it back to his club skipper, should that be the situation that presents itself this weekend.


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“It’s been brilliant doing it, but obviously I’d prefer it if Morgs was fit, and Mells was fit, and that we had a fully fit squad,” he said.

“I thought JK Gordon was brilliant coming back in, he’s been chomping at the bit and that’s brilliant because he’s a real threat. He put himself about, he’s a really quick player and he could have had a couple of goals.

“I’ve enjoyed being captain, it’s responsibility, isn’t it, you feel it when it’s not going as you’d hoped because you want to help people to drive on. I’m just really pleased that we’ve got there now and it’s now about going there and winning.

“It’s a place for winners, Wembley, so we’ll get the preparations done right this week, we’ll travel down and make sure we’ve prepared in the best way we can. The way we’ll enjoy it is by putting on our best performance and winning. That’s the most important thing.”

“But I’ll be happy to give it back to Morgs,” he continued. “That would mean he was fit and raring to go. I’m sure he will be because he’s back in training and he’s been doing a lot of fitness work.

“For me it’s not a big thing, I think we could have eleven leaders out there because it’s a squad thing. It isn’t about individuals. I was collecting my tickets yesterday and there were a couple of fellas saying thank you, and I told them it wasn’t about one person, they didn’t need to thank me, it’s the group, and we achieve together.

“They were kind of appreciative of the effort that the team had put into the game and I think everyone realised it was a big effort. Some of the stats are incredible.

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“Us defenders ran about 13km, Mox and Jack Armer were above 15km, and Callum Guy was the same. That shows a big output. We left it all out there and I think a few people asked if I was going out to celebrate on the night, but all I really needed to do was lie down.

“I’m only just getting back to normal now [Wednesday], it takes a couple of days to recover. We’re now looking forward to the rest of the week because it’s a good place to be and an exciting time.”

Having had experience on the play-offs with Leeds and Preston, the weekend is one he’ll be able to take in his stride.

“I think when I was there when I was 19, young, and it was the first time I was playing as a pro there, I did get caught up in it a bit,” he admitted.

“There’s a lot of noise and a lot of stress through the early part of the week, whether it be with tickets or travel, and the different preparations, so it is a very different build up. There can be a lot of distractions, and that’s even with texts.

“Most of the phones in the changing room will have been red hot after the game, whereas maybe that wouldn’t normally happen. I think you just have to focus on the game, and we sort of said that in the first leg at Bradford.

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“I’ve had a look at the size of the pitch and it’s similar to ours, I think it’s only two or three yards longer and it’s the same width. We’ve talked all season about the fact that we focus on us and making sure that we’re right and ready to be the best we can be.”

So how do you balance the sense of occasion with the job to be done?

“First of all I think you got to enjoy it, and from winning there with Preston I know that’s how you really enjoy it,” he told us. “It’s the best way to go up, everyone says it, and if you had a choice earlier on in the season then yeah, you’d say automatic, because then it’s guaranteed, but doing it this way is a real high.

“We were going well, but we are where we are and we’ve come through the semi-final really well against a good side. We’re looking forward to the game now and I can’t speak for everyone, but I think the enjoyment will come after the game if we’ve got the result that we’re all striving for, and that everyone in the city wants.

“There’ll be a good feel around the place, and wherever you go at the moment there are fans stopping you and saying how brilliant it is. I haven’t seen Brunton Park like it was on Saturday in a long time and someone actually said that they hadn’t seen that since that Jimmy Glass moment, with the pitch invasion and stuff.

“After that I was just exhausted really, it was like a rugby scrum trying to get back up the tunnel. Obviously you’re delighted, but in the back of your mind you’re still thinking about the fact we still have another game to do properly.

“Getting through that at the end of the tunnel, and then suddenly you’re past the stewards and there was no one there. Bit by bit lads were just coming in and shouting and screaming and swearing, and I don’t think the Sky producer was very happy because the manager was doing his interview at the top end of it.


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“It was just brilliant because you’ve been separated from your teammates, and you haven’t had time to celebrate with them. They were coming back to the tunnel in twos and threes and seeing their faces was superb.

“Speaking to them yesterday a few of the lads said they want that feeling again, and winning at Wembley is an even better feeling than what that was. We know at the same time that we enjoyed that moment and we’ve got to go there and get that again.

“It’s easy talking about it, but we’ve got to go and do it. If we approach it as we have done over the last couple of games, and do it full of confidence, we’ll have a chance.”

Armband or not, on thing he will be wearing on that walk up the tunnel and onto the pitch will be the Carlisle badge.

“It’ll mean a lot, it really will, but it’d mean even more if we go there and do the business and get the win,” he reiterated. “That would be right up there with anything I’ve done, even more so because of the connection I’ve got with my friends, family and the supporters.

“I know a lot that have followed the club through thick and thin, and obviously me coming as a boy, it kind of reminded me of those sorts of times when all of the fans were coming on the pitch to celebrate, because that’s how it used to be back in the day.

“We want to be celebrating more, we want to continue going in the right direction, and I think with the manager in place and the group of players we’ve got, and I know that will be added to and changes will be made in the summer, but I think we’re in a good place and we’re looking to continue that.”

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And it’s the hard work completed by the current group that has made this final opportunity of the campaign a possibility.

“The home leg was really enjoyable, but I think I’d have enjoyed it more if it was 90 minutes, because I’d have felt a lot fresher,” he joked. “The extra time took its toll on me - I hadn’t done that for a long time and, to be honest, before the game I didn't know if I had that in me to get through it.

“But it’s good mentally knowing we’ve got that in the bank and done the business result wise, and we’ll be better going into Sunday knowing we can do that. 

“Yeah, I was exhausted. The first person came up to me when everyone came on the pitch I actually knew, and he kept telling the ref had blown his whistle. I won’t tell you what I said but I kept telling him to get off the pitch.

“I think we played two minutes over the 15 and then we had thousands coming on the pitch and everyone started legging it. I was wanting to get the changing room but some of the lads took ages, getting hoisted on people's shoulders.

“There were some brilliant pictures. A lot of people have sent me pictures of the scenes and I've got some with friends and family. Having seen some of the play-off games, I thought the pitch would have cleared and we’d have come back out, but there were Sky interviews going on, music going off in our changing room, we wanted to see our families and friends in the lounge and we didn’t get chance to go back out.

“I just needed a drink to be honest, not alcohol, just water or something. You were like trapped, it was like a rugby scrum. People wanting your shirt, getting you in headlocks, it wasn’t as bad as Jimmy Glass because he got piled on, he could have died, him, but it was brilliant to see people’s faces.

“My daughter’s face, she was just really happy and kind of set me off a bit. You want to do it for each other, for the fans, for your friends, for the city. It's brilliant.

“What we’ve done so far is good, but at the same time we need to go that extra step and get that promotion on people’s CVs, and everyone will be remembered for the part they’ve played.  

“It’s a big week for the football club. We all just want to go on and achieve now. That’s what we’ve worked hard all year for and we’re hopeful we can do it. We’ve got one game left and it’s all on which team does it right.”

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