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Onwards and Upwards

I went up for the training camp in Scotland twelve days ago and that was very enjoyable. It was a preparatory for the European Championships in Turin in May. I went up there on the Sunday night and we stayed in a posh hotel in Glasgow, and then we trained on the Monday at St Mirren’s training ground.

International Friendly Match: Scotland U19 v Greenock Morton

On Tuesday we played a game against Greenock Morton, who are near the top in the Scottish First Division. We played their first team and that was obviously a difficult test for us, and we ended up drawing 2 – 2. Mind you, we had at least three good chances to win the game.

It was a really good experience playing against a team like that and the lad up front had played in the Scottish Premier so he was a really gritty player – a real handful.

Cumberland Cup Match: Workington v Carlisle United

I came home on the Wednesday so I was in time to play in the Cumberland Cup semi-final at Workington. That was a game that we were looking forward to. We went to extra time and unfortunately conceded a late goal.

Jamie Cleary got the wrong side of the striker which was a shame because he’d had a great game apart from that. The Workington team had a lot of their older players on the field whereas we were mostly a Youth side so it was always going to be difficult.

Darren Edmondson is their manager and he played for them. He was a bit of a hero with Carlisle a few years ago and he definitely knew how to put himself about a bit. Conor Tinnion came up against one of his tackles and was much the worse for wear because of it and there were other players on our team who felt his boot. It’s difficult to play against a player like that because they are clever and have the experience, and they know how to kick you and go about it in the right way, so you are always at risk of taking a knock.

Youth Alliance Match: Shrewsbury Town v Carlisle United

Our weekend Youth game was a trip down to Shrewsbury. The long trip coupled with the cup game and extra time on the Thursday night did us no favours, but that was no excuse for losing 2 – 0. It was a massive pitch and we conceded two silly goals. It was a learning game for us but we played poorly and let ourselves down.

Match: Carlisle United Reserves v Bury Reserves

On Monday we had a Reserve game. It was glorious day weather wise and we ended up smashing Bury 6 – 0. They had a very young team out, but so did we to be fair and I thought we did really well. We had to defend first of all but when we got the first goal we never really looked like we were going to concede and we saw the game out in the right way. Andy Cook, back from his loan spell with Workington, got two goals and Gary Madine did the same so it was good for both of them – and good to keep a clean sheet as well.

This is my last blog of the season. Looking back over the two years that I’ve been an Apprentice I think I can say that there have been a lot of highs and lows and I think that I’ve achieved a lot.

I’ve obviously got what I wanted with the pro-contract, and my aim now is to get in to the first team. I did hope that I might make it this year but it hasn’t happened so hopefully I will go on and achieve that next season.

This year has been a big test for me, especially with captaining the Youth team. I’d captained school sides before, but doing it for the Youth set up has been a big step. The international call up came from nowhere… totally unexpected… but to be involved with something like that is fantastic. It’s a great honour to play for my mother’s country and it has been another excellent learning experience.

After two years with the same group of players we’ve become very close. They almost become like your brothers, because you live and work with them all the time. Matt Duffy, John Seaton and Alex Mitchell have all left and to see really good friends walk out the door is heart breaking. It’s a shame to think that we may never see them again.

From me, and from the rest of the lads, we wish them all the best in whatever they go on and do. The final decisions were made this week and Simon Lakeland and Conor Tinnion made it through to earn themselves a contract. It’s good to know they’ll still be there next season.

All that is left for me to do now is to wish the first years, and our new intake, all the very best for next season. I’m sure that they will enjoy themselves because it is a fantastic experience and we’ll all be looking out for their results as the season goes on.

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